ST. THOMAS, ON - On Saturday afternoon, in front of over 50,000 fans at the Toronto Molson Indy, Pete Vanderwyst earned his best result of the 2000 CASCAR Castrol Super Series East season with a wild and spirited race to second place in the...
ST. THOMAS, ON - On Saturday afternoon, in front of over 50,000 fans at the Toronto Molson Indy, Pete Vanderwyst earned his best result of the 2000 CASCAR Castrol Super Series East season with a wild and spirited race to second place in the Exide 99 Street Fight. The #77 Loctite Chevy driver started fourth in the field of 41 competitors, on the temporary street circuit on the grounds of Exhibition Place in Toronto, and literally drove the wheels off his racecar to claim second in the biggest event on the annual CASCAR schedule.
Following the race, Vanderwyst sprayed champagne with race winner Kevin Dowler and third-place finisher Peter Gibbons on the same podium that would - just one day later - host Michael Andretti's sixth career CART Toronto win. "It was a super result. The guys gave me a great car," beamed the St. Thomas, ON racer after the race. The result was due, in large part, to the changes made to the Loctite Chevy in the hours leading up to CASCAR's second-ever visit to the Toronto Indy.
"We made some adjustments to try and hook up the rear of the car. It paid off, but unfortunately, for the last five or six laps, the car was a real handful. The tires totally went away. I've never worked so hard trying to keep the car under me and to stay focused. All the while, I was fighting to be competitive and to challenge Kevin [Dowler]."
The race opened with a big crash that brought the event to a halt for almost 20 minutes while safety crews cleaned the track. But back under green, the race featured passing throughout the pack and a never-ending battle for the lead among Dowler, Vanderwyst, Gibbons, Jim Lapcevich and Alan Turner.
"Kevin drove a smart race. It was fortunate for me the way things happened," continued Vanderwyst. "I was sideways a couple of times, but that's just my driving style. Everyone knows that I can handle any kind of car. I'd like to think that I can take a car - even if it isn't the best - and drive it to the limit. I have a good feel for putting the car where I want it."
But with long straights, it took more than just good handling to finish second to Dowler, a stock car driver who started his career in road racing. "We had a great car and a stout motor. I'd like to thank Loctite for giving us the resources to put on a great show here this weekend. We're very pumped up about being on live TV in front of this huge Indy crowd and to finish second in an exciting race. This is awesome."
The Exide 99 Street Fight was broadcast live on Saturday afternoon on CTV Sportsnet. It was the first time in Canadian history that a stock car race had been televised live on National television. Asked about the show the competitors put on, Vanderwyst replied, "It was too bad about the pile-up at the beginning. We were hoping to run clean for the full hour, but once we got that first caution out of the way, everyone focused and realized that we can't race this way for the first live TV event. From what I've heard so far, it was a good show.
"Hopefully, the fans enjoyed it and it's something that corporate Canada will notice and decide that it's something they have to get behind and support. That's what has to happen for this thing to grow. Loctite uses our racing program to the maximum potential and had a bunch of their people here today. There are a lot of opportunities for others to get involved and develop the sport."
Next Event: The CASCAR Castrol Super Series National tour kicks off this weekend in Edmonton, Alberta. Although he doesn't have a wealth of road racing experience, Vanderwyst is buoyed by his Toronto Indy result and is looking forward to the road race on the tarmac of the Edmonton City Centre Airport.
"We're heading to Edmonton with a car that's in one piece. We have a couple of little things to do with it, but we're going to 'rock-and-roll' out there. My road course experience isn't up to the level of a lot of the other guys. We've been here [Toronto] twice, Edmonton once and Mosport once. We've been near the front in every road course outing, which makes me ecstatic."