A Second Generation Pro Stocker: A Conversation with Derek Christie

This Saturday night Speedway 660 is proud to present the Best of the Best Pro Stock 150. The winner earns a nice payday, plus a guaranteed starting position in the Auto Value 250 on SpeedWeekend. Wade Wilson recently talked with Derek Christie about this weekend’s race and his path to the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock Division.

Wade: Derek, everyone gets excited about the Best of the Best Pro Stock 150. Who-ever goes to the Riverview Ford Lincoln Victory Lane has good reason to celebrate.
Derek: They certainly do Wade. If you don’t participate in the two touring series events, it’s the first extended lap pro stock event of the season. It’s a great way to prepare for the Auto Value 250 with our rules package and tires, never mind the guaranteed provisional for that event.  We usually get a few guys from out of town that are pretty good benchmarks as well.

Wade: You guys normally run 40 laps features. Those extra 110 laps have got to be hard on both the car and driver.
Derek: If your car’s not handling well, or if you run into trouble, it can definitely be a long race. But I learned a lot in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman division on how to prepare mentally for the longer events and how to race in the early part of the race in order to make it to the finish. You can afford to be patient and give guys a lot more room early in these races. As for the cars, you want to have fresh fluids and grease in them and give your braking system a close look the week before. It’s almost four features wrapped up into one, but these cars can handle the extra laps, the weakest part is definitely the driver.

Wade: Your Dad Leon was a pretty good Pro Stock racer. He had a podium finish in the Auto Value 250 one year and always was a solid performer in the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock Division. How much influence has he had on your racing career?
Derek: My Dad has been a huge influence and I owe everything I have in racing to him. If it wasn’t for Dad, I’d probably be racing a Chevy! Seriously, without his support, I wouldn’t be racing at all.  But you’re right he was a solid performer and excelled at the long races. He did a good job taking care of his equipment and always seemed to be near the front at the end of the night.  Driving a race car has been a big thrill, but Dad’s podium finish in the Auto Value 250 was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at Speedway 660. I think for the first seven or eight years Dad had one of the best average finishes in the 250. Each year he was always in contention for the most laps run award during the regular season. It was a great example of how being patient and keeping your distance from some of the chaos early on can really pay off in the end. I can probably do a better job at that, but it’s definitely something I try to emulate – make it to the checkers.

Derek and his Dad Leon enjoy a moment in the Speedway 660 pits before a recent race.  Leon, Derek and Richard MacIntosh are one of our smallest pro stock crews, but their car is always well prepared and ready to race when it’s time to “go green”.

Wade: Drivers take different paths to get where they want to go. You really paid your dues by running a few years in the DMR Auto Sales & Service Street Stock Division and then in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman before moving up to pro stock. Why did you take that route and how did the experience in other divisions help when you got into the pro stock ride?
Derek: If the Fredericton Gun Shop Sharp Shooters had of existed when I started racing, I probably would’ve had an Escort GT in that division before ever getting into a street stock. I’m not on any type of time-table, so there was never any rush to move up to pro stock. For me, it was an affordable way to learn the ropes. And how could you pass up an opportunity to race against Joe Albert & Rick Cashol? I actually got spun out by “Smokin Joe” in my first race.  Is there any better welcome to street stock a guy could get? The racing is just as good and as fierce in street stock and sportsman as it is in pro stock. Sometimes it’s even probably a bit better, so as far as learning and having fun, it’s a good path to take. Crashing a Crown Victoria is  a lot cheaper than crashing Hamke or Port City, believe me, I’ve done both.

Wade: We are seeing a lot of kids get into racing. From go-karts, to bandoleros to sharp shooters there is a real youth movement at Speedway 660. Some of these kids are moving up through the divisions quickly. Some are even jumping from bandos right into pro stocks. What advice do you have for these young racers?
Derek: I think the biggest thing is to not try too hard when you’re behind the wheel. You’re going to start last or near the back for the first five weeks, so it’s important to try to get a feel for how the other guys and gals are driving around you. It’s important to simply get comfortable racing. You can turn a million laps by yourself on the track, but nothing is going to prepare you for the drop of the green flag. I think I only finished two out of my first four or five races in both street stock and sportsman. It wasn’t until I settled down and decided to finish a few races that I was able to get more comfortable in the car and race better. Plus Dad was a lot happier not having to rebuild the front end of the car each week, even though that still happens from time to time.

