One of those "Peculiar" Nights at Laird. Racenight Recap for Thurs Aug 18, 2022
I’ve been working out at Laird International Raceway, in various capacities, since 2004. In that time, every once in a while, perhaps once every year or two, I see a show that I will describe as “peculiar”, for lack of a better word. Our racenight of Thursday August 18, was one of those.
The day started out with some possible afternoon rain in the forecast, sure enough, it rained at about 2 pm where I live north of the Sault. A short lived downpour with some thunder and lightning. It, must have been the same at Laird, judging by the wet infield. That weather cleared out quickly but looking at the weather radar before I left home, it looked like we might have been subject to another pop up shower around race time. We did see some clouds around us, but they cleared up around the time qualifying was running, and the crowd was filing in. It was another great sized crowd too! We were good to go!
Problems started to show up during hot laps and qualifying. Then, during the drivers meeting in the pits, after qualifying, there was a heated discussion about lineups and raceceiver radios. Driver’s meetings don’t usually get heated like that. I keep voice notes on my phone through the night, and I made a note to myself towards the end of that meeting that said, “…I hope this doesn’t manifest itself on the track, everyone seems to be angry.” It was almost like a premonition. I don’t think much anger was involved through the night, but things just seemed to be “off a bit”. Maybe there was too much ozone in the air, caused the the lightning that went through the area earlier? Beats me!
Racing and action began on time at approximately 7pm after opening ceremonies, with a Super Late Model heat race.
Super Late Models
There were 7 Late Models out during the qualifying session, with #77 Chase Wilson once again posting fast time of 14.460 seconds around the track. Rob Hiiemaa was in the pits with his new #50; he was out for hot laps, but wasn’t out for qualifying or during the later races. Rob must have been having some issues with the car. Racing in the division for the night consisted of two heats and a feature.
In the first late model heat, the 7 qualifiers were out, plus a couple others to make it 9. Just after the green flag flew, before the first lap of the racenight was complete, Daryl Weisflock in the #95 Rally McQueen car spun on corner 1 to bring out the caution. Shawn Ritchie in the #3 and #71 Jay McCoy must not have seen the yellow, or maybe it came out after they went into corner 3. They continued around the track to the front stretch where they collided. Weisflock needed a tow off the track, Ritchie and McCoy both left with some damage, and while the caution was still out, #21 Jake Irwin was shown the black flag for a flat tire. This left 5 of the original 9 to do a complete restart.
Once they did get going, the 10 lap race ran free of further cautions. #90 Jay Palumbo led all laps to the checkers, #61 Dustin Jackson took a close 2nd, #77 Chase Wilson 3rd, #5 John Ross 4th, and #100R Ron Raynor 5th.
In the second late model heat, eight cars came up on track; missing was Ritchie. Raynor started at the pole, with Ross outside. At the green, Ross took the lead through corner 1 & 2. As they were coming out of 2, Jake Irwin dove down inside Raynor, while Palumbo went high, making it 3 wide. Irwin led the trio on the inside into corner 3, then Ross and Irwin came together going through corner 4 and both spun. A complete restart was needed.
This time Ross was slow to start, he might have had a tire down and went up the track around corner 1 & 2, causing Palumbo right behind to get held back a bit. Ross left before he completed a lap. This allowed #61 Dustin Jackson to get underneath Raynor for a pass along the backstretch to gain the lead. Up the front stretch Palumbo was alongside Raynor and the pair may have bumped sides. Raynor recovered first. Down the back stretch Raynor, following Jackson, was just ahead of Palumbo. Palumbo got his nose under Raynor through corner 3 into 4 and Raynor was spun out onto the front stretch stopping on the inside of the track, just before the flagstand. The caution may have been coming out for another incident involving #71 Jay McCoy that happened just prior to the Raynor spin. Raynor was unable to restart his car and it was stuck in gear. It took a few minutes for the Laird Towing flat deck to come out and load him up with locked rear wheels, and by time Raynor’s car was taken off the track, the race timed out (more than 10 minutes). Jackson was credited with the win after just 2 laps complete. Palumbo 2nd, Irwin 3rd, Wilson 4th.
Immediately after intermission the Super Late Models were out for a 20 lap feature. Seven cars took to the track, missing were Ritchie and Raynor. Ross once again started at the front, with Jake Irwin outside. Irwin took the early lead for three laps until he was passed on the inside by Jackson on lap 4. Palumbo also got past Irwin a lap later, then a lap after that Wilson followed. The four ran in that order until lap 9, when caution was pulled after Jay McCoy spun on corner 2.
