In 2001 , the Plymouth Reliant, that we bought in 1994 soon after our arrival in Canada was starting to play up, and was due for a replacement. It had served me well, but during the summer, I acquired a Honda Civic.
On Friday March 29, I left my home in Maxville, Ontario at 5-45 am in the morning for my first racing road trip of the year.
There was an early season SUPER DIRT SERIES race taking place on Saturday at the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland and that was my eventual destination.
I say eventual, because before going there, I was paying a visit to Carla in Washington DC.
I arrived in DC at about 6.30 pm and spent the night and most of the next day with her, before heading to the track.
I have to remark, that the Hagerstown Speedway was always so memorable for me , for its beautiful red clay. As I sat in the grandstands that night, I saw Gary Tomkins get his first big Super Dirt Series win.
After the races were over , I drove up the 1 81 to the Flying J Truck Stop at Carlisle PA , where I slept in the Honda until the morning. I was back in Maxville by 7-15 pm on Sunday night.
There was still about six weeks to go before my local tracks opened up, and when they did, the first weekend of the season, didn’t work out too well.
On Friday May 17 , I had to work late so missed the Brockville opener, then the next nights races at Frogtown got canceled.
I got lucky on Sunday and was at the Cornwall Motor Speedway to see the twin 20’s ( double Features) won by Stephane Lafrance and Chico Dingwall.
I’ve mentioned in past episodes how I’ve always kept in touch with my old racing buddies back in England. One of them Robin Shaw , who was also a co worker during the time I was driving for ICELAND, just happened to forward my name to Paul Huggett, the assistant editor of SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE. At the time, this was considered Europes leading oval racing publication. It was a glossy monthly magazine that covered all types of short track racing.
Way back in time, Paul was the magazine’s founder and was the original editor. I remember I was in contact with him during the 70’s when he first introduced it.
As a result of Robin’s correspondence , I received an e-mail from Paul, asking if I’d be interested in helping out with the regular ‘SHORT TRACK AMERICA column. This was something I wanted to get involved in, and quickly agreed.
I was at Brockville on June 25, Frogtown June 29 and Cornwall June 30.
The Super Dirt Series event at Cornwall on Sunday July 7 was won by Tim McCreadie, while Steve Poirier won at the Autodrome Drummond , the following night. I was back in Quebec again on Tuesday July 16 for a special mid week show at Granby.
When the July edition of SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE was published, a piece about the Canadian Dirt Challenge and a photo I’d sent them of 2001 winner Steve Poirier was included on the SHORT TRACK AMERICA page . It was the first step in my career of Auto Racing Media.
By the time the August edition came out, there was a lot more of my stuff included. One item featured something I’d done about ‘ex pat Brit’, Tony Gammon living in Calgary Alberta who was driving a Toyota at his local Race City Speedway in the colors of his former English hero, Bobby Burns.
As we moved into August and my local tracks got nearer to their season finale, I attended the following.
Merrittville Speedway Aug 5, Autodrome St Eustache Aug 10, Cornwall Aug 11, Drummond Aug 12, Edelweiss Aug 13, Frogtown Aug 14, Frogtown Aug 17, Cornwall Aug 18. Frogtown Aug 24, Cornwall Aug 25, Frogtown Aug 31.
The following weekend gave me another chance for a road trip in the Honda, and on Friday 6 Sept, I set off to add two more new tracks to my list.
That night I visited the Albany-Saratoga Speedway at Malta NY , for the first time where I witnessed some Dirt Sportsman racing. After the races, I slept in my tent before driving the short distance to the next new track in the morning.
On Saturday and Sunday there was a double header for both Big Block and Small Blocks at the Lebanon Valley Speedway, and that was my target. This particular track, and Malta, where I’d been the night before had been on my ‘hit list’ for quite a while , so was very pleased to eventually get there.
On arrival , I pitched my tent among the other campers on the grounds opposite the track. The ‘Valley’ as it’s known, is an impressive facility that has a drag strip as well as an oval. The track food on offer, was some of the best I’d come across . At this time the Turning Stone Casino were sponsoring the 358 Super Dirt Series and on my arrival at the track I filled out one of their ‘lucky draw’ door tickets.
