LONDON, ON - Pete Vanderwyst wrapped up his 2000 CASCAR Castrol Super Series season on Sept. 3 at Delaware Speedway Park with a frustrating result. The brand new Loctite Pontiac Grand Prix started third in the field of 39 and was running extremely well before getting caught up in another driver's wreck, which caused heavy damage to the back of the St. Thomas, ON racer's car. In his final Super Series outing of the season, Vanderwyst finished 31st.
"We were flying when there was an early caution and it was our plan to short-pit. We came in before the rest of the leaders, which meant that we would have had the lead once they made their stops. The guys did a great job in the pits and we came out in great shape," said Vanderwyst.
"But we never got that far because we got caught up in someone else's wreck right after that. Whatever happened heading into turn 1, my spotter said to slow down and go high. I did that but Neil Fair was behind me and couldn't get slowed down in time and got into the back of me. It wasn't his fault. No one has been able to really tell me how it all happened, but it did a number on our car. I went around, knocked the right-rear shock off the car, broke the driveshaft and blew both springs out of the back end of the car. It wasn't a fun day after that."
What made the result all the more upsetting was the fact that prior to the incident, the new Loctite Pontiac - with its hot rod red and white paint scheme - was truly a contender for the win.
"The new car worked awesome. Mike McColl [the car's builder] and my guys did an unbelievable job getting it ready. They worked feverishly all week long leading up to the race; day and night. They never stopped. Mike was at my place, my guys were at Mike's shop. It was an amazing job getting it together. I couldn't have been more pleased with the new car.
"I really think it could have won. I handled [Nat'l champ Peter] Gibbons, but I couldn't compete with Donnie [Thomson - the Eastern champ]. Don was in a league of his own, but both of them ran into trouble on Sunday. I pulled away from [race winner Alan] Turner."
Following the crash, which sent the #77 Loctite car to the pits for many laps, Vanderwyst could only wonder what might have been.
"The guys thrashed and fixed everything that was broken. But after going there with that nice new car on Friday and winning the 100 lap heat race, it was shaping up to be a comfortable ride on Sunday afternoon before it came off the rails. We were sticking to our game plan."
Discussing his win in the 100 lap Sprint qualifier on Friday night (Sept. 1), Vanderwyst was tickled with the performance of his brand new racer. "It was phenomenal. We spun a lot of heads around when we won that race. There were many people who thought I was nuts coming out with a brand new car at this stage of the season. But on the other hand, I now have a brand new car and I think I'm almost nine months ahead of everyone else getting ready for next year.
"There are things on the new car that are a bit different from what's been out there before. I've spoken with other guys with newer cars and asked them what they would change. We used some of that feedback crafting the new car."
Looking back on the 2000 season, Vanderwyst admits that it didn't go as planned. After a superb '99 campaign, the Loctite racer came home 12th in the National points, five markers out of the top 10.
"I wish I could have a 'mulligan' and do it all over again. But that's not going to happen. We ran well everywhere, but just had some back luck at the worst possible times. We had so many chances to put the Loctite car on the podium like we did last year, but things just happened at the wrong time. It was frustrating for me, my guys and for Loctite, I'm sure. We had team meetings after races to see what we could do to improve, but you couldn't do anything more than we did. We only had one mechanical failure this year - a broken clutch in Fredericton."
But there were some highlights. "We won the Sprint Race in Edmonton and the 100 lapper at the end of the year at Delaware." In conclusion, Vanderwyst offered his thanks to his primary sponsor, Loctite, and to the members of his racing team for their support of his efforts in the 2000 season. "Loctite was excellent again this year in terms of their involvement with our program. They're very supportive of Vanderwyst Motorsports. And the guys on the team repeatedly went above and beyond the call of duty. I'm very lucky to have them on my side."
DELAWARE RACE SUMMARY: The 2000 CASCAR Castrol Super Series National championship wrapped up at Delaware Speedway Park on Sunday afternoon with the CARQUEST 300. For the fourth time this season, Al Turner stood atop the podium after the race. Track favourite Steve Robblee was second, ahead of three-time Nat'l champ Dave Whitlock.
Although his motor went south just two-thirds of the way into the 300 lap event, Peter Gibbons was able to emerge with a 21-point lead in the final National standings, to claim his second consecutive Castrol Cup. Don Thomson had wheel trouble, which left him deep in the standings at the end of the race and unable to capitalize on the rare misstep by Gibbons.