|Checkered flag ends the 2022 racing season in Estevan|
David Mack photo
DIRT COMES HOME
My post-pandemic June racing trip to Estevan Motor Speedway was an emotional one. I made a big deal out of returning to Estevan on social media because my excitement was too great to hide. After all, I hadn't seen my Saskatchewan racing family since 2019. The first person to greet me at the pit gate was track president, Brad Pierson. After a brief conversation, I was off to find every familiar face I could find.
SASKATCHEWAN SUPER NATIONALS
Estevan, Saskatchewan was well-represented at September's IMCA Super Nationals at Boone Speedway, Iowa. On the final night, Aaron Turnbull turned in a stellar performance in the IMCA Modified division, ending with a 4th place podium finish. Tyson Turnbull did not qualify into the big show, however overall did quite well, finishing 8th in points amongst 200-plus non-qualifying cars. A total of 253 Modifieds were at Boone for the Super Nationals.
The eventual winner of the IMCA Modified Super Nationals feature was former Nodak Speedway track champion (2019), Tom Berry Jr.
Saskatchewan Super Nationals has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? While this is not an event (yet), please remember where you read it first.
VICTORY LANE SPEEDWAY
Dirt from the Stands returned to Victory Lane Speedway for the first time in 9 years. Yes, my last visit to the speedway south of Winnipeg was in 2013. Prior to returning to Victory Lane, I contacted the speedway and asked a lot of questions. They were most helpful and I greatly appreciated it. It took a while for me to familiarize myself with my surroundings, but once I walked around a bit, everything came back to me.
The evening's racing program kicked off with the familiar voice of Manitoba singer Jeannine Guyot performing the US and Canadian national anthems.
Some of the faces have changed, but the racing action did not. Sitting in Turn 1 and just observing from the grandstands brought back some nice memories from my past years there.
Overall I had a positive experience and look forward to returning again in 2023.
Over the years, I have written about Anthony Leek. From his early days at Emo Speedway and promoting a regional Super Stock tour to the realization of his dream at Lake of the Woods Speedway, Anthony has experienced a lot in his racing life. Our friendship has stretched for about as long. We shared many thoughts and aspirations about the local racing scene and our involvement in it. I also credited him for being the influence behind my return to the racing scene in 2008. Prior to the release of last year's writing, A Prairie Dirt Review, The COVID Years, Anthony and I enjoyed conversations about life, returning to racing after COVID and the direction of Dirt from the Stands going forward.
RENEGADE SPRINT CARS
It's safe to say that the Western Renegade Non-Wing Sprint Cars are here to stay. They have grown in numbers, averaging 13-14 cars at their home track of Devil's Lake Speedway during the 2022 racing season. July and August produced the most participants with a low count of 12 and a season high of 21. Most race nights, 15 sprints were pitted. These numbers do not include the season-ending Labour Day extravaganza, the Inaugural North Dakota Non-Wing Nationals which saw 34 traditional sprint cars converge on Devil's Lake for 2 action-packed nights of racing.
The grand finale's 35-lap A-Main winner was Nick DaRonco of Britt, Minnesota.
In October of 2021, local Super Truck driver and Northern Lightning Sprint Association alumnus Eric Guyot informed me that he was building a sprint car to run with the Renegade Sprints in 2022. This news made me smile, not only because he would be the first Manitoban to race with the Renegades, but also because Eric was returning to open wheel racing. The early part of the season was a learning experience for the Renegade rookie, but come August he found success. On August 6th, for the first time, he parked his #25 sprinter in victory lane at the Coal County Classic at McLean County Speedway.
Eric's efforts paid off again with an excellent showing at the North Dakota Non-Wing Nationals. On the final night, he won his heat race. Then, starting in 14th position, Guyot worked his way up to an impressive 7th place finish in the A-Main. He was also named top rookie at the Labour Day event.
I enjoyed collaborating with and writing about Eric Guyot and his journey in sprint car racing this season. It allowed me a fresh way to present the Western Renegade Non-Wing Sprint Cars with a Manitoba spin.
The Western Renegade sprint car team to beat in 2022 was the number 52 of Adam Sobolik. Out of approximately 28 feature starts, the Grand Forks, North Dakota racer parked his sprint in victory lane an impressive 13 times this season, 12 non-wing wins and 1 win with the wing on.
IT'S NOT HOW YOU START, BUT HOW YOU FINISH
There were a couple of noteworthy endings to the 2022 season from Swift Current Motor Speedway.
Edmonton, Alberta's Destiny Klym saved her best performance for last at the speedway's season finale weekend. Night 1, she swept both of her IMCA Modified heat races and then went on to win the feature. She followed that up by capturing the feature's checkered flag on Night 2.
Crowe Racing scored a 1, 2, 3 finish in IMCA Modified track points this season. Congratulations to Brody Crowe (1st), Carson Crowe (2nd) and Tyson Crowe (3rd). To the best of my knowledge, I don't recall 3 brothers finishing in the top 3 spots in track points anywhere before. If I'm wrong, please let me know.
REDHEAD RACING TIMES 2
After a full season of asphalt oval track racing in the Street Stock division, Saskatchewan racer Criss Jeffries recently announced that Redhead Racing is expanding to a 2-car team in 2023. Criss will be running in the Sportsman division while her daughter, Harley, will start racing in the entry-level Bandolero division at Saskatoon's Sutherland Automotive Speedway.
PHOTOGRAPHERS IN 2022
When I first started posting racing photos, a long time ago, I learned very quickly to give proper photo credit is all motorsports photographers' works. In the early years, my primary photographers included Tim Johnson, Fran Engelke and Isabelle Blanchette. I was and will always be thankful for their generosity in allowing me the privilege of including their photos with my writings.
