Since Dave Heaslip’s racing trip to England in 2003 , I’d got more involved with his team, and on January 29, I was invited to their annual winter get together. It was a cozy affair, held in the Heaslip family house in Smiths Falls, where I got to see many of his Dave’s trophies collected over his long career.
My first road trip of the year was at Easter, when on Good Friday (March 25), I set off towards Maryland . I slept overnight in the car at Carlisle PA’s Flying J Truck stop then carried on to the Hagerstown Speedway on Saturday morning.
That night a SUPER DIRT SERIES race for Big Block Modifieds had been scheduled.
I was at the track by mid morning and had plenty of time for chatting in the parking lot with other early arrivals. One of the race car teams, that had already arrived was that of Quebec’s Steve Poirier. The weather forecast had not been good, and, sure enough, wet conditions caused the event to be canceled. This was the third time that I’d driven the ten hours down to Hagerstown, and the second time I’d been ‘rained out’. Not a good record !
On the previous trip I was able to salvage the weekend, by paying a visit to my daughter Carla, who at that time was living in nearby Baltimore. Carla had since relocated to the Los Angeles area of California, so repeating that scenario would be out of the question.
Luckily for me, my early arrival, and subsequent chatting to race fans in the parking lot were to pay dividends ! , when the cancellation call was made soon after mid day.
I’d made friends during the morning with a race fan from Pennsylvania, who’d told me of a good alternative if things went sour.
He’d phoned the Lincoln Speedway, in PA, that was about 70 miles away, found out they weren’t effected by the rain and were still running.
I was given some directions and set off for Lincoln.
The journey involved a trek through Gettysburg and the historic areas relating to the American Civil War. The Lincoln Speedway is located at Abbottstown and their regular program consists of Sprint Cars and the famous PA Posse . Also racing that night were the Legend Cars and Street Stocks. It turned out to be a great night of racing where local Sprint Car hero, ‘Fast Freddy’ Rahmer won the feature.
Two weeks later, on Saturday April 9, I was back down in the USA at the Fonda Speedway NY.
The DIRT MOTORSPORTS organization had gone through a lot of changes regarding management , and as a result some tracks had left the fold.
The Following week, I was once again south of the border in New York State for another weekend road trip.
On Saturday April 16 , I was at Fulton
It was a case of ‘April Showers’ a week later, when on Saturday April 24 , the season opener at the Can Am Speedway NY got rained out, as did the program at Autodrome St Eustache , Que, where I went on the Sunday.
Once into the month of May, my local tracks started up, and I was at the Can Am Speedway , Lafargeville NY on May 7 ( won by Pat O’Brien) , Brockville Practice Day on May 8 and their opener on May 13.
On Saturday May 14, the Frogtown Speedway NY, opener was canceled early due to wet conditions, so I set off for Autodrome Drummond.
On route I found out that , they too were canceling , so ended up heading across the US border once again for the Airborne Speedway at Plattsburgh NY.
It was Cornwall’s turn to suffer from rain on May 22 , and the early cancellation allowed me to dash down Highway 401 to the Brighton Speedway, where an early season Sunday show was taking place.This Ontario dirt track normally runs on Saturdays, and I was eager to make my first time visit. They run their own brand of ‘Canadian’ Modifieds, similar to the IMCA style, as well as various other divisions. I was able to see about half the show, before rain caused a premature ending.
The following weekend was a busy one, where I attended four events in three days. I was at Brockville on Friday night ( 27 May) to see Pat O’Brien take a win and at Frogtown on Saturday (28 May) for a Dave Heaslip victory.
I’d started helping out in the pits with the Heaslip crew , so joined them in Victory Lane .
My SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE column gave me the opportunity to do something a bit different on Sunday (May 29).
The BriSCA F1 World Final for 2005 was going to be held at Brafield (Northampton) and it became knowledge that the USA representatives would be two ACT Late Model drivers based in Vermont.
Jean -Paul Cyr and Phil Scott ( who was also a US Senator) raced regularly at Tom Curly’s Thunder Road Speedway in the town of Barre. So, in search of a ‘good story’ I set off early on Sunday morning.
Thunder Road was running during the afternoon, and I arrived just before lunch time.
The paved track is located on the top of a large hill and as you sit in the grandstands you get a panoramic view of the mountains of Vermont. I didn’t stay for all of the show, as I wanted to be back in my area that night in time to see racing at my local Cornwall Motor Speedway. I got there OK, and saw both Modified features on the program. One was won by Lee Ladouceur and the other by John Lazore.
I was still driving trucks for a living and working for Roff Logistics in Cornwall and Wednesdays were one of my days off.
The World of Outlaw Sprint Cars were visiting the Rolling Wheels Raceway NY on Wednesday 1 June, and I wanted to see them. I’m not a big fan of Sprint Cars, but these were the ‘elite’ and a lot different from the stuff we are served locally.
