Well race fans, 2018 has been quite the adventure. As we wind down to enjoy the holiday season and welcome in a new year, let's look back at the season that was.
To kick things off, if you follow @SaskDirtRacing on Twitter, you will have seen quite a few retweets and mentions for one account in particular, LAPS4MD.
LAPS4MD Founder Brad Miller spearheaded this project to not only raise awareness about Muscular Dystrophy but to raise money through his passion for racing. His is an inspiring story and many racing teams from different disciplines have come on board to support LAPS4MD, including Lampman, Saskatchewan's Riley Raynard.
Recently Riley partnered with Regina's Kings Park Speedway, holding a race night fundraiser and raising $1,565 in support of MD Canada.
Raynard, who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at the age of 4, continues to be an inspiration by racing his 97R IMCA Hobby Stock and raising awareness about MD through social media (@Raynard97R on Twitter) and public speaking.
I invite you to read more on the LAPS4MD Blog and by Following @LAPS4MD on Twitter.
Once again, we has been blessed with some great photographers whose work was featured in 2018. Special thanks to Doug Brook (Swan River, Yorktown, Tisdale), Byron Fichter (Estevan), Sheryl Fedyk (CAOSS), Amanda Jo Enright (Devil's Lake), Rusty Pothier (Castrol Raceway), Tarra Sahlin (Alberta Sportsman Sprints), Ashley Sharp (Tisdale), Lisa Crowe (Drumheller), Jaclyn Schultz (Swift Current) and Mike Spieker (NOSA, NLSA).
Having followed the RP Automotive Canadian Mini Tour this season, kudos to Rod Pickering and RP Automotive for stepping up and giving the Canadian Mini Tour a greater profile. The series is growing in numbers and popularity. From Ryan and Jen Atkings to everyone who is supportive of this grass roots initiative, the future of dirt track racing across the prairies looks a little brighter today.
Congratulations to this year's Mini Tour champions Brice Dahlin (Hobby Stocks), Ryan Atkings (Street Stocks) and Jason Duclos (Modifieds).
Speaking of the Canadian Mini Tour, Hobby Stock racers Caylee Hiebert and Brice Dahlin were busy trading wins at Yellowhead International Speedway and Swan Valley Speedway regularly in 2018. These kinds of battles are fun to follow.
First time winners are always great to see. Swift Current's Carson Crowe finally captured his first Modified feature on the final leg of the Mini Tour at Tisdale Motor Speedway.
Kenora, Ontario officially has a dirt track. Yes, Lake of the Woods Speedway opened for business with two races being completed in 2018. Anthony Leek spearheaded this undertaking and I could not be more proud of his accomplishments for our region's dirt track racing. Achieving his dream was not an easy road, but it was the right path to reach his goal. If I could use one word to describe Anthony's journey, it would be Perseverance.
Estevan Motor Speedway attempted to host 2 nights of sprint car racing featuring the Canadian-American Outlaw Sprintcar Series. Unfortunately, the week-long bad weather forecast played into a modest car count and ultimately washed out Night 2. Later in the season, the IMCA Dakota Classic Mod Tour feature was rained out as well.
Mother Nature plays no favourites. Dirt track racing is and will always be at the mercy of the weather. It's just the nature of the sport.
Should Estevan try again? If scheduling and availability of teams are favourable, Absolutely.
When I see Alberta-based sprint car teams representing at Estevan Motor Speedway, it's a good day and gets me hope for a better next time.
Minot, North Dakota's Dusty Lawson parked his 20L sprint car in victory lane on Night 1 of the CAOSS feature in Estevan. It was his first feature win and judging from the perpetual smile on his face on the Saturday, that great feeling wasn't leaving him for a long time. How he caught up to and passed local favourite Kyle Fedyk will be talked about for many years to come.
Speaking of Kyle Fedyk, he scored an emotional victory at Nodak Speedway in Minot to end the 2018 CAOSS series season at the fourth annual Tyler Fedyk Memorial. Outside of the World of Outlaws, this event has one of the highest payouts for North Dakota. In the end, however, a modest field of 12 cars took to the track. Despite racing the night before at Devil's Lake (120 miles East of Minot) and having no other scheduled regional races on a long weekend, this was not enough to pull more than a few teams from the East.
In my opinion, this event should be better attended. This is a Memorial race event for one of NOSA’s own. Some things are bigger than racing and the Tyler Fedyk Memorial is a perfect example.
Racing fatalities are always sad and the passing of Jason Johnson and Greg Hodnett was no different. Having said this, nothing was more uplifting than seeing the outpouring of tributes, love and support from the racing community.
Being a fan of IndyCar, there has been no story more inspiring than the recovery of Canadian IndyCar rookie driver Robert Wickens. Wickens suffered paralysis as the result of a horrible crash at Pocono Raceway in August and has been sharing his recovery process on Twitter @robertwickens
I've written about 360 sprint car racer McKenna Haase over this season. The Des Moines, Iowa native continues to work hard at being a positive influence at the track, in her community and on social media. Her dedication to community and open wheel racing cannot be overstated.
Is there any social media account more fun, interesting and pro-dirt track racing than that of Kenny Wallace? If there is, please let me know.
Kasey Kahne announced that due to health reasons, he is unable to continue with his NASCAR career. He will, however, be investing his time and energy back into sprint car racing. While disappointing in one respect, his return to the dirt tracks is exciting news.
After a 15 year absence, yours truly found himself returning to Knoxville Raceway. Some of the names have changed, but the culture of the Sprint Car Capital of the World has not.
One Bucket List item was checked off as my wish to see the World of Outlaws race at Knoxville came true. It didn't need to be the Nationals. It just needed to be the Outlaws vs Knoxville in Iowa.
Most of my time centered around the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum. I had a chance to see the new additions including the Bryan Clausen Suite Tower, Clausen's Salute to Champion display and concluded with watching the World of Outlaws from the second floor of the Museum.
Two items in particular were on my list of things to look for in the Canadian area of the museum. To the casual visiter they were racing event posters advertising sprint car races at Estevan Motor Speedway (2004) and Victory Lane Speedway (2005). To me, seeing these framed contributions in person represented what Dirt from the Stands was and has always been about. No words can describe what this moment meant to me.
After spending part of the day with Executive Director Bob Baker and Museum Coordinator Bill Wright, I understood something important not only about this place, but about the early years of Dirt from the Stands. Although our local racing is fun and exciting, Knoxville has always shown me a bigger picture. It broke down barriers and showcased just how big dirt track racing, and more specifically, sprint car racing could be with or without the involvement of certain racing organizations.
People like the late Knoxville Raceway Promoter Ralph Capitani, former Museum Executive Director Tom Schmeh and the late Pacific Northwest Promoter Fred Brownfield influenced the way I looked at sprint car racing and the promotion of races, something I am most grateful for and will never forget.
Sometimes in life, we lose sight of ourselves in the big picture. Fortunately, there are people who will show us where we fit into that picture so our vision is clear. This has been my journey in 2018 and I am thankful for those who showed me where I fit in again.
As we wait in anticipation of the new year, let us take this time to slow down, reflect and appreciate our journeys in 2018.
Until next time, race fans... Take care and Happy Holidays.