On Saturday night, I saw top local driver, Andy Bachetti take the small block race , before I retired to join the partying.
Just like the Orange County Fair Speedway, the year before, I found there was a lively track bar, with music and dancing for the fans to have fun. That night I made some new friends, including, Bonita Burnham from the Granby area of Quebec, who was among the Steve Paine team.
On Sunday morning, to kill some time before the racing, I took a short drive down the road into the state of Massachusetts to have my breakfast. It was a US state that I’d yet to visit, so wanted to add it to my ‘portfolio’.
Before the big race got under way the winners of the Turning Stone Casino ‘lucky draw’ were given out, and imagine my surprise when it was announced that “Rick Young of Maxville” was a winner. After collecting my prize, a gift pack for the resort , it was time to head back up I 87 to Canada.
The following weekend we had two late season special events taking place at my local tracks where Steve Paine got back to back 358 Super Dirt Series victories at Brockville (Sept 13) and Can Am (Sept 14).
Meanwhile, over in the UK, the BriSCA F1 World Final was taking place at Coventry on Sept 21 and was won by John Lund. The 2002 BriSCA F2 World Final was held at the Cowdenbeath Racewall, in Scotland and was won by local driver Chris Burgoyne.
On Tuesday Oct 8, it was the start of SUPER DIRT WEEK at Syracuse, an event I still hadn’t managed to attend. Again, work commitments prevented me from attending this year, but I did manage to get to one of the ‘satelite events’.
My last racing ‘road trip’ of the year came on Friday Oct 25, when I left Maxville early in the morning in the quest to add another new track to my list.
Friday nights destination was the Accord Speedway NY, and I remember well, the drive down there. I soon discovered that I wasn’t the only one from my area going in that direction !
As I drove down I 87 , across the Adirondack Mountains, and through New York State every so often I’d seen the familiar yellow Chevrolet Monte Carlo of Cornwall Motor Speedway promoter Ron Morin. As I pulled into the track, located up in the Catskill Mountains, we ended up, along side each other, in the parking lot. After chatting for a while, we found out that our agendas for the weekend were the same.
It was a bitterly cold night as we watched the racing on the small ‘bull ring’ of a dirt track. It was so cold that night, there were snow flakes falling and we both ended up leaving before the end.
From Accord , I drove the short distance down to Middletown NY , where the Orange County Fair Speedway were holding their annual Eastern States Weekend.
Just like the previous year, I arrived in good time to catch the Friday night partying at the 31st Lap track bar. That was a fun night ! With a Karaoki taking place in to the early hours. The Eastern States Weekend is definitely one of the best social events of the dirt racing year.
Saturdays big race was the 358 Super Dirt Series and was won by Brett Hearn.
After the racing was over, I joined in the fun at the traditional ‘New Years Eve Party’ in the 31st Lap, before ‘sleeping it off’ in the bed that I’d made up in the Honda. It was a bit too chilly for the tent !
I had my breakfast at ‘Frankies’ Diner, it was very handy, and located right next to the track. Inside, it was decked out with a racing theme, and they did a nice line in T Shirts . I bought one of these for my daughter, Carla.
Sunday was the turn of the Big Block’s for their SUPER DIRT SERIES, and as usual there was the annual mid day pit party on the front stretch , where fans can get close up to the cars and drivers.
Once again Brett Hearn was the winner of the big race, which was over over by about 5-30 pm, as I set off to my next engagement. I was heading off to Maryland to visit Carla.
Since the last time I’d seen her, earlier in the year, she’d relocated to an apartment in Baltimore and that was my destination. I spent a couple of nights at her place before heading back to Maxville on the Tuesday.
As we moved into November and December, my racing year came to an end, but I was kept busy, with my new found interest of auto racing journalism. The November issue of SHORT CIRCUIT MAGAZINE continued to use more of my ‘stuff’, which included, photos of New York Modified driver Vic Coffey, and Canada’s top 358 driver Pete Bicknell.