World of Outlaws Have Successful First Visit to Ohsweken Speedway Sprint car fans in Canada had been waiting over 25 years for the World of Outlaws to return and on Wednesday the best sprint car drivers in the world headed north of the border...
World of Outlaws Have Successful First Visit to Ohsweken Speedway
Sprint car fans in Canada had been waiting over 25 years for the World of Outlaws to return and on Wednesday the best sprint car drivers in the world headed north of the border and they certainly didn't disappoint, as they put on a thrilling race before a record setting crowd at Ohsweken Speedway.
Glenn Styres, the owner of Ohsweken Speedway and his staff spent countless hours since the day it was announced in the fall of 2006 that the series would compete at the track, making improvements to the facility and spreading the word about the event. The whole town and surrounding communities were abuzz leading up to the race.
A brand new catch fence was in place, as well as rows and rows of brand new aluminum bleachers to accommodate the massive crowd. Also, a number of portable light stands were brought in to help illuminate the high-banked 3/8-mile from top-to-bottom. Styres and his staff also spent hours putting up signs that were located off of all the major roads directing fans to the track.
Styres, who also is a sprint car driver himself, envisioned having the biggest race in the history of the track and after the final checkered flag flew on Wednesday night, he acknowledged that it was everything he had hoped for and a whole lot more.
"I haven't worked so hard to make something happen in years but it really is happening - isn't it," smiled Styres earlier in the week.
As the teams began to arrive on Tuesday, Styres and his staff welcomed them with open arms, and answered any questions they had. He personally gave several drivers tours of the facility in between taking phone calls and helping make sure everything was in place on the grounds for a successful event.
"I don't believe it - Craig Dollansky, Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski are here in my back yard," said an ecstatic Styres as he looked over the track from the back porch of his home that sits directly behind the second turn of the high-banked 3/8-mile, reminiscent of the baseball field in the film Field of Dreams.
Race day began very early for the staff of Ohsweken Speedway, as they were out walking the grounds in the early morning, cordoning off parking areas and making sure signs were in place to direct fans to the grandstands as well as the pit area. The crowd ended up being in excess of 9,000 people, easily the largest in the 11-year history of the track.
"We did it - just look at this," said Styres as he surveyed the record crowd at his track.
Fans began to arrive in the late morning and were able to walk around the pit area to see the cars and drivers up close. They also were able to upgrade their tickets to visit the pit area during the racing program. An hour before a scheduled autograph session in the late afternoon, hundreds of fans lined up so they could meet their favorite drivers. Thousands more visited the pit area to get autographs and pose for pictures with the drivers and their cars.
Prior to the A-Feature which saw Jason Sides hold off a furious charge from Jac Haudenschild and Donny Schatz for the win, fans were treated to a laser light show that lit up the sky for 15 minutes, with music bellowing from an expanded sound system.
"Tonight I attended a rock concert, a laser light show, a fire works display, and a race took place - and what a race," said a fan attending their first race at the track and first World of Outlaws event. "You can bet that I'll be back."
As the World of Outlaws performed their traditional Four-Wide Salute to the Fans, the entire staff of Ohsweken Speedway stood in awe of what they had accomplished, as fireworks illuminated the northern sky.
"Here it is - this is what we have been working so hard for," said Cheryl Pelkie, Coordinator of Special Events at Ohsweken Speedway. "I hope that everyone takes it in and enjoys what is happening."
After the checked flag flew from special guest flagman Roger Slack, Sides thrilled the crowd by performing donuts on the front straightaway that continued into the first and second turns. He then joined Schatz and Haudenschild for a media conference in another of the spacious buildings housed at the track. The conference was attended by numerous reporters and broadcasters from both Canada and the United States, several of which were attending their first event at the track and first World of Outlaws event.
The drivers and crews were thrilled with how racy the track was, but also with the hospitality that they shown by each and every member of the Ohsweken Speedway staff. The event wrapped up a busy East Coast swing for the series that saw them compete seven times in a 10-day period, and the royal treatment from Styres and his staff was much appreciated.
"It's a unique place," said reigning World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz. "They put a lot of work into this. It's kind of like racing in your own backyard at home, with him living right here. It goes to show how much hard work he has put in and it's pretty gratifying for him. It's a really neat set-up and they thought of a lot of things that other places don't have."
As the final fans exited the track in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the staff of Ohsweken Speedway was still hard at work and still all had smiles on their faces.
"Thanks to all who helped make this happen," said Ken Pelkie, Coordinator of Special Events. "We couldn't have done this without the staff, World of Outlaws officials, push trucks, concessions, parking attendants, race teams, and fans. We hope your experience was both positive and memorable. You have helped place Ohsweken on the racing community map in a place of honor. You can bet that we will strive to improve on the details when the Outlaws return in 2008."
While they were busily packing their trailers to head back to the United States, all of the World of Outlaws drivers, crews, their families, series officials, and track staff were treated to a dinner provided by Styres, in the technical inspection building behind the back straightaway. As the drivers finished loading up, Styres walked up to each and every one of them and personally thanked them for coming and handed each of them an envelope with an additional $200 that one of his sponsors had added to the total purse.
The World of Outlaws will compete twice more this season in Canada, as they visit Castrol Raceway in Edmonton on August 17-18.