Wade: The Auto Value 250 is the biggest race in the Maritimes. It attracts a lot of the Parts for Trucks pro stockers as well as the best Pro All Star Series late modified drivers. That’s tough competition.
Derek: Plus over the years we’ve also had the odd NASCAR celebrity driver, so racing against competition like that is the best part about racing a pro stock. The championship is an accomplishment, but winning the 250 is really the crown jewel of our season in my opinion. Just look at the SpeedWeekend crowds, that says it all.

Wade: We know your Dad Leon plays a big role in your racing program. Who else helps you out in the garage and pits and who are those important corporate sponsors who make it possible for you to go racing?
Derek: Dad does all the work in the garage on his own, but Richard MacIntosh has been a good friend and part of the crew for over 10 years. I don’t think he’s ever missed a week, even had his wedding in the spring and baby in winter, a true racer. Our crew isn’t very big, just three of us, but we work really well together. We’re really fortunate to have had all of our sponsors for several years, some of them for more than a decade. Northside Ventilation has been our primary sponsor for the last three years, A.L. Gullison Disaster Kleenup is well known to race fans and have been our sponsor for almost 15 years, Everett Gilmore & Riverview Ford Lincoln are also great sponsors and friends of racing as well. York Financial Services, NAPA in Nackawic and DWG are a big help to us. This year we have a new sponsor Northside Indoor Pistol Range, they’re a new indoor shooting range off the Killarney Road in Fredericton for anyone who is a hand gun enthusiast and wants to improve their skills. I’d also like to give a big shout out to Re/MAX for coming on board this season and sponsoring the pro stock division. It’s nice to see new sponsors in the sport and it really helps attract other corporate sponsors when you have a company with the corporate image and name recognition that Re/MAX brings to Speedway 660.

Derek Christie (#9) makes the outside pass on two-time RE/MAX Pro Stock champ Chris Duncan at a race earlier this season. Derek is looking forward to the Best of the Best Pro Stock 150 this weekend. It will give drivers an opportunity to earn a guaranteed starting position in the Auto Value 250 on SpeeWeekend.

Wade: Speedway 660 has the best fan support in the Maritimes. We get great crowds and they are knowledgeable about this sport. How do you feel about our fans and what’s it like to race in front of them every week?
Derek: You said it Wade, our fans are the best, especially the ones wearing the Ford Racing or Riverview Ford hats! I really enjoy Kids Day and Fan Appreciation Day because it gives us the opportunity to take a few extra minutes with the fans. It’s always amazing to learn how far away some of our fans travel to watch a regular event at Speedway 660. It’s also a good reminder to not take for granted the great facility we have here. I know growing up in Temperance Vale during the 80s we had to travel to Caribou or Riverglade or Miramichi to watch racing before Speedway 660 was built. I might be mistaken, but I think Shawn Tucker used to travel all the way to Bangor to race every week. So again, we’re really lucky to have fans that support the track, because without the fans obviously the track wouldn’t exist.

Wade: You are a consistent driver and from where I sit you seem to take a steady, even-keeled approach to racing. How difficult is it to stay calm and focused out there and be competitive with guys like Shawn Tucker, Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark?
Derek: Thanks Wade, some situations are more difficult than others to stay calm out there, but when you’re racing against the guys you mentioned and guys like Cassius Clark, Lonnie Sommerville, Travis Benjamin, John Flemming, Craig Slaunwhite and the other touring series drivers it’s actually pretty easy to stay calm. Those guys take driving a race car to another level and have so much experience and car control that they rarely make any mistakes or do anything stupid out there. I remember the first time I raced against Ben Rowe and Shawn Tucker at the Atlantic Cat 250 in 2011. They lapped me around lap 40 or 50, when I was in the back half of the field racing with some other hooligans. I couldn’t believe how smooth they were, they looked like they had one hand on the wheel and another holding a copy Circle Track magazine. Whenever I’m around any of those guys on the track, even in practice, I just try to learn as much as I can and give them the respect they deserve. I’d rather show them I can control my car, than try to show them how fast I can go. Dave O’Blenis is the same way, you can run an inch off his door panel and have no fear of touching, but with some other guys you have to give a few extra feet. We’re lucky to have that caliber of driver here every week. The sportsman guys groan a bit when Dave shows up to their big events, but hopefully they take the opportunity to learn from him. He has a good car, but he’s also a great driver.

Wade: Thanks for doing this Derek. Good luck on the weekend. I’m sure we are going to see a great race.
Derek: I enjoy reading these conversations every week and appreciate you asking me to participate in one of them. I’m really looking forward to the race.

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