The race restarted and Ross left the track. Jackson continued in the lead, Wilson, starting third outside of Palumbo in the second row, ran side by side, but a nose ahead for a couple laps then got ahead of Palumbo. Jackson was about 5 or 6 car lengths ahead at that point. On lap 11, just past the half way point fans were witness to one of the worst wrecks we’ve seen at Laird as Jake Irwin wrecked on the backstretch. Track announcer Greg Brazeau was heard to say “Oh my God!” on the PA system.
I spoke with Irwin in the pits at the end of the night. I asked what happened, he said, “I came out of (corner) two; was walking high up by the line (at the top of the track). I hit a little bit of gravel; went sideways a little bit and my back tire touched the guardrail. The car walked right up (the guardrail) which pulled the front up onto the guardrail. I went down the guardrail a little bit, hit the light tower, then flipped end for end twice; landed, then rolled again.”
Amazingly Jake climbed out of the car a few moments later, uninjured. In the pits at the end of the night I also asked if he was hurt. He said, “My arm is a bit sore.” The car was destroyed.
After a few minutes to remove the car the Late Model Feature restarted. On the restart the group were immediately cautioned down, they were lined up wrong. On the restart, Jackson was out front again, with Palumbo and Wilson side by side behind. Jackson quickly opened up a good lead. Wilson and Palumbo ran side by side for a bit until Wilson moved up. Wilson got up behind Jackson but was unable to make it up beside for a pass. On the last lap Wilson tried an inside move coming out of lap 4 but there was lap traffic and he was unable to make the move. Jackson had his second win of the night. Wilson 2nd, Palumbo 3rd, McCoy 4th and Weisflock 5th.
Atomic Blonde Factory Fours
The Atomic Blonde Factory Fours ran second during the evening program, right after the Late Models. The group had 9 cars qualify, with #12 Anthony Mannarino being top qualifier with a time of 18.063 seconds. The division was joined by new driver Keegin Lablance driving the #197. Shanna Harten entered the night as the leader in the division but blew her engine in hot laps. Prior to qualifying, Shanna was looking in the pits for a car to borrow for the evening to maintain her points lead. Chuck Sidall graciously loaned her his #95 for the night.
Nine cars came out for the first 10 lap Factory Four heat with Lablance and #724 Mike Heinonen starting front row. As the green flag flew, cars went 5 wide out of corner 4 with #05 Tyler Praysner and #7 Terrance Devon coming forward from the third row. As they moved up the front stretch Devon backed off a bit, while Praysner had an opening in front and took the lead going into corner 1. Caution flew on lap 4 with a spin by Harten in the borrowed #95 on corner 4. The race restarted; Praysner continued to lead all laps for the win. He was followed by Mannarino for 2nd, #4 Dale Tucker 3rd and Devon 4th.
Eight cars came out for the second Factory Four heat. Missing was Shanna Harten, apparently the #95 she had borrowed was having engine problems; which, according to Chuck Siddal later in the night was due to a cracked distributor cap. Lablance and Heinonen led them off at the green again, but this time the rookie Lablance was able to hold the lead for the first two laps, before being overtaken by #21 Daryl Whitmel. Whitmel only held the lead for a lap before being overtaken by Praysner on lap 4. The race ran caution free, with Praysner taking the checkered flag, Mannarino 2nd, Devon 3rd, and Whitmel 4th.
The same eight were out after intermission for a 15 lap feature. Lablance led them off again but quickly found Praysner behind him going down the backstretch. Lablance might have gone into corner 3 a bit hot, nailed the brakes and slid up off the track down the embankment towards the track entrance in corner 4. This brought out the caution, requiring a complete restart of the race.
On the restart, Lablance got around the track to maintain the lead for the first lap. On the next lap he pushed high exiting corner 4 and Praysner once again took over. The race was cautioned down on lap 7 with Heinonen spun into the infield out of corner 2, and Lablance slid up to the top of corner 2 at the beginning of the backstretch tire barrier. Lablance was unable to continue.
After the restart, Praysner continued to lead the race, with Mannarino and #4 Dale Tucker close behind. On the last couple laps of the race Mannarino came up outside of Praysner attempting a pass but didn’t have enough to get by. Praysner took his third win of the night, Mannarino 1/3 of a second behind was 2nd, Tucker 3rd, Witmel 4th, and #42 Jack Lannigan 5th and Heinonen 6th. The #7 of Terrance Devon left the track with just 2 laps complete.
Service Rental Factory Stock Division
Ten Service Rental Factory Stocks were in the pits for the night. Eight of them were out to qualify in the Division. Fast qualifier was #67 Jarritt Varcoe with a time of 16.424 seconds. Missing from qualifying was #51 Jamie Fox and #29 John Carter. Carter was out for the first time this season with a sharp looking black/yellow/green Chevy. Also, Dave King was out racing for the first time this season in the borrowed #100R owned by Ron Raynor.
Going into the night, #08 Daniel Bibeau had the lead in the division and to spice it up a bit, track promoter Donnie Varcoe put a $500 “bounty” on Daniel for anyone that could beat him to take a win in the night’s factory stock feature.
The first Factory Stock heat was a caution free 10 lap event consisting of 8 cars. Fox came out for the race, but missing was #26 Brad Bibeau and Carter. Front starters were #88 Rob Wagner, and #26B Buddy Palahnuk. When the green flew, Palahnuk rocketed off into the lead. Through the race he was closely followed by #67 Jarritt Varcoe, who started right behind Palahnuk. Directly behind Varcoe was #08 Daniel Bibeau. Bibeau ran up outside of Varcoe a couple times during the race but was unable to get by. Palahnuk took the win, with Varcoe a quarter second behind for second. Dan scored 3rd and Dave King pulled up 4th.
In the second Factory Stock heat eight cars came up on track for the race. Missing were Dan Bibeau and Dave King. Caution came out twice during the race, each time with rookie #88 Owen Brown spinning. The young guy is improving with each race, but might be struggling with car set-up and familiarity. Much like the first heat, Palahnuk ran up front through the race taking his second win for the night, with Varcoe right behind. This time though it was #26 Brad Bibeau coming up third, having challenged Varcoe on the outside for second a couple times. Coming in 4th was #29 John Carter who was in the mix with the three leaders through the race.
The 20 lap Factory Stock Feature was fast and caution free. It perhaps was the most exciting race of the night to watch. Nine cars were out, missing was King. Once again it was Wagner and Palahnuk starting at the front and the race got started much the same as the second heat with Palahnuk taking the lead, and Varcoe right behind with Brad Bibeau and Carter side by side racing for third. A few laps in Varcoe got nudged by Carter coming through corner 4 which caused Varcoe to go a bit squirelly and falling back a bit to allow Bibeau to move up into second. Bibeau chased down Palahnuk and on lap 9 managed an inside pass to move to the lead. Palahnuk lost ground for the next couple laps and fell back to 4th behind Varcoe and Carter. Just past the half way mark, Bibeau had a 4 car length lead on Varcoe.
On lap 14, the three leaders started to move into lap traffic, leaving little room for passing each other. John Carter made a bold move, making it three wide on the backstretch, taking the middle above #88 Owen Brown, being lapped, with Varcoe higher up. Carter successfully made the pass on Varcoe for second. The white flag flew with Carter close on the tail of Brad, and Varcoe right behind. As they were going down the back stretch, Carter moved inside of Brad and the pair went into corner three side by side. It looked like there was a bit of contact and the result was Carter spinning out of corner 4. Bibeau had some smoking tires out of four but managed to keep it under control to take the win, including the $500 extra bounty money collected for beating his brother Dan. Varcoe took 2nd, Palahnuk 3rd, #51 Jamie Fox 4th and Carter was credited with 5th. #08 Daniel Bibeau had left the race on lap 15
NAPA Auto Parts Modifieds
Nine cars were out to qualify in the NAPA Auto Parts Modified division. Also out for the night was #10 Sebastien Servant but Servant wasn’t able to get the car running right so was unable to race. During qualifying disaster struck for #77 Chase Wilson. In the middle of his qualifying session Chase’s car broke a driveshaft going down the backstretch at speed. The spinning driveshaft apparently took out the brake lines, and according to Chase came up through the floor pan. The result was Chase flying off corner 3 into the tires near the track exit in corner 3. Chase was uninjured, but the car was not driveable for the night. Chase was still able to drive his Late Model for the night though.
