“Free”. It’s the one word that instantly grabs everyone’s attention. Saturday, May 17th Canada’s Toughest 3rd of a Mile Paved Oval kicked things off with the Country 105/Energy 97.7 season opener, featuring free spectator grandstand admission. A packed pit area and standing room only crowd proved to be the perfect combination to welcome a new season of racing at the tight, tricky bullring on Mount Pleasant Road west of the Liftlock City.
There was a definite chill in the air, but the hot action on the track kept everyone warm as the Parry Spring Service Renegade Tracks took to the speedway for their qualifying heats. Defending track champion Bill O’Hara and Jack Dallin scored wins in the opening round. The Peterborough Hyundai Mini Stocks were next, with Brandt Graham, Ryan Babin, Tyler Junkin and 2013 champion Ryan Oosterholt claiming the checkered flags. The Paul Davis Systems Thunder Car rolled from the staging area for their 10 lap preliminary rounds. John Baker Jr. – with a pair, Howie Crowe and Dan Price took the wins.
Kenny Ohno Jr., Colin Parks, Tiffany Vanderbelt and Marilyn Junkin – with her first career checkered flag – took the Battlefield Equipment Rental 4Fun heat races, while Ryan Kimball, Chris Mitchell, Amanda Connolly and last year’s track champion Craig Graham shared the Earl Ireland Auto Sales Late Model qualifiers. Defending series champion Nick Ledson with a pair, Dave Riopelle and Matt Haufe grabbed the Ontario Legends Series opening rounds.
The first feature event to take the green flag was a 12 lapper for the Parry Spring Service Renegade Trucks, with Bill O’Hara and Jack Dallin on the front row, looking for a trip to Dart Heating and Cooling victory lane. Dallin muscled past O’Hara early in the going and never surrendered the lead. Jeff Vanderbelt and Josh Millwain completed the finishing order.
Donovan Price and Chris Mulders paced a field of 16 Peterborough Hyundai Mini Stocks to the green for a 20 lap affair. Before 1 lap was complete, Mulders had charged away from the pack, with a 5 car length advantage over Tyler Junkin, while Price dropped through the running order. Mulders worked nicely through lapped traffic, with Junkin on his tail
but never relinquished the top spot and became the new season’s first
Mini Stock feature winner. Junkin’s #41 held on for 2nd, with Ryan Babin, Ryan Oosterholt and James Townsend completing the top 5.
With 20 laps on the agenda, Anthony DiBello and Howie Crowe brought the Paul Davis Systems Thunder Car feature to the line. DiBello jumped out to an early lead, but John Baker Jr. was he story of the night. After capturing a pair of qualifying heat wins earlier in the show, the former Mosport/Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Speedway track champion owned the show for his first 2014 main event victory. Not even a pair of green-white-checkered finishes could deny the driver of the #63 the win. Howie Crowe, Donny Beatty, Anthony DiBello and Brad Lavalle wrapped-up the Thunder Car top 5 finishers.
Scott Brooks and Ray Smith were the front row starters for the 20 lap Battlefield Equipment Rental 4Fun feature event. Ray Schroer led all the way from the drop of the green flag, with Willow Barberstock, Tiffany Vanderbelt, Kenny Ohno Jr. completing the fast 4. Matt Vanderbelt was running 5th, but looped his #69 on the final lap, surrendering the spot to Colin Parks.
The Earl Ireland Auto Sales Late Models were set to dance for 20 action packed laps, with a pair of former track champions – Amanda Connolly and Craig Graham – starting from the front row. With 2-by-2 racing in her rear view mirror, Connolly managed to pull away from the field. With 6 laps complete, 2013 title holder Graham was sent spinning at the end of the front stretch and headed pit-side to replace a flat tire. On the restart, Chris Mitchell would challenge Connolly for the top spot, but would give-up the runner-up position to Ryan Kimball, who took the lead coming off the 4th turn with 11 laps complete. At the checkers, it was Kimball, Mitchell, Connolly, Matt Spence and Adam Cuthbertson in the top 5 spots.
The Country 105/Energy 97.7 Opening Night concluded with a 20 lap duel for the Ontario Legends. Jason Stewart and Dave Riopelle fired from the front row, with 15 of the original 18 starters answering the bell. The yellow waived quickly, when the #14 of Duane Cinnamon and the #70 of Fred Jordan came together exiting the 4th turn with only 1 lap complete. Showing why he’s the champion of this division, Nick Ledson took control and never surrendered the position. Matt Haufe, Riopelle, Stewart and Cole McFadden rounded-out the top 5.
Bullring Bullet Points: Kawartha-Durham Kart Club graduate Bailey Brown was making her first career start with the Ontario Legends Series. With 8 laps complete in the night’s 4th qualifying heat, her #99 machine erupted in a cloud of smoke and brief fireball. The car was taken from the track on a sling, while the driver walked away…A mechanical issue on Stacey Bierworth’s race truck sidelined the #37 ride. As the machine was heading off the track, an air/fuel mixture caused an explosion and fire. The driver was checked by emergency personnel at the track…Mary Dubney of Young’s Point walked away from the opening night at Canada’s Toughest 3rd of a Mile Oval with an extra $850, after winning the 50/50 jackpot…Next Saturday night, the Battlefield Equipment Rental 4Fun teams will take a week off, as the Hurricane Midgets join the show. Pit gates will open at 3:00, with grandstand access at 5:00 and racing at 6:00.
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