EPISODE # 36
2003 had been one of my busiest years around the race tracks since moving to Canada in 1994. My media work for SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE encouraged, and allowed me to do a lot more events.
My regular job as always, was a truck driver, working on a dedicated contract for Walmart out of their large distribution center in Cornwall, about a 30 minute drive from my home in Maxville, Ontario .
I’d been lucky and was able to shuffle my racing events between my work shifts.
At the start of the year, it became known that most of the dedicated Walmart contract out of Cornwall would be switching from PCY ( who I drove for) to another company, so on February 1 ( my fiftieth birthday) me, along with quite a few other PCY employees, went to work for the incoming Roff Logistics.
During February, I revisited the Maple Grove Ice Racing track on the St Lawrence Seaway , as well as attending some ice racing at the Stadiaume St Guillaume, near Drummondville, Que, for the first time. This kind of ice racing, unlike Maple Grove, was on a land based oval with a snow and ice covering the surface. The cars being used, were either small compact four cylinders or ‘big banger’ V8’s.
While I was there I met up with my friend Nicole Perreault who was competing with her brother Claude. I’d known Nicole for quite a while, as she was one of the GATER RACING NEWS columnists, as well as attending some of the lively track parties that I’d been at.
It had been a while since I’d been back to England, so at the beginning of April, when the flights were cheaper, I planned a trip.
It made sense to be be over there for the ‘first Saturday in the month’ to catch the season opener for BriSCA F1’s at the Coventry Stadium.
On Thursday April 1 , my good friend and neighbor Lisa Lacroix drove me to the Ottawa Airport where I caught my overnight flight to London, Heathrow. Before catching the plane, we had a nice meal together on nearby Bank Street.
Mum and Dad met me at London Airport and after some lunch in the Horse and Jockey pub on the A5 near Dunstable, we were at their place in Totternhoe by 2-00pm.
On Saturday my old buddy Colin Herridge picked me up from Totternhoe for the short trip to the Coventry for the first of their monthly meetings for BriSCA F1’s . Just like old times, Coventry was still the place to meet up with my racing friends from the past. In the pits I made a point of chatting to Mark and Nev Woodhull who’s car, my Canadian friend, Dave Heaslip had used in the previous years BriSCA F1 World Final.
After a great night out at Coventry, it was time to head back to Mum and Dads place.
On Sunday I borrowed Mum’s car for a trip to the local Brafield Stadium where a Banger Race meeting was taking place. I was really surprised to see a big American Checker Taxi cab being raced by the son of former Banger and F2 stock car driver John Huckle.
I had the use of Mum’s car for the duration of my stay, so after a Sunday night supper in Totternhoe, I set off for the south coast.
If I turn the clock back to my teenage years, one of my good friends at that time was Lynn Chandler. We spent a lot of time together, but as you’d expect, over the years we lost contact.
After spending a couple of days with Lynn and reminiscing over old times, I returned to Totternhoe via Southampton, where I dropped in on another old friend.
Southampton is the home of Stuart Ralls, who I’ve known since my childhood days, when we were both members of the Chick Woodroffe Supporters Club. It was Stuart that did the Disc Jockey, job for our families ‘farewell party’ in 1994 when we left England for a new life in Canada.
I flew back to Canada and into the Ottawa Airport at 5-30 pm on Thursday April 8 where Lisa was there to meet me. We had supper in Brians Bar and Grill in Casselman before going home to Maxville.
The following day was Good Friday and the start of the Easter holiday , where it’s common practice in North America for very little racing action to take place.
On April 17 I went along to the Can Am Speedway’s opener, but unfortunately that got rained out.
I was luckier on Thursday April 22 when I attended the Evans Mills Speedway for the first time. The track had been running paved events in recent years, but when Can Am track owners, Charlie and Billy Caprara took over , they decided to transfer it to dirt. They also changed its name to Thunder Alley , the historic opener was for a Big Block Modified SUPER DIRT SERIES and attracted quite a good crowd.
Winner that night was local hero Tim McCreadie.
Although the engine and mechanics on my Honda were still in good order, the bodywork was getting tatty . The harsh Canadian winters had paid it’s toll and it was starting to look very scruffy . My new job was going well so I decided to take the plunge and buy a 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier 2 door coupe from Cornwall Motor Sales. They were big sponsors at my local speedway and I always believe in supporting the companies that support my hobby.
