How about a 41-year age spread in feature race winners?
That’s what we had Saturday night, as 53-year-old Brad Authier of Chatham, who has won feature races in four different decades, led all 20 laps of the Westside Performance Plus UMP Late Models on Saturday night.
Then, there is Tate O’Leary, a 12-year-old rookie driver from Port Lambton, whose first career checkered flag was also his first career feature race win in the Autotech Bombers.
Blenheim’s Brett Hope won the most thrilling finish of the night, passing Cottam’s Rob Quick coming out of the final turn to win his second Tirecraft Mini-Mod feature in the last three weeks.
Leamington’s Joel Dick won his second straight and seventh Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified feature in eight weeks, leading all 25 laps.
And one week after losing a feature in controversial fashion, Merlin’s Eren Vanderiviere responded with a green-to-checkered run for his third win of the season in the Tirecraft Sport Stocks.
James MacDonald ApexOne Photos; Go to Multimedia icon for James’ complete picture files.
O’Leary will have a checkered ’show and tell’ story for Grade 6 classmates
Twelve-year-old Tate O’Leary very likely made track history on Saturday as the youngest driver to ever win a feature race.
It shouldn’t take too long to research the record books, since the age limit to enter the pits was 14, until last year.
O’Leary, who celebrated his 12th birthday in May, took the lead with four laps to go and survived a green-white-checkered to win Saturday’s Autotech Bombers feature.
And while most feature winners - and all racers in general - tend to stay up into the wee hours of Sunday mornings reviewing the night’s racing action over some cold beverages, Tate had to get home and hit the sack.
He had a football game in London on Sunday morning with the undefeated Chatham-Kent Peewee Cougars, who blanked the Forest City Thunderbirds 34-0 in the Ontario Football Conference.
After he got back, he had to finish up some homework for his final week as a Grade 6 student at Port Lambton’s Sacred Heart school.
And is he ever going to have a story for show-and-tell on Monday!
“It feels pretty good,” O’Leary said of his first checkered flag and feature win at South Buxton.
But the youngster admitted he wasn’t surprised to win this early in his career.
“I was leading the feature last week but blew a tire on the last lap,” he said, as he went from second to a 10th-place finish.
“That was pretty disappointing.”
O’Leary started eighth on Saturday and was battling Blenheim’s Jeff Schives - a four-time feature winner this season - for fifth when a two-car accident happened right in front of the duo.
One car flipped end-over-end and landed on its wheels. It was O’Leary’s 13-year-old brother Caleb.
“It was scary when I saw him flip … I was glad he was OK,” Tate said, as Caleb was able to return and finished sixth.
O’Leary used a bump-and-run to take the lead from Ridgetown’s Nick Glassford with four laps to go and held off Maidstone’s Murray Morrison on a green-white-checkered to take the victory.
Merlin’s Cale Johns, Windsor’s George Rock and Blenheim’s Austin Pickering rounded out the top five.
The young driver sounded like a pro as he reeled off his list of sponsors to thank, “and I also want to say thanks to my heroes at South Buxton - Kirk Hooker, Drew Smith, Brad Simpson and the Hoekstras (Darryl and Eugene),” he said.
Then, he touched the heartstrings.
“My brother and I are racing in memory of my Mom,” he added, as Krista O’Leary passed away suddenly at age 35 in Oct., 2012.
Tate’s biggest fan - beside his father Vic - was his older brother Caleb who has about five spots back in sixth for the final restart.
“I was sitting back there yelling, ‘go Tate, go Tate,’ ” the elder O’Leary brother said as he watched the battle for the lead through his front screen.
“I don’t know for sure,” Caleb said of his rollover after a collision with Chatham’s Chris Ellerbeck.
“I was fine, I was a little disappointed but I was happy the get back out there.”
Caleb, who turns 14 in November, graduates from Sacred Heart on Monday and will attend Wallaceburg District Secondary School in the fall.
The O’Leary brothers have raced soap box cars, lawn mowers and go-carts before building cars to race at South Buxton this year.
Winning never gets old for veteran Authier
Brad Authier couldn’t help but smile at the thought of a 12-year-old winning a feature race.
When asked how many features he’s won over his 35-year career, he laughed.
“I don’t know … but a lot,” he answered.
“One of these days we’re going to have to sit down and figure out how many.”
He told the audience after his first win of the season on Saturday, he cherishes the victories now more than ever.
“They’re all special now, because you never know when you’ll get another one,” Authier said.
