Well race fans, 2017 has been quite the year. Having been absent from dirt track racing for the better part of 4 years, my return has been both a learning experience and a very humbling one.
Let's have a look back at the season that was.
The father and daughter team of Stefan and Destiny Klym briefly traded in their IMCA dirt Stock Cars for an opportunity to run 2 July paved track events with the NASCAR Pinty's Series. The Pinty's Series' Western swing included stops at Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon and Edmonton International Raceway, AB. They also ran the "Race for a Cure" event in Saskatoon in late August.
Kindersley's Michael Dionne raced in the Pro Truck class at Wyant Group Raceway and finished a respectable 5th in points in 2017. When he wasn't scheduled to race in Saskatoon, he was out supporting dirt track events across the province.
Generally speaking, teams will travel to support and promote local racing. When Estevan and Swift Current had no scheduled racing, Saskatchewan-based teams travelled to and supported tracks outside of their home territory. Such destinations included Outlook, Yorkton and Tisdale in Saskatchewan, Swan River, Manitoba and Drumheller, Alberta.
Speaking of supporting racing, the tracks at Swan River, Yorkton and Tisdale got together and hosted a Mini Circuit featuring 2 nights of racing at each track. Teams earned cumulative points for running all 3 weekends and the top participating teams in the Street Stock and Hobby Stock classes were awarded cash prizes for their dedication.
Through the collaborative efforts of Ryan and Jen Atkings, all three racing associations, sponsors, participants and volunteers, the project was deemed a success. Definitely a great incentive to promote and grow dirt track stock car racing in those regions.
Photographers have always been a driving force behind Prairie Dirt. One picture can do for a write up what mere words cannot. I've been blessed to know some very talented people in this field. A current example would be the efforts of track photographer Lisa Crowe. Thanks to her contributions, Swift Current's Living Sky Casino Speedway got a little more attention on the blog this season.
Additional thanks go out to the following for their contributions in 2017. Devon Kemmer (Outlook, Tisdale and Wyant Group Raceway), Byron Fichter (Estevan), Tyler Hagen (Nodak Speedway and Estevan), Jody Siedler (Living Sky Casino Speedway), Sheryl Fedyk (Western North Dakota Sprint Cars) and Dustin Randall (Tisdale).
What a pleasant surprise the Western North Dakota Sprint Car group has become. The dream of a sprint car tour in their region was a long time coming, but has been well worth the wait. They take a proactive approach to promoting, work very hard to achieve a successful season and promote growth of sprint car racing in the region. Not only did they average 17-18 cars on each night of their racing schedule (highest was 20), but where they were drawing cars from is even more impressive.
Teams from 4 States (Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota) and 2 Canadian Provinces (Saskatchewan and Alberta) ran with the group at various times in 2017. Included in this year's mix was 2009 Prairie Dirt Classic winner Kelly Miller from Coaldale, Alberta. Western North Dakota Sprints travel to race tracks in Eastern Saskatchewan and Western North Dakota including Estevan Motor Speedway, Nodak Speedway, Dacotah Speedway and Williston Basin Speedway.
Two sprints are better than one. Estevan, Saskatchewan can be proud of having 2 talented sprint car drivers running with the Western North Dakota Sprints. Veteran Kyle Fedyk took the checkered flag in his 91K car at his home track of Estevan Motor Speedway this season. The biggest eye-opener was Tyson Turnbull who ran some very respectable races in his 10T sprinter. He won heat races and always appeared to be moving forward. His season best was a 2nd place finish at Dacotah Speedway on July 29th. At this rate, a sprint car feature win may not be too far behind.
Racing never really gets out of your system. This year I decided to attend my first dirt track race since 2013. There was a short list of venues but ultimately, the destination was Estevan Motor Speedway to watch the Western North Dakota Sprint Cars plus Estevan's great regular car classes. My affinity for Saskatchewan, dirt track racing and sprint cars made the decision an easy one.
What wasn't expected was the flood of memories and emotions that surrounded me on race day. As the night's racing program unfolded, I felt as though I had never left four years ago. Everything seemed very familiar. Everyone I met was as friendly and hospitable as ever. The track's surface was in it's typically perfect condition. Fans filled the grandstands to watch a fully loaded program featuring the winged warriors of open wheel racing.
During intermission the track announcer gave an unexpected shoutout which included a brief summary of my history with the speedway and sprint car racing. It may have been a little over the top, but to say this reporter was humbled is an understatement.
The evening was filled with dirt-slinging excitement and good clean racing. A few photos and videos were recorded. I visited with friends and had a great time. To summarize all of it, I still felt the thrill of being at the track on race day.
The most important thing learned was that the love, respect and appreciation of the racing community, for not only what was done in the past but for what this body of work still represents today, remains as it always has. For this I am most thankful.
None of this would be possible without the support of family, good friends and you, the reader.
Dirt from the Stands exists as a voice for dirt track racing on the prairies and God-willing, will do so again next season.
Until next time, race fans... Take care and enjoy the upcoming holiday season.