I drove down to Elbridge NY early in the day and got plenty of pics in the pits as the teams arrived. I got to see all the big names , such as Steve Kinser, Donny Schatz and Danny ‘the Dude’ Lasoski close up. I had to be back at work early in the morning for my Thursday shift, so I only stayed for a few heat races, before heading for home. In my absence Brian Paulus was the winner.
During June, I was at Edelweiss on Jun 3 ( winner, Dave Heaslip ) Frogtown on Jun 4 ( winner Dan Jalbert ) and Cornwall on Jun 5 ( winner Dale Planck) .
Mum and Dad flew in from England for a two week visit on June 15 and on Saturday (June 18) I took them for a drive around the Lake Champlain area of New York State.
Our evening was spent at the Airborne Speedway at Plattsburgh where I’d been invited to take part in a ‘Media Race’. Members of the media were offered ‘loan cars’ for a special race that had been included to their regular weekly program. I was allocated the # 24 Ford Mustang of Perry Winch, who kindly loaned me his helmet as well. It was a lot of fun !
On Sunday Jun 19, I was at my local Cornwall where Dale Planck got another win, and on Jun 21, I was at Brockville for a rained out 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES event.
My SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE column gave me another excuse for something different on the weekend of June 24/25/26.
I’d done some research and managed to get back in contact with him.
Although he had long retired from racing, he still attended events at his local track, the Beech Ridge Speedway near Scarborough in Maine. After a getting in touch , we’d arranged to meet up for a magazine article.
Scarborough happens to be on the Atlantic coast, it was summer time, so this seemed like a good place to take Mum and Dad.
On Friday 24 June, we set off from Maxville and that night we booked into a Hotel close to Lebanon , New Hampshire. While Mum and Dad remained at the Hotel, I took off to visit the nearby Canaan Fair Speedway for their regular Friday night show.
This is a dirt track operated by CV Elms, the same promoter as the Bear Ridge Speedway in Vermont, that I’d visited the previous year. There was a good variety of divisions on the program which included Sprint Cars, Vintage Modifieds and 358 Modifieds. Winner of the 358 Modified feature that night was Chris Donnelly.
In the morning we left New Hampshire and drove further east into the State of Maine.
We stopped off at the tourist office and made arrangements for a hotel at Scarborough’s Old Orchard Beach. It was a gloriously hot and sunny day , so once we’d booked in, we spent most of the day at the beach.
While Mum and Dad relaxed in the hotel, I took off for the nearby Beech Ridge Speedway. I met up with Phil, who then introduced me to the promoter , who made me feel very welcome. Beech Ridge Speedway is a paved track and runs the usual Late Model type divisions you would expect.
On Sunday we returned to Canada, and I was back in time to attend the evenings races at Cornwall.
Mum and Dad flew back to England on June 29, then two days later, on July 1 , I had more visitors arriving .
On Sunday July 3, I took them along to the Cornwall Motor Speedway where Kyle Jacobs won the feature.
My visitors stayed in Maxville with me until the weekend before heading towards Toronto and the Niagara region. I joined them in Toronto for the day on Saturday ( July 9) before I bid my farewell, and headed to the races.
My evening engagement was at the Mosport Speedway located near to Bowmansville on the eastern outskirts of Toronto.
The speedway oval is part of a large motorsports complex, that includes a road course, that once hosted the Canadian Grand Prix.
On the program that night, they had their own brand of paved Modifieds as well as a the Ontario Challenge cars making a special appearance. These are scaled down replicas of Late Models, and I had the pleasure of meeting up with many of their drivers that day. After seeing most of the show, I made my exit and headed for home.
Sunday (July 10) was a big day at my local Cornwall Motor Speedway with the Big Block Modifieds in town for a SUPER DIRT SERIES.
Brett Hearn won this one, Stephane Lafrance was second and Dale Planck got third. I’d started sending my victory lane pics to the various racing papers and the one I’d taken at Cornwall gave me my first ‘front page’ appearance for Gater Racing News.
On Saturday July 16 the Modifieds were taking a night off at Frogtown , so I decided to visit the Can Am Speedway at Lafargeville NY for a change.
This turned out to be a wasted journey with rain forcing a cancellation.
The next day I was at Cornwall again where my friend Dave Heaslip was the winner. It was a busy week for the Heaslip Team, as the Canadian Dirt Series got under way with two back to back races at Granby and Drummond on Tuesday and Wednesday ( 19/20 July).
I got off work early on Tuesday , and dashed up to Granby, where Steve Poirier took the checkers. With Wednesday being my day off, I camped overnight at the track in readiness for Drummond the next night.
I remember spending most of Wednesday in the parking lot of a Granby hotel as the Heaslip, Dan Jalbert and Billy Cook teams prepared their cars for the nights races.
The next few weeks were pretty hectic and went something like this.
Friday August 5, at Brockville ( winner Danny O’Brien),
Sunday August 7, at Cornwall it was Dale Planck, the winner.
Cornwall got rained out also on Sunday August 14.
Cornwall on Sunday August 28 ( won by Laurent Ladouceur , and on Wednesday August 31, after the 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES got rained out Brewerton NY, I ended up at Ottawa’s Ottodrome ( Capital City Speedway) .
Into September and the Labor Day weekend saw me at Edelweiss on Friday Sept 2 ( won by Laurent Ladouceur), Frogtown on Saturday Sept 3 ( won by Dale Planck) .
On Monday 5 Sept, I was down at Rolling Wheels NY once more, for a Big Block SUPER DIRT SERIES event. The show was running late, and with work the next day, I was forced to leave early.
With most of my local racing over for the year, I was out for a road trip on the weekend of Sept 10/11.
I camped overnight at the track before heading to a new track for me, on Sunday. I drove up into Vermont for the Sunday night races at the Devils Bowl Speedway at West Haven. This was one of two dirt tracks in the area operated by Bruce Richardson’s CVRA ( Champlain Valley Racing Associoation) . Richardson’s other track being the Albany-Sarratoga Speedway at Malta NY. Winner that night was Gene Munger.
The following weekend ( Sept 17/18) I was out on another road trip, but this time, in the opposite direction.
My good friend Dave ‘Smiffyman’ Smith who I got to know while working on the Team Foskett Canadian tour of 2004, was over from England again. He’d developed a love of Sprint Car Racing and was visiting the Oshweken Speedway in Southern Ontario for the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals.
I was once again camping out, and was ready to leave for an early morning start to my next new track. On Sunday there was a CASCAR Super Series race taking place for Late Models on the paved Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough, so that was my destination. It was on my way home, so logistically perfect.
While I was spending the weekend gaining more new tracks for my portfolio, the BriSCA F1 World Final was taking place at Brafield in England. Jean Paul Cyr who I’d met at Thunder Road earlier in the year was there along with fellow Vermont driver Phil Scott. Winner of the gold top that day was Frankie Wainman Jr.
On Saturday Sept 24 , I was heading back down Highway 401 to the Brighton Speedway. Promoter Mark Rinaldi had included the 358 Dirt Modifieds to their Apple Fest Weekend and with the tracks central location, it attracted drivers from both ends of Ontario. Kyle Dingwall was the winner.
After the races I drove back to Maxville the same night, so I was ready for Sunday afternoons 4 cylinder and Street Stocks event that was taking place at my local Frogtown Speedway.
It was the Victoria 200 at the Fulton Speedway NY on Oct 1, and I was down there to see Tim Fuller take the victory.
I went back home for a few days before returning to central New York on Wednesday Oct 5, for the start of SUPER DIRT WEEK at Syracuse’s ‘Moody Mile’. That day, I attended the media luncheon at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, before traveling back up I81 to the 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES event at Can Am. Pat Ward was the winner of this one.
By folding the back seats down on my Cavalier , and putting the front passenger seat forward, it was quite easy to make up a bed, so for this years SUPER DIRT WEEK, my car became my hotel. The weather hadn’t looked good, so I decided against using my tent.
After Fridays races at Syracuse, the Rolling Wheels track was scheduled to run the series too, but this got canceled due to rain. Saturday lunchtime was spent down town at Hooters with a few other media guys.
That night there was a Super Modified event taking place at the nearby paved Oswego Speedway. It was a track I’d never been to before, so this was a great opportunity. I joined fellow dirt racing journalist Skip Howe in the media booth for the show, before heading back to the fairgrounds to spend the night.
The forecast for Sunday, the big race day at Syracuse, was not good, and sure enough, wet weather caused problems. The Pro Stocks race, got in the books OK, with Dave Schultz taking the win, but not long after that, the rain started to come down. Efforts were made to keep the track in shape, with all kinds of available vehicles helping out with packing, but to no avail. Mother Nature won the day and after a while the announcement was made, saying that the Eckerd 200 would be postponed to Saturday November 5.
My racing year wasn’t over yet as I had one more trip planned. Carla ‘s move to Los Angeles , California meant quality ‘Dad and Daughter’ time, so flights to visit her for the American Thanksgiving Holiday on November 24 were made.
This turned out to be one of the most memorable vacations I’ve had. I left Ottawa Airport on Wednesday Nov 23 and arrived in Los Angeles that afternoon. Carla was at work, so I got a Taxi from the Airport straight there.
She was sharing an apartment just off, Santa Monica Blvd with another girl who was conveniently taking off that night to spend Thanksgiving with her family.
The Irwindale Speedway close to Passadena was holding the annual ‘Turkey Derby’ for wingless sprint cars. There were quite a few famous names taking part which included JJ Yeley. Also sitting in the pits grandstand close to us and watching the show, were World of Outlaw stars Sammy Swindell and Danny ‘the Dude’ Lasoski.
The impressive Irwindale Speedway earned me two new tracks for my list, that night, as the inner oval was also being used. Carla and I finished our night with a nice late night meal together at a diner.
I had an early morning flight on Sunday and was back home in Maxville later that night.This was a great end to 2005, which was made even better when Ron Morin from the Cornwall Motor Speedway asked me to join the team at the track for 2006. It would be the last time I’d be sitting in the grandstand with the rest of the fans.