Sportsman Now & Then: Wade’s Weekly 17#6

(June 13, 2017) Sportsman drivers have been entertaining fans at Speedway 660 since way back in 1994. There is something really appealing about Sportsman racing in the Geary Woods and this weekend the Martin’s Home Heating 100, the first of three major Sportsman races, takes center stage. While we are all looking forward to Saturday’s big race, we shouldn’t forget about the history of this thrilling brand of racing.

There are a lot of young fans and drivers around these days who aren’t aware of Speedway 660’s incredible Sportsman racing history. The Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman division has been a mainstay since we started racing here back in 1994.

Karl Raeburn won the very first championship. The late Donnie Shields won it in year two. Brian Gillespie has five titles, Bradley Logan has three and Ken MacKenzie has two. John Rankin, who won the title in 2009, is the only former champion who is on the Speedway 660 Sportsman roster this season. Other champions include: Nevin Mullin, Hokey Wolfe (Gordon Chase), Jody Harris, Myles Harris, Brian MacNaughton, Glyn Nott, Greg Fahey, Brent Roy, Randy Moore and Ryan Messer.Myles Harriso 2009 Martins Home Heating 100 winnerMyles Harris, won the 2004 Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman championship. Back then there were often 30 Sportsman teams in the pits on race day!

Why am I bringing this up? Well I guess I’m becoming a bit of a “dinosaur” and like to reminisce about the old days, the glory days. And I don’t want folks to forget about all of the great drivers that have made history at Speedway 660. Even guys like Michael Banks, Wade Harris, Dave Biggar, Dan McNeil and Calvin Rankin who won big races and thrilled fans, but never claimed a Sportsman championship.

I remember when we used to put 24 cars in the Sportsman feature. Often times we would have 30 or more attempt to qualify. We always had three heat races, often with ten or more cars and always had a last chance race! A what you say? A race with eight or ten cars that saw the top two finishers get the opportunity to start at the tail end of the feature. Every Saturday night a half a dozen or more Sportsman cars were loaded on trailers after not qualifying for the feature! On more than one occasion the point leader even failed to “make the show”.champion-ken-mackenzieFan favourite Ken MacKenzie Sr. won the 2010 and 2011 Sportsman crowns. Kenny is one of only two drivers to win back-to-back Sportsman championships. Brian Gillespie did it twice – 2002 & 2003 and 2007 & 2008.

Even though I fondly remember those glory days, I still love Sportsman racing and especially look forward to the big races. I call it our “bread and butter” division. The car count is about half of what it was in our heyday, but the racing is still incredible. The 15 or so cars that have been showing up for our weekly shows are all competitive. And compared to other tracks, with single digit Sportsman rosters, we’re pretty fortunate.

This weekend we’ll have our weekly drivers, plus a few visitors and maybe a Pro Stock driver or two might slide into a Sportsman car. The Martin’s Home Heating 100 will be a great show – it always is! There will probably be at least ten drivers who have a realistic chance of winning the race while some of the others will need a little break here and there and perhaps some luck along the way to go to victory lane.Sportsman action 2017Sportsman racing at 660 has always been top-notch. This shot is from the Riverview Ford Season Opener in late May of this season. Saturday night we’ll be treated to the Martin’s Home Heating 100.  

You gotta love Sportsman, with its side-by-side racing, the rivalries and the excitement of running under the lights because it all adds up to an amazing night of action. I can’t predict the winner, but I know that all of the drivers and race teams are working hard in their shops this week to prepare for this big race.

Some of us old “dinosaurs” like to remember the good old days, but we appreciate the new generation of racers too. After all, in a couple of decades from now, these will be the good old days!28-rankinHere’s a shot of  John Rankin and his team after they claimed the 2009 Sportsman championship.  John has returned to Sportsman racing after spending some time in a Pro Stock. After winning the feature last week, he’s poised to make a strong run in this weekend’s MHH 100.

I hope you come out to Speedway 660 this Saturday night to see a snappin good Sportsman race. You’ll also see Street Stock and Pro Stock drivers. If you’ve got an empty seat in your car please invite a friend, neighbour, work-mate or someone else to come out to the races with you. Be an ambassador for your sport and your Speedway 660.

We’ll see you at the races!

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