The Honda and the Plymouth Reliant before it, never had cruise control, and after many long drives along Interstates, I now considered this to be a priority.
The Cavalier had this option as well as a nice electric sun roof . Just right for summer road trips.
During the month of May, I stayed mainly local and attended the following. Can Am May 8 ( won by Ryan Bartlett) , Utica-Rome May 9 (rained on route), Brockville May 14 (won by Steve Poirier), Drummond May 15 ( rained out), Cornwall May 16 (won by Dale Planck), Edelweiss May 21 (won by Laurent Ladouceur), Can Am May 22 ( rained out), Cornwall May 23 ( won by Dale Planck), Edelweiss May 28 ( won by Brian McDonald) Frogtown May 29 (won by Dave Heaslip), Cornwall May 30 (wins by Stephane Lafrance and Mark Hitchcock).
I was still keeping busy with my SHORT TRACK AMERICA column in SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE and about this time I was contacted by former Northern Ireland Superstox driver Robin Morrow .
At the weekend, (June 4/5/6) I was at Autodrome Edelweiss ( won by Mark Hitchcock) , Frogtown ( won by Dave Heaslip) and Cornwall ( won by Dale Planck).
On Tuesday June 8, I drove down to the Fulton Speedway NY, for a mid week 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES event. This was the occasion where the young Stewart Friesen of Niagara on the Lake ,Ontario , got the first big win of his career.
The following weekend I was at my local Frogtown and Cornwall tracks to see wins by Jeff Sykes and Brian McDonald.
June was a very busy month for me regarding my SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE work. Paul Huggett and I had talked about arranging a Canadian tour for columnist and race driver Malcolm Foskett and friends.
Once we’d fixed the dates, my Job was to arrange ‘loan cars’ for Malcolm to drive.
Paul, who’d visited Canada before, had made friends with Ohsweken Speedway driver Jim Swing. Through Jim, he’d managed to arrange Bill Bago’s Mini Stock for use at that track.
As the tour would be moving up to my neck of the woods, I chatted to some of my locals, and was able to get cars for Malcolm to use at the Capital City Speedway (Ottodrome), Autodrome Edelweiss and the Cornwall Motor Speedway.
Rob Ray’s Mini Stock was to be used at the Ottodrome, Terry Ladouceur’s Semi Pro at Edelweiss, and promoter Ron Morin’s Pro Stock at Cornwall.
The first race on the TEAM FOSKETT CANADIAN TOUR at the Oshweken Speedway on Friday June 18 in the Bago car.
It was a work day for me, so it was too far away to attend, but I did manage to get to the second race of the tour, on the Saturday. This was at Pete Bicknell’s Merrittville Speedway where Malcolm would be using the same car. It was here that I met up with Malcolm and the team, which included his brother Trevor and girl friend Lindsey . Paul and Stella Huggett as well as Photographer Dave ‘Smiffyman’ Smith. Paul was the only one, I’d previously met, so the others it was for the first time.
The regular Modified feature winner that night ( June 19) was Larry Lampman.
After the races that night I returned home to Maxville, while the rest of the team stayed in the Niagara region for a few days. We were to meet up again a few days later.
I was back in my area to see Dale Planck win at Cornwall on Sunday June 20.
On Tuesday June 22, the 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES was at the Brockville Ontario Speedway and this was where I reunited with TEAM FOSKETT.
On Wednesday morning we all met up again and had breakfast at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Cornwall with Promoter Ron Morin.
Paul and Stella came back to my place while the rest of the Team got accommodation at a small motel in nearby Casselman.
On Thursday June 24, while the majority of Team Foskett went on a sight seeing trip around the Nations Capital , I took Malcolm along to meet Terry Ladouceur, who’s car he’d be using at Edelweiss. We also dropped in on Dan Jalbert’s work shop in Cornwall where he got to drive Dan’s 358 Mod, then after that , a tour of the KIRKEY race seat factory nearby St Andrews.
Modified Feature winner that night was Pierre Dagenais.
On Saturday while the Team had a ‘free day’ I took off , and crossed the International Bridge in Cornwall for the regular Saturday night races at the Frogtown Speedway. Mark Hitchcock won the Feature that night.
On Sunday it was the climax of the TEAM FOSKETT CANADIAN TOUR where Malcolm would be driving Ron Morin’s Pro Stock.
This also happened to be one of the biggest events of the Cornwall season with a staging of the Big Block Mod SUPER DIRT SERIES.
