Anticipation builds for Cayuga's 'Canada Day Shootout' LONDON, ON - Almost six months after the stunning announcement that several NASCAR Winston Cup drivers would take part in a mid-season CASCAR Super Series points race at Cayuga Speedway, the...
Anticipation builds for Cayuga's 'Canada Day Shootout'
LONDON, ON - Almost six months after the stunning announcement that several NASCAR Winston Cup drivers would take part in a mid-season CASCAR Super Series points race at Cayuga Speedway, the long wait is almost over.
This Sunday night (June 30), the legendary Cayuga facility will play host to Canada's top stock car drivers, as well as to a half-dozen of NASCAR's finest, for a unique 'Twin 50, Plus 100-lap' format race. Well-known stock car stars Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Johnny Benson, Ken Schrader and Dave Blaney will participate in the 'Canada Day Shootout' during one of their rare off-weekends from the Winston Cup tour.
Joining them will be NASCAR Truck Series standout Ted Musgrave, who will make his way to Cayuga the day after competing in a Truck Series race at The Milwaukee Mile. The former Winston Cup racer currently sits second in Truck Series points, just one marker out of first.
So far in 2002, Kenseth is Winston Cup's winningest driver, with victories at 'The Rock', Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Int'l Speedway. Tony Stewart has tasted victory in Atlanta and Richmond. It goes without saying that the NASCAR drivers will have to summon all of their talents to compete with the CASCAR Super Series 'regulars', all of whom are well accustomed to Cayuga Speedway, and more importantly, to the relatively unique Super Series Late Models.
If there is a sub-text to the NASCAR theme of the event, it involves the CASCAR Super Series drivers who will be participating in their sixth of 12 scheduled points races on the 2002 schedule. In last year's 'battle' at Cayuga, Dave Whitlock drove his Ford Taurus underneath the Home Hardware Chevy of current points leader Don Thomson - on the last lap - to record his first victory in several Super Series seasons. The race, held under the lights at Cayuga, was one of the most exciting in CASCAR history.
When all was said and done, however, Thomson emerged victorious in 'the war' and went on to collect his first National championship. And following his complete dominance of Race #5 at Mosport, last Saturday night, Thomson appears to be the driver to beat this Sunday night at Cayuga.
"I'm bringing the same car and the same motor [from Mosport]," said Thomson, after that race. "I might put some new valve springs in it so that it's nice and fresh. Mosport's long straights can be hard on valve springs, so we'll do some preventative work there. It deserves new springs."
Discussing his strategy for the race, Thomson continued, "If you race at Cayuga without any caution flags, you can wear out your tires on the abrasive surface. A few years ago, I was out of tires on lap 100, so it's possible to run out of rubber on Sunday. I'm looking at it as just another race in the series. I'm going to stay calm, qualify well, try to lead some laps, and do the best we can."
Dave Whitlock is also confident of his chances for success at Cayuga. The Ford Fast Lane Taurus driver's emotional win, last year under the lights at Cayuga, was a signal to everyone that the three-time National champion was back in top form.
"We got back on track there last year and we're looking forward to going back," said Whitlock, after his second-place run on Saturday at Mosport Speedway. "Hopefully, we can keep it near the front. We've really been looking forward to Cayuga. That's a huge event for us. We're excited about it and we've done some testing there. We'll be in good shape."
According to reports, the Canada Day Shootout will take place in front of almost 20,000 fans, making it one of the biggest stock car events in Canadian history.
SATURDAY, JUNE 29: Gates open to the public at noon. The visiting NASCAR drivers will have their first CASCAR practice at 12:30. The other classes on Saturday's schedule are the Thunder Cars, the Canadian Vintage Modifieds and the ISMA Supermodifieds. The NASCAR drivers will have a second practice session at 2:30. Heat races commence at 7:00 p.m. and the main event of the night, the 50-lap ISMA feature, will begin at 9:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, JUNE 30: Spectator gates open at 10:00 a.m. The CASCAR Super Series 'regulars' will take to the track for their first practice at 11:00. The NASCAR drivers' half-hour practice is scheduled for noon, and will be immediately followed by another 'Open' practice for the Super Series drivers. Time trials will commence at 3:15. An ISMA Supermodified exhibition race takes place at 6:05, leading up to the NASCAR driver introductions at 6:45. The NASCAR racers will participate in a Charity Shootout at 7:00. The NAPA Auto Parts Twin 50 Qualifiers take the green flag at 7:30, and the CANADA DAY SHOOTOUT (100 laps) is slated to start at 9:15 p.m.
CASCAR NOTES: Although he may not be one of the pre-race favourites for victory on Sunday night at Cayuga Speedway, current Rookie points leader Joe Plazek is happy with the way his inaugural asphalt racing campaign is progressing. Following his impressive seventh-place run at Mosport, the former DIRT racer was justifiably proud of the progress he's shown, since his CASCAR debut, in May at Delaware. Asked if he is enjoying competing in CASCAR, he smiled, "It's getting better. I wasn't for a while... but it's getting better." Two consecutive top-10 results would put a smile on anyone rookie's face.