In their first 10 lap heat, those 8 qualifiers that were left, were joined by two others that didn’t qualify earlier to make it 10 cars on track. #21 Josh Maitland inside, and #78 Jason Herrington outside started the race in the front row. The pair managed to stay in the front for 2 laps, with Herrington in front. #79 Roddy Bolduc got past Maitland to take up second on lap 3 behind Herrington then Bolduc took over the lead on lap 4. Caution flew twice on the next couple laps, both times after #28 Mark Porpealia slid up over the track between corner 3 and 4, down in front of the tires at the track entrance. Earllier in the race it looked like he had a bad push up the track on that corner. Porpealia left after the second caution. After the two cautions Bolduc was still up front, with #01 John Ross moved up to second ahead of Herrington. Ross got passed by #90 Jay Palumbo on lap 9. At the end it was Bolduc taking the checkered flag for a spin round the track, Palumbo 2nd, Ross 3rd and Herrington 4th.
In the second Modified heat 10 cars were out with Maitland and Herrington starting at the front again. This time Herrington led the first 4 laps before being passed by Bolduc. On lap 6 Herrington lost second to Palumbo then the caution came out when #15 of Jamie Nadeau spun around backwards on corner 1 at the back of the pack. Nadeau left the track. Bolduc continued to lead for the rest of the race. Jay Palumbo had challenged Bolduc on the outside a couple times but couldn’t get by and had to settle for 2nd. #27 Dustin Jackson pulled up 3rd, #84 Mark Laakso 4th, and Herrington 5th.
The modified feature was scheduled for 20 laps. Nine cars were out. Porpealia was missing. Maitland and Herrington got started up front. This race, Herrington was able to maintain the lead for the first nine laps, with Bolduc running outside him. Jay Palumbo ran directly behind Herrington waiting for an opening. On lap 9 Palumbo saw one and squeezed in between Bolduc and Herrington going into corner 3. It was a bit tense but they came out of corner 4 intact, with Bolduc sliding up to lose a spot to #01 John Ross. Palumbo made the pass on Herrington on lap 10. Palumbo then started opening up a gap while Ross and Herrington ran side by side for a lap or two. Ross, Bolduc and Laakso all got round Herrington in the next couple laps then, on lap 14, POOF! The lights went out on the front stretch leaving us all in the dark. The race was cautioned down.
The lighting breakers were reset but for these types of lights it takes a few minutes for them to restart. We waited, and waited, some fans filed out. We waited for about 15 minutes then finally the night was called. The race ended after 14 laps, Jay Palumbo credited with the win, #01 John Ross 2nd, #79 Roddy Bolduc 3rd, #84 Mark Laakso 4th, and #78 Jason Herrington 5th. And wouldn’t you know it, pop! The lights came on about 3 minutes after the call was made on the PA system. Just crap luck.
Lakeway Auto Parts Enduros
The Lakeway Auto Parts Enduro cars are always last to run during a race night, simply because there is usually always debris on the track, and multiple cars broke down after the race. There was at least on new Enduro driver ready to race for the night, that being #97 Devin Service. Devin will have to wait until next week to race. ATTENTION ENDURO DRIVERS: A drivers meeting has been called for Monday Aug 22 at the Laird Race Shop on Carmen’s Way at 7:00 pm.
During intermission we held a School Bus race, with 7 buses running; followed by a Lawnmower Race on the infield. We also held a side by side drag race around the track, two separate one lap races. After that track announcer polled the crowd to see if they wanted the side by sides to run another race on the lawnmower track. The crowd cheered loudly wanting to see it! Maybe it was a mistake because we ended up with mud thrown up onto the asphalt , LOL. More cheering from the crowd when one of them rolled. After that fun was over, we then had another spectator drag on the front stretch. Fans love it!
Our racenight ended shortly after 10 pm when those lights went out and wouldn’t come back on. It was certainly a peculiar night.
Photos from the night can be found on the Lairdraceway.com website under the media menu item – photos. Feature videos will be posted on the website within the next couple days.
Our next scheduled events will be the last for this year. We hold the Mike Parson’s Memorial weekend on Friday August 26th and Saturday August 27th. On Saturday we will feature a 73 Lap Super Late Model race with $10,000 to win! It will be sure to bring in some visiting Late Model drivers from Southern Ontario and Michigan, maybe beyond. The weekend also will feature Free Camping, a live band both nights following the races, plus Enduro cars, Lawn Tractors on Dirt, School Bus Races and Spectator Races.
Article Credit: Tom Stephenson
Submitted By: Tom Stephenson