Malc put up a good show in Ron’s car and at one stage made a pass on top driver Joey Ladouceur, until ignition problems occurred and slowed him down. Winner of the SDS race that night was Gary Tomkins in the Pilsbury backed car.
Following the Cornwall races, I bid my farewell to the Team, who’d be returning to Toronto for their flight back to England.
On Wednesday June 30 there was a Canadian Dirt Series event at Edelweiss and I was there to see Steve Poirier take the win.
The next night (Thursday 1 Jul) , I was at Evans Mills NY (Thunder Alley) for a regular night of racing, but never stayed to the end, because of a rain delay.
I gave racing a miss, on Saturday July 10, to attend a wedding with my good friend Donna Graham. The wedding had a ‘Western’ theme and before, heading there we relaxed by the Ottawa River at Hawkesbury, with our supply of Tim Hortons.
The Sprint Cars were appearing at my local Frogtown Speedway on Saturday July 17, and with me not being one of Sprint Cars greatest fans, I decided to go somewhere a bit different. I was lucky and finished work at 3-00pm, so drove straight down to Bradford in Vermont.
My target was the Bear Ridge Speedway , a dirt track, where they raced both 358 Mods and Vintage Coupes. It was a new track for me . I got there at about 6-45 pm , and after a later than normal start, due to rain, I was very impressed with the Coupes.
There was rain again on Sunday ( July 18) and the Cornwall races were canceled.
On Tuesday July 20 there was a midweek Canadian Dirt Series race at Granby, and I was there to see David Hebert get the win.
The rest of July went like this, Autodrome Edelweiss July 23 ( won by Peter Mantha) Frogtown July 24 ( won my Brian McDonald) Cornwall July 25 (Canadian Dirt Series won by Steve Poirier) Can Am July 28 ( Big Block SDS won by Gary Tomkins).
August was another busy month for me and it started like this, Cornwall Aug1, ( won by Brian McDonald), Edelweiss Aug 6 (won by Laurent Ladouceur and Dave Heaslip) Frogtown July 7 (won by Kyle Jacobs) Cornwall Aug 8 ( won by Brian McDonald) Granby Aug 9 ( 358 SDS race won by Pete Bicknell) Edelweiss Aug 10 (Rain Out) Frogtown Aug 11 (358 SDS race won by Stewart Friesen) Can Am Aug 14 ( winner Bob McCreadie).
I went along to the Frogtown SDS race on Aug 11, with my buddy Roger Aubin, and I remember us getting there early in the afternoon, and chatting to long distance driver, Richie Pratt, who was a regular at the Bridgeport Speedway, New Jersey. He was following the 358 tour that year.
On Sunday Aug 15 , I attended two tracks on the same day. During the afternoon the paved Airborne Speedway at Plattsburgh were reintroducing ‘dirt style’ modifieds and was something I wanted to see. I went along to see Mike Perrotte take the win before heading back to Cornwall for the final part of their evening show. I saw John Lazore take the checkers in the Modified Feature.
After work on Monday Aug 16 , I set off on my first long distance road trip in my recently acquired Chevy Cavalier.
From my work place in Cornwall , Ontario, I drove down to the PETRO truck stop near Scranton, Pennsylvania where I slept the night.
On Tuesday morning I continued to my destination, The Delaware International Speedway where a mid week Big Block SDS race was being held. On the journey down I recall passing the NASCAR speedway at Dover on Highway 13 . I arrived at the track at Delmar in good time and after pitching my tent in the parking lot, I met up with DIRT media man Tom Skibinski. While I was around the pits I had a good conversation with local driver Steve Downs, (a Delaware policeman) and his lovely lady Heather. Heather told me she was originally from the Cornwall area of England. Billy Decker was the winner of this one.
The next morning I drove back into Pennsylvania and to Betchelsville, where the Grandview Speedway were also holding a Big Block SDS race.
Once again my tent was erected in the parking lot, where I’d be staying the night. I recall that earlier rain and the resulting wet track required plenty of track packing before the show got under way. Tim McCreadie was the winner of this one.
So, these two back to back SUPER DIRT SERIES races had netted me two more tracks to add to my TRACKCHERS list.
The following weekend (Aug 21/22 ) I was back on home ground for the Frogtown and Cornwall races. ( I failed to record the race winners for these).
I was back at work on Monday Aug 23, and once finished, I made the dash up to Autodrome Drummond. It was a Big Block Mod SUPER DIRT SERIES race, where I arrived late but not too late to see Tim McCreadie win the 100 lap big race.