I was once again blessed to have been able to share the works of some very talented photographers on the blog this season. Special thanks to Lisa Crowe, Kaz Grafix, Byron Fichter, James Caswell and Speedway Shots for their contributions.
I would also like to acknowledge the exceptional photo contributions of Kyla Harris, Katy Turnbull, Maxx Wazney, Cory Palm, David Mack, Linda Szabo and Raymond Brabant who captured some special moments that were posted this year.
There was also a new visual artist whose works I enjoyed.
Modern technology is capable of producing some amazing images. Gordon More's use of a drone at Estevan Motor Speedway was exceptional and breathtaking. Gordon's works are not exclusive to the dirt track. His drone videos capture the essence of the prairies in a way that leaves you awestruck.
Please be sure to check out Gordon's work. You won't be disappointed.
I was very pleased to chat with a few people about LAPS4MD this year. Representing a cause to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy Canada is both rewarding and humbling. LAPS4MD founder Brad Miller, who is diagnosed with Beckers Muscular Dystrophy, does a good job of promoting the raising of funds through motorsports. Brad also has a blog to raise awareness entitled, My Beckers Story. I invite you, the racing community, to consider being a part of this worthwhile cause. Together, we can make a difference in the quality of someone's life with Muscular Dystrophy. It takes teamwork to make the dream work. Thank you.
COMMUNITY DIRT TRACKS AND MORE
One element of Dirt from the Stands that I've tried to highlight are the volunteer-driven community dirt tracks of Saskatchewan. My goal has been to present news/results about these places during the racing season. Sometimes information is readily available and other times it can be a challenge. I work with what is available and try to put my best foot forward in the presentation for you, the reader, as time permits.
There are racing venues and organizations that receive more than their fair share of media attention. I could have easily followed that path and simply been another voice recycling the same news that had been repeated perpetually each season, but I chose not to.
Talking about racing communities like Estevan, Swift Current, Yorkton, Tisdale, Outlook and Swan River (MB) is rewarding. I have witnessed how much time and care a speedway's board members and volunteers give to ensure a place for people to race on weekends. These locations are as important to grass roots dirt track racing as any other, perhaps even more so.
THE MEANING OF DIRT
Dirt may appear like an obvious word to use with anything to do with racing. My reason for using "Dirt" is not exclusively about the subject of dirt track racing. Dirt is also symbolic of my life on the prairies, my mortality and my Christian faith.
As of this writing, there are no definitive plans in the works for next season and for a change, I'm in no hurry.
A bucket list item was checked off this year. It might sound corny, but one of my goals was to find the Starbucks in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. My beverage was made to perfection and didn't disappoint.
I've enjoyed interacting with Victory Lane Speedway on social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, since the speedway went under new ownership. They are definitely more active now and worth a follow.
If you've been following me on social media, you'll have noticed that I started using a meme generator. It's just another fun thing to add to the Dirt experience.
Although I am not directly involved with open wheel racing today, don't think that I'm not paying attention. Sprint cars are always on my radar.
My first membership with the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Ia was in 2002. Continued support to help preserve the history of sprint car racing is as relevant to me today as it was 20 years ago, even more so.
Estevan Motor Speedway's feature winners gave away their trophies, autographed, to a few lucky young fans after their victory lane interviews all season. This is a great example of going that extra mile to make a night at the races that much more memorable for the youngsters.
Speaking of youngsters, I love the slingshot class at Estevan. We get the privilege of watching the next generation of drivers learning about racing every night they're at the speedway. Everyone on track is at a different level, from beginners to seasoned drivers preparing to move up to the next class.
Think families only race together at a speedway? Better think again. Victory Lane Speedway track announcer Darren Pallen had a new partner on the microphone this season. It was in fact his teenage son, Travis. Travis took over from the retired Pat Mooney and from what I heard, he does his homework and delivers the information fans need to know on race day.
Spending Canada Day at Estevan Motor Speedway was special. Seeing all of those Canadian flags waving in the breeze along the fencing was inspiring and gave me a true sense of Canadian pride on that day.
Speaking of special, 2023 will mark the 20th anniversary of my first visit to Estevan Motor Speedway. What started out as a night of watching the NLRA late model racing tour ultimately changed the course of my dirt track racing journey in ways I could never have imagined.
If you haven't witnessed a sunset in Saskatchewan, you're missing out. They are spectacular and justify the provincial slogan, "Land of the Living Skies".
I experience something different every night I'm at a speedway. I meet new people and I learn something that I didn't know before. This is what makes my journey as a motorsports blogger so rewarding.
Dirt from the Stands is a labour of love and a perpetual work in progress. Every season presents a few challenges, but I always take away something to hopefully make the next year a little better.
This is the 11th blog post of 2022. Combined with @SaskDirtRacing on Twitter, it's been an enjoyable season. If you had asked me early in the year how many blog posts I was thinking about publishing, I would have told you about 4 or 5. Apparently I misplaced that memo.
From the old jazz standard, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", although my travels to the speedways are less frequent these days, it doesn't diminish the thrill of live dirt track racing when I have the opportunity.
This past season was reminiscent of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) in some ways for me. The main message here is that it doesn't matter how far you go, or how long you are gone for, God's unconditional love is always waiting for us when we come home. In that light, although I had been away for some time, the love of the racing community welcomed me home upon my return.
As we wind down for the holiday season, let us slow down, reflect and give thanks for those special moments and people who have blessed our lives. Sadly, some are no longer with us. Tomorrow is never promised and it's important to appreciate what is in front of us today. Let us also look forward to the coming new year and the hope of positive, memorable experiences.
Until next time, take care, God Bless and Happy Holidays.