Log Cabin Chronicles

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All Photographs © 1998 Karen Eryou

Auto racing Canadian style

KAREN ERYOU

Race fans know all about NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Racing, based in Daytona, Florida. However, Canadians also have talented drivers and their own highly regarded association CASCAR, the Canadian Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, of Komoka, Ontario.

Although CASCAR's roots don't go back as deep as NASCAR's, the CASCAR Super Series is the largest all-Canadian motorsport, and the only national Canadian stock-car racing series. Established in 1981, the Super Series is televised on TSN, and regionally on several local stations.

With more that 130 teams registered in the program, there are more than 200 CASCAR racing events annually that provide considerable exposure for major sponsors.

The Eastern Division of the CASCAR Super Series recently completed its two annual events in Quebec: A Saturday meet at Autodrome St. Eustache's 4/10 mile oval, followed by a Sunday event at Circuit Ste. Croix's 5/8 mile high-banked oval track.

Stock-car racing is a family thing -- according to 1995 CASCAR survey statistics, approximately 39 percent of fans are women, while 61 percent are men. Most are married, and 53 percent of these families have two or more children.

kelley williams The drivers vary in age and sex. In the Eastern division, up-and-coming Kelly Williams, 26, of Inglewood, Ontario, can run the tires off her GM Goodwrench automobile and keep up with the male contenders on the track.

At the other extreme there is 53-year-old Earl Ross, from Ailsa Craig, Ontario. In 1974, Ross was named NASCAR's Rookie of the Year. He competed in 21 NASCAR Winston Cup events, and won the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway, to become the first, and only Canadian to ever win a Winston Cup event. But his accomplishments don't end there: in '73 he qualified for his first Daytona 500, by '76 he had made three Daytona 500 appearances.

In 1982, Ross won the inaugural McKerlie Millen 200 at Delaware Speedway Park in Ontario, in '95 and '96 he finished 13th in series points standings. This past season, he finished 15th in points, and sat on the pole at Peterborough Speedway. One of his best runs last season came at Ottawa's Capital City where he sat on the outside pole and finished a strong third.

Ross is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company of Canada, and drives a 1998 Ford Taurus, with a custom built chassis. The 2850 lb. automobile is powered by a Ford GT40 V8, 351 CID.

There are so many great drivers on this traveling bandwagon that it is hard to feature each and every one of them, but one that I must mention is Peter Gibbons of Stouffville. I first met Gibbons in Pocono, Pennsylvania. Not knowing who he was, I was intrigued by a Canadian flag lying over the windshield (to keep the sun from overheating the driver's cockpit before the race was to begin).

I approached a bunch of guys scrubbing the car to make it shine, and asked where they were from. From that point on, I have been a fan, and friend.

In 1994, Gibbons was named CASCAR Rookie of the Year, and no matter if it looks like he is out of a race, believe me, he is not.

gibbons

In Ste. Croix this past month, he looked like a surgeon performing major surgery under the hood of his car. After blowing an engine in a qualifying race, Gibbons and his crew -- challenged by the odds -- changed the motor on pit road, and made it on the starting grid before the green flag had a chance to fall.

Gibbons has been described as cagey, crafty, and poised by his CASCAR peers. He now has a race shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, where many of his crew members lend a helping hand. His former crew chief, Marty Gaunt, brother of present CASCAR driver John Gaunt, has left the Gibbons race team to work for the famous Penske race team, with NASCAR drivers Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield.

Racing is not only won on the track, but in the pits, and the crews' efficiency plays a primary part of the victories. The pressure is intense -- the job during a pit stop must be done efficiently and quickly. A pit stop is a thing of beauty to watch, like ballet but at a much faster.

These drivers and crews live in the fast lane, and they all have one common goal - winning

john gaunt

Racer John Gaunt with young fan

Canadian drivers have much to offer, put on a hell of a show, and some day may be on the U.S. circuit, and be as famous as the Pettys and Allisons of NASCAR. You'll be able to say,"Hell, I first saw them when they were cutting their teeth back in Canada."


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Copyright © 1998 Karen Eryou/Log Cabin Chronicles/7.98