On television’s best police dramas, they crack every case in less than an hour and handle dozens of crimes a year. Orono, Ontario’s Craig Graham isn’t a detective, but during the 2013 he was able unravel the mystery of Peterborough Speedway. For the first time since his title winning season of 2006, the 41 year-old father of 2 walked away from the season ending awards banquet carrying the championship trophy for the Vanguard Self Storage Late Model division.
After sitting out the second half of the 2011 campaign, Graham – who works as the Service Manager at Clarington Hyundai – thought he’d be content serving first as a father; but also as mentor and coach for his son’s maiden stock car voyage in the Mini Stock field at Kawartha Speedway. That was where the racing bug bit again and Graham’s crew – led by father-in-law Marten Rottine – started to make plans to get their #98 Chevrolet Impala ready for the Saturday night battles on the tight bullring west of the Liftlock City.
“I’ve always been a race fan, but watching the action was tougher than I’d expected,” admitted Graham. “Seeing the guys I’d run against over the years made me want to get out there again. Kawartha wasn’t scheduled to operate in 2013, so we took my Late Model out of storage and got to work. Running at the same track as Brandt was an excellent father/son bonding experience and I couldn’t wait for the opening night of the year.”
Craig Graham lists Peterborough Speedway as his favourite track and with the success he’s enjoyed there over the years, who can really blame him. In 1999, he was named Rookie of the Year and backed it up with the Thunder Car track championship a year later and in 2002. Moving to the Challenger division for 2003 saw the arrival of another top freshman award and a season point title in 2004. Back to back Limited Late Model crowns in 2005 and 2006 provided the motivation to run both Friday and Saturday nights for a couple of years, before taking a sabbatical in 2009 and another 2 years later.
“Looking back, I might have tackled more than the team was able to handle by trying to race at Kawartha and Peterborough,” said Graham. “From the first green flag this year, it was almost slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes. The car was fast right out of the hauler and things fell nicely into place. Lines I’d run before still worked and the set-up notes we had in our workbooks were still applicable. Best of all, I was able to help Brandt with his program by having him see what I was doing on the track, instead of talking to him about the laps he’d run without having anything else as a reference.”
With 3 main event wins on the season, Craig Graham entered action on the final night of the season with a comfortable; albeit not commanding lead in the 2013 Late Model point championship. That cushion allowed the veteran runner the opportunity to drive a smart race, while keeping his title rival in sight, but not push the car any harder than necessary to keep the big picture in focus.
Graham Racing would like to thank sponsors P.J. Larkin Salvage, Hot Rod Swag – www.hotrodswag.com, Motorhead Canada, C & K Fabrication, L.A. Signs, Image Factor – www.imagefactor.ca and Clarke Motorsports Communications for supporting both the championship winning #98 Limited Late Model of Craig Graham and Brandt Graham’s 4th place finishing #12 Mini Stock during the past season. Fans can follow both teams on Facebook at Graham 98 Racing, while potential marketing partners can receive a copy of the team’s proposal by contacting [email protected]