WESCAR late-model series racing tonight at PGARA
There’s good news in the forecast for drivers entered tonight in the season-opening WESCAR late model touring series 100-lap race at PGARA Speedway.
The heat wave that’s descended upon the city the past couple weeks is loosening its grip and by the time they get behind the wheel to let loose all that horsepower a racetime temperature of 22 C is expected.
That comes as a relief for WESCAR president/racer Sheldon Mayert, who knows he’s in for a few hours in the pressure-cooker, from qualifying to the finish of the main event, trying to get the better of an expected 12-car field. As one of the most seasoned WESCAR veterans, the 51-year-old Mayert knows better than anyone how hot it can get inside his car when he has his gas pedal plastered onto the floor. The warm weather’s good for the fans but not the drivers.
“I jumped into the truck this afternoon and it said it was 34 degrees – that’s a little too good,” said Mayert.
“It gets pretty hot in those cars. It’s always either scorching hot or we’re standing around in the rain, so this is definitely better than rain.”
WESCAR points champion Kendall Thomas of Kelowna and runner-up Chris Babcock are back for more this year along with Mayert, who finished third in the 2018 standings.
This year’s WESCAR lineup features three rookies, two of whom – Darrell Horwath and Grant Powers – are veterans of the Prince George Auto Racing Association.
Horwath, the Tri-City Street Stock Series champion last year, won the PGARA street stock points title in 2018 and 2017 and was runner-up to points champion Lyall McComber last year. Powers did not race last year but has a long resume as a PGARA street stock driver and like Horwath he knows all the shortcuts to victory lane on the three-eighths-mile oval.
“They both bought good cars and I’’m sure both of them will be running up towards the front on their hometown track,” said Mayert.
“First time out, they’ll have some bugs but I expect a good result out of both of them.”
Mayert wasn’t entirely sure but said there’s a good chance 73-year-old Warren Bergman will be back racing tonight, bringing the number to four Prince George drivers entered in the WESCAR race.
Last year at the second Prince George WESCAR race in June, Mayert just managed to edge out Bergman for fourth place in the main event and he knows how hard it is to hold off a guy with 49 years of stock car racing experience.
Drivers are not allowed to hotlap within seven days of a race and Mayert did take his car out for a spin last week at PGARA Speedway. He got eight laps in and ran over some debris which put a big hole in a new $280 tire.
The same thing happened to him 12 laps into hot-lapping last year. But he left the track confident his car will be running well for the race tonight.
This is the first of six points meets in the WESCAR series. Prince George will host another WESCAR race on July 21, the back half of a doubleheader that starts the previous night in Quesnel.
Having back-to-back races helps convince the out-of-towners from the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland/Vancouver Island to make the haul north.
The other series stops are in Williams Lake, June 15; Agassiz, July 27; and Quesnel, Sept. 14. Nonseries meets are scheduled for Penticton, July 6-7; and Victoria, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. A late model nonpoints race in Hythe, Alta., June 8 has been canceled.
Now in his third year as WESCAR president, Mayert figures car counts are on the way up as more drivers make the jump to the province’s top touring stock car class.
“I think it’s gone through the bottom and it’s starting to climb back up,” he said.
“We’ve got three rookies racing for rookie of the year this year and I can’t remember there ever being more than two rookies competing at any one time and we have three this year.
“The energy and excitement are building back up.”
Donny Kunka of Williams Lake, son of longtime WESCAR racer Arnie, is also new to the series this year.
PGARA’s four racing classes – Ron’s Towing hornets, Chieftain Auto Parts ministocks, Northern Outlaw 4s and the street stocks – will share the spotlight with WESCAR tonight.
Time trials start at 6 p.m. and racing begins at 7.
PGARA Speedway is known for its uninvited bug population but Mayert said there’s a chance race fans won’t have that worry tonight.
“I heard this from Jamie (PGARA president Crawford) but the mosquitoes weren’t bad out there, but that was last week,” said Mayert.
“Make sure you bring a hoodie.”
Jeremy Floer races around PGARA Speedway Park last week during a time trial lap at the Turgeon Memorial. Tonight the street stocks will be back in action as part of the WESCAR season opener.