Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Devil's D...

I've always been an asphalt racer, both in my limited time as a driver and my career in the pits. Up north dirt tracks just aren't that popular. But once I moved down south here, I went to Ohsweken Speedway for the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, and was blown away. I can't comment about DRIVING on it, as I haven't done that yet, but from an entertainment perspective, it's hard to beat really fast cars on a dirt track. Even the 4 cylinder and Street Stock classes put on an awesome show.

Since we took a break from putting the car together for next year, Tara and I decided to check out the one track in this area we hadn't been to yet: South Buxton Raceway, located near Merlin, Ontario. This was in the middle of September of course, but the night was cool without being cold.

We watched all four classes (Pure Stock 4, Pro Stock, Modifieds and Late Models) race for their season finale championship. I came away with a real appreciation for the technicality of a dirt track.

First off, I must make it clear that the track was in HORRIBLE shape. Having been to Ohsweken on a number of occasions, we never had anything but crystal clear visibility, amazing track conditions with just the right amount of tack, very little dust, and tons of speed. South Buxton was a whole other animal--it was greasy, slippery, and dusty as all hell. To make matters worse, we had forgotten to bring the safety glasses we usually do. Sitting in Turn 4 we got pelted with dust--no clay clobs, just dust. In the middle of a feature it was hard to see the entire field at certain times. I was told by a regular fan sitting next to me in the stands that it's often quite better than this--I hope so.

But having said that, I enjoyed myself. The track's 3/8 mile layout is quite unique; taking from its nickname, "The Devil's D", the entire front stretch is curved, while the back stretch is flat. As such, you come out of turn 4 with a ton of speed, gradually drifting wide onto the front "straight," all the while sideways, with your L/F tire up in the air. You're never actually straight. Then you dive hard into Turn 1, drift up a bit, then slow real hard for the much MUCH sharper Turn 2, slowly ease back on the throttle down the straight back stretch, and then slow heavy for the sharp Turn 3, before getting back on it early out of 4 again.

The picture from Turn 4 is pretty fantastic, as such. Watching a dozen late models blasting down the front stretch, from behind, with their wheels in the air, its a pretty interesting sight, and one you won't see at bigger tracks like Ohsweken. It's really quite surreal and I enjoyed it.

You can see what I mean with this video from turn 4:

The competition is quite good too--it definitely has the "old school country track" feel. The heats are run in Australian Elimination style--if you get passed, you leave the track. No points are awarded, just money. It really gives the drivers incentive to drive 100% at all times, I found it really interesting. Each class had some good competition, and clearly had some heroes and some villians, with drivers getting booed and drivers getting cheered. It made me feel at home, reminding me of North Bay Speedway's heyday. Despite being "just" a normal night with no touring classes, the stands were JAM packed and the 50/50 draw was almost $1000.

This upcoming weekend (September 26th) is their big UMP Late Model/Modified Shootout, which regularly draws 40+ competitors in both classes from Canada and the USA. Chris Ross is your defending winner, the first Canadian to win the Late Model division, and looking to repeat in front of a rabid crowd. I highly recommend you check it out, whether you've been to a dirt track or not--it's an amazing experience.

Just remember to bring safety glasses!


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