On Sat Aug 28, I was at Frogtown again where Kyle Jacobs was the winner, then the next day I drove down to the Cayuga County Fair Speedway at Weedsport NY.
This would have been another new track for me, but unfortunately it got rained out.
During the week, I heard the sad news that Terry Staal, my ex wife, Pat’s cousin, who’d been a close friend, in the early days, when I first moved to Canada, had passed away. Carla and Pat drove up from Maryland and we all attended his funeral in Combermere, on Saturday Sept 4.
I was home in Maxville later that night and was at the Cornwall Motor Speedway on Sunday Sept 5, for the 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES race. Stewart Friesen was having a great year on the SDS tour and that night, he added another victory to his tally.
It was the Labor Day weekend, and on Monday it was the traditional Rolling Wheels Big Block show. I went along for that one, but had to leave before the end, with an early start scheduled for work the next day.
On Sunday Sept 12 Mum and Dad flew in from England for a two week stay.
It was Brockville’s second 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES race of the year on Sept 17, and I was there to see Brett Hearn get the win. It was also the occasion where I saw Jessica Zemken get a win in the Sportsman Series race. I’d met Jessica at Fonda , the previous year and done a piece about her for my magazine column.
Mum and Dad returned to England on Sept 26.
The beginning of October meant the traditional Victoria 200 race at the Fulton Speedway and I was there. Friday’s races for Sportsman and Pro Stocks went with out a hitch, but Saturdays show for 358’s got rained out. That didn’t effect me, as I needed to be back in Cornwall for a ‘safety meeting’ at work that day. I then returned to Fulton on the Sunday for the Big Blocks, where Tim Fuller took the victory.
At this time, The Victoria 200 at Fulton was always considered as the ‘kick start’ to SUPER DIRT WEEK and I was back down in the Syracuse area of NY on Wednesday Oct 6 , for the press conference at the New York State Fairgrounds.
That night there was a 358 SUPER DIRT SERIES race at Can Am, so I traveled back up country for that one, then did a couple more work shifts before returning to SDW for the 358 SDS race at Rolling Wheels on Friday .
Just like in 2003, which was my first time at SUPER DIRT WEEK, this was another busy period, as I tried to get in as much of the action as I could.
As well as the big events on the ‘Moody Mile’ there was a World of Outlaw Late Model show at Fulton to see on the Saturday night. I must mention at this point, that it was at Fulton where I met up with Jim Clarke, another Canadian Media man (radio) who would become a long time friend.
One of the most memorable things for me about SDW 2004 ( apart from taking part in the AARN bikini girl photo shoot, then later, being photographed beside Miss Dirt Motorsports) was when Sylvain Mercier, a Canadian Dirt official, asked me to drive the Autodrome Granby Pace Car in the pre race parade before Sundays Eckerd 200. I must have done about ten laps of the ‘Moody Mile’ during the lead up to the big race.
The other main races of the weekend gave a 358 SDS win for Pat Ward at Rolling Wheels,
A week after SUPER DIRT WEEK, I was back in New York at the Fonda Speedway for what was supposed to be a two day show.
Alan Johnson won the 358 SDS race on the Saturday but unfortunately Sunday’s Big Block and Pro Stock series races had to be canceled due to overnight rain. This worked out well for my friend Joey Ladouceur as this was the final Mr Dirt round for the Pro Stocks . He’d got a slim points lead for the championship going in to Fonda, but with the rain cancellation, the title was clinched without having to go on the track.
I remember our celebrations in the Fonda pits !
The following week was for my final dirt races of 2004 when once again I made the trip down to the Orange County Fair Speedway at Middletown NY for the annual Eastern States Weekend.
I got off work early ( 1-00 pm) on Friday Oct 22 and was down at the track in good time, before the bar closed !
I met up with my buddy Roger Aubin and the rest of the gang who were already there. Saturdays 358 race provided a win for Brett Hearn , who did like wise on Sundays Big Block race. Once the show was over , I drove the six hours back to Maxville to begin the long winter without racing.
Actually, my racing season wasn’t over just yet, as I managed to visit one more track before the year was out.
On Boxing Day , December 26, I traveled up to Lac Morin near Trois Rivieres in Quebec, for an ice racing event. Lac Morin, a small frozen lake on a camp ground, attracted a good number of fans and cars.