Like O’Leary, Authier suffered a flat tire while leading the previous Saturday night’s feature, allowing Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford to go from third to the lead en route to his second straight and third win of the season.
All Glassford had to do to extend his streak on Saturday was catch - and pass - Authier.
Glassford tried the bottom, the top and even a slingshot move out of turn two, but there was no getting by Authier on this night.
“I was playing my own game, don’t give anybody any idea where you’re going to run,” Authier described his strategy.
“My concern was holding my line, I had to stay at the bottom, but every now and then I’d change it up so they didn’t know where I was running.
“I knew the way the track was, they weren’t getting by me on the top side,” Authier said.
Chatham’s Erick Walker passed Gregg Haskell for third at the line while Jim Jones, minus the front end of his car, finished fifth.
The three cars were involved in a crash with Patrick Haskell in the pursuit but all cars had a lot of help from other race teams to get out for the feature.
“I was fortunate to start up front when they had the big crash,” Authier said of the pursuit crash.
“That’s when I knew it was my night.”
Authier went three-for-three for the night, with Glassford second in both the heat and pursuit.
“We needed a night like this, and hopefully we’ll have a few more nights to shine,” said Authier, who had one feature win in 2013.
“I realize I’m getting a little older, but I don’t think these guys have anything on us, other than they’re a little younger,” said Authier, who turns 54 in August.
“But we know a little more,” he added, with a smile.
Glassford regained the points lead by seven over Jones, 27 over Haskell and 41 over Authier.
“We’re not looking at the points right now, our big thing is to finish in the top three all the top three every night,” Authier said of his chances at winning an eighth points title.
“I’m not saying we’re not shooting for a points title, because we are … I thrive for that,” he said, “but we aren’t concerned about that right now, we’re just trying to survive.”
Second feature win in three weeks validates Hope as a contender
While Brett Hope’s last corner pass to steal the Tirecraft Mini-Mods feature from Cottam’s Rob Quick was as thrilling of a finish as South Buxton fans have seen all year, it had an even deeper meaning for the winner.
Brett Hope has arrived!
“It feels amazing,” he said after his second feature wins in three weeks.
“We struggled for years in the Mustangs … we were happy to finish 10th.
“Experience is huge, it’s definitely coming into play,” he said.
Last year was Hope’s first full season in racing, as his hockey career has always taken precedence.
But the experience gained last year, combined with a new Mike Legue engine under the hood, has made Hope a contender every race night.
“We haven’t changed much, it’s the same car, but we’ve got the new engine and Kyle (Brett’s brother) is doing a great set up job.
“I get the glory by sitting in the cart, they do all the work,” he said.
Hope started in the fourth row but was running third when the cars came around to complete the first lap.
Blenheim’s Trevor Jones, Quick and Hope ran top three for the final 17 laps.
Quick took the lead from Jones on lap 10 and held it until the final couple hundred yards on the final lap.
Hope and Jones traded turns running second as they followed Quick.
“He got a little high with about four laps to go in (turn) four but I had to let off,” Hope said of Quick, as he bookmarked that incident for the frantic final lap.
“I saw the white flag, I figured it was time to go and I’d have to try something different,” he said.
“I drove into (turn) one a little harder and a little higher, kept my momentum and followed him on the back stretch.
“I expected him to go a little higher with the lap traffic in three and four, so I threw it down to the bottom … but he threw it to the bottom, too,” Hope said.
“I was just about to lift but he hit the bumps, moved up and left me a little room on the bottom, so I got back to the gas.
“It was close coming off four …. luckily I won,” said Hope.
It was the third straight one-two finish for the two drivers, with Hope winning on June 7 and Quick last Saturday.
“It was good, clean racing, it’s nice when you can race hard with someone and know you’re not going to get hit,” Hope said of racing Quick.
“We raced door to door for three weeks … and I don’t think we touched,” he added.
Jones finished third to maintain his lead atop the standings, but Hope is just three points back in second and Quick 13 back in third.
Chatham’s John Pinsonneault Jr. and Merlin’s Jody Mason rounded out the top five.
Hope also won his heat as he leads the division with eight checkered flags.
Quick won his heat and dash while Merlin’s Steve Shaw Jr. won the other heat.
Vanderiviere ‘back to business’ with dominating feature victory
Eren Vanderiviere took the fast road to lead all 20 laps to win his third Tirecraft Sport Stocks feature of the season.
Then he took the high road in both his post-race interview.
“I’m just out here to win races, that’s my goal,” Vanderiviere answered, when asked if his win was sweet revenge after the previous week’s controversial finish.
Vanderiviere was leading the June 14 feature when he was hit from behind by Cottam’s Tiffany Ellis, triggering a three-car pile-up and bringing out the checkered flag because of the time limit.
Race officials ruled Vanderiviere was already loose before the contact, as the scoring reverted to the last completed lap, giving Ellis the win.
“I had a lot of motivation this week,” Vanderiviere admitted.
“I was very disappointed with the call from the track, but I don’t make the calls, I just took it and we came back and proved a point this week,” he said.
Vanderiviere believed he should have been given his spot back since he was taken out by a trailing car, while Essex’s Doris Lajeunesse believed he should have won since he drove around the melee and was in the lead when the checkered flag came out.
Both stopped at the finish line, only to learn the win went to Ellis - which was made official the following day after a review.
“I have nothing against Tiffany, I know she was just driving hard,” he said.
“It was a bad call from the track in my eyes, but we took it, moved on and we showed what we were made of tonight,” Vanderiviere said.
He started on the pole and led all 20 laps, as several drivers took turns running second.
Not only was Vanderiviere too fast to catch, both Kingsville’s Rob Young and Windsor’s West Bertozzi suffered right-side flats while running second.
Lajeunesse was the runner-up for the second week in a row, with Chatham’s Eric Vanderiviere - the race winner’s older brother -Young and Grande Pointe’s Tyler Lozon rounding out the top five.
Harrow’s Patrick Lajeunesse and Eren Vanderiviere won the heats while Merlin’s Steve Shaw won the pursuit, surviving a spin that earned Vanderiviere a black flag.
Dick rolls a seven with a green-to-checkered Modified feature rout
When things are going good, even the roll of a dice - or pulling a number - go your way.
Joel Dick finished second in the dash behind Merlin’s Joe Brosseau, but his starting position in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds was at the mercy of the junior fan club member pulling the number for the invert for the eight cars that ran the dash.
The youngster pulled a ‘three,’ which dropped Brosseau to the second row and kept Dick up front.
The Leamington driver then proceeded to lead all 25 laps for his second straight and seventh feature win in eight weeks.
“Track position is awesome, I won’t turn that down,” Dick said of his starting position.
Shrewsbury’s Jim Dale Jr. got the jump on the original green but a four-car pile-up before the first lap was complete forced a complete restart.
“Jimmy got me on the first start, the caution came out and I got him on the next one … I don’t know how it would have played out differently,” Dick said, had the yellow not waved.
How it played out, was Dick made it a rout.
At the halfway mark, he had a full straightaway lead over Merlin’s Joe Brosseau and Dale Jr.
Leamington’s Justin Coulter joined the battle for second, passing Brosseau with six to go but with the race going caution-free after the first-lap, he had no time to run down the leader.
“I had no idea who was behind me or where they were, I just kept running my groove,” said Dick.
“That was fantastic, it was great to that our class can finally say we can go out and race like that,” he said of the long green-flag run.
Brosseau, who won his heat and dash, finished second while Belle River’s Mario Toniolo finished fourth and Chatham’s Louis Clements was fifth.
Dick credited his crew for a last-minute call on tire pressure for making his car perfect for track conditions.
“It looked it was a little wet, then it didn’t, so we changed it (tire pressure) twice before the feature,” he said.
“Fortunately we hit on it, we had a good combination and the car had a good balance.”
Dick, who also won his heat race, leads all drivers at South Buxton with 12 checkered flags on the season and increased
his lead to 101 points over Toniolo.
“It would be great at the end of the year,” he said of his big points lead.
“But I just come to do this every week,” he said, waving the checkered flag to the fans.
South Buxton fans earned a checkered flag for their generosity. Fans pitched in $607.15 in a ‘pass-the-helmet’ collection, conducted by several drivers during the intermission. They also chipped in $291 in a raffle for a bracelet, donated by Deb Brush. And with sales at its souvenir table, the Canadian National Autism Foundation easily cleared $1,000 in their second trip to South Buxton as a part of it’s Kid Race program to raise funds and awareness for autism.
- The CNAF also raised funds through sponsorship and program advertisement leading up to Saturday’s event. Although last year’s totals were unavailable, CNAF president and founder Tina Fougere confirmed South Buxton was “one of the top two” tracks for funds raised in the eight tracks that participated. “You are tremendous, you are the best, we get the best support here,” Fougere told the fans.
- Tiffany Ