Rac­ing: ‘When it rains, we don’t know what to do...”

The Glengarry News - - Sports In The Glens - News The News.

BY MEGGIN ROBERTS

Staff Spec­ta­tors had to grab their seats and fas­ten their dust gog­gles early when the en­gines started revving Sun­day at Corn­wall Speed­way for the Su­per DIRT­car Big-Block Se­ries.

As the sun set and the smell of race fuel filled the night sky, the full­house crowd in the grand­stands stood up and cheered as the driv­ers took to their start­ing po­si­tions and waited for the green flag to fly for one of the Speed­way’s most beloved shows of the year.

With $7,500 on the line in the 100-lap fea­ture event, Big-Block and 358Mod­i­fied reg­u­lars went wheel-to-wheel, run­ning the turns of the small track al­most ef­fort­lessly, with only a few cau­tions in sight. This was a great re­lief for many, af­ter wor­ries of an­other rain-out threat­ened the track’s big night due to Sun­day’s early morn­ing show­ers.

The Big-Block Se­ries fea­tured 38 cars; 17 of which were mighty BigBlocks, boast­ing an im­pres­sive 870 HP en­gine with driv­ers hail­ing mainly from the United States. One Big-Block racer came all the way from Queensland, Aus­tralia; in car 21A: Peter Brit­ten, more com­monly known on the track as “Bat­man.” How­ever, Brit­ten wasn’t the only su­per hero to ap­pear in the line-up: Big-Block favourite, in car 9S, Matt Shep­pard, a.k.a. Su­per­man, was also fight­ing for first place. The re­main­der of the 38 rac­ers drove small-block en­gines, or 358-Mod­i­fied reg­u­lars, which al­low for only 570 HP.

Com­peti­tors in­cluded Alexandria’s Joey Ladouceur, whose fam­ily has been com­ing to the 50-year-old track al­most as long as it’s been run­ning.

“It’s a fam­ily thing,” Ladouceur tells “I was born in ’76 and my dad started rac­ing in ’74 so I’ve been in­volved with rac­ing my whole life.”

Corn­wall Speed­way first opened May 31, 1970. “I’ve been rac­ing my­self since 1997 and now my son races, my brother races, and his sons. We all live in Alexandria, my dad has his busi­ness in Alexandria (Mr. Ra­di­a­tor auto ser­vice) and we all work at the same shop.”

He adds with a laugh, “We’ve prob­a­bly been here for about 45 of those 50 years. It’s our Sun­day night rit­ual, we don’t know any dif­fer­ent, when it rains we don’t know what to do with our­selves.” And the speed­way has had to deal with a lot of rain this sea­son. The small-block driv­ers knew they were in for a chal­lenge. “We’re at a dis­ad­van­tage,” Ladouceur points out. “We’re at a 200-HP dis­ad­van­tage. You’ll never meet a racer that wants to go to the races with 200 HP less than the other guy.” By par­tic­i­pat­ing, the 358-Mod­i­fied reg­u­lars re­ceived “show-up points.” While the big blocks take the lead, the small blocks are rac­ing a race within it­self, com­pet­ing for best in class.

“That’s not to say a small block can’t win the race. It’s hap­pened, but it’s a lot harder. We’re not sup­posed to win, but some­times the track gets so dry, and slip­pery, where more horse­power is ac­tu­ally a dis­ad­van­tage, and in that case, we can ac­tu­ally tippy-toe our way to the front. If we can get into the show, that’s the big thing. There’s 38 cars and only 30 spots, and 17 of them are big blocks, we’re fight­ing for about 15 spots.”

An­other fan favourite is Alexandria’s Chris Raabe, who finds time to race when he is not work­ing for South Glen­garry Town­ship’s Build­ing De­part­ment.

“It works pretty well,” Raabe says. “We only race on week­ends, so it doesn’t re­ally in­ter­fere with work. It’s a per­fect fit for my sched­ule.”

Week­ends are busy. “We’ve been run­ning Mo­hawk on Fri­day nights, Platts­burg, New York on Satur­day nights, and here at Corn­wall on Sun­days.” And he has a lot of lo­cal help too. Spon­sors en­sure driv­ers can keep com­pet­ing.

“We’re pretty for­tu­nate to have a lot of peo­ple from the Alexandria area help us out, and I think that’s fun you know, when you can take a lo­cal busi­ness and bring it to larger scales. In terms of the rac­ing world, it’s great ex­po­sure, so it’s re­ally neat to have that sup­port.”

In the 100-lap run that lasted lit­tle more than an hour, Matt Shep­pard won eas­ily.

Al­though many spec­ta­tors came out to watch the Big-Block Se­ries, many of them stayed for the Next Level Home Im­prove­ment Sports­man event, which fea­tured a 25-lap race and one of the few fe­male com­peti­tors, Bri­anna Ladouceur, of South Glen­garry.

While Bri­anna Ladouceur didn’t com­pete in the Big-Block se­ries Sun­day, she did con­tend for points in the Sports­man se­ries.

Rac­ing against the boys never bothered Ladouceur, who is no re­la­tion to Joey Ladouceur’s crew.

As for the haz­ards, “If I start at the back, I’m a lit­tle ner­vous be­cause you have to watch out for so many things. Start­ing in the back, you’re fur­ther so you have to pass more cars. Here it’s a smaller track, so it’s dif­fi­cult to move around. Some­time’s there’s ac­ci­dents you have to watch out.”

With five years un­der her belt, she knows the ropes. “If I start in the front, it’s so much pres­sure, but nor­mally once I get out there I’m fine.”

Ladouceur is a rar­ity on the cir­cuit. “There’s Jes­sica Power that I race against but she mostly races in the States.”

As the “only girl,” she has her own cheer­ing sec­tion. “I’ll be walk­ing in the stands, and they’ll be like ‘Kick the boy’s butts tonight!’ I had one girl tell me when I was at su­per dirt week, last week, that she started rac­ing be­cause she used to watch me, so now she races, so yeah, it feels good.”

But how does a woman break into the ranks of a mostly male dom­i­nated sport?

“My dad al­ways helped Carey Ter­rance (who won the track cham­pi­onship ti­tle four times), then when I did the En­duro when I was 14, I did re­ally good in it, so ev­ery­one started say­ing, ‘Buy her a race car!’ and Carey asked me to be a part of his team. So we started with one car, now we have five cars in this big stacker.” She pats the seat of the hauler and laughs. “But it was mostly my fa­ther who got me into it. He doesn’t race but he does all the work on my car. He’s my main man, my crew chief.” A fam­ily thing. A com­mon theme at the Corn­wall Speed­way.

With an­other big event over at the Corn­wall Speed­way and the rest of the sea­son to at­tend, more and more fam­i­lies, young and old, male or fe­male, are find­ing that an evening out at the races to be a fun night out, both on the track and off. The Speed­way runs un­til Septem­ber 15.

MEGGIN ROBERTS PHO­TOS

SUN­DAY NIGHT AT THE SPEED­WAY: Bri­anna Ladouceur, Joey Ladouceur (bot­tom left) and Chris Raabe and his crew are some of the many race en­thu­si­asts who are on the track every week­end dur­ing the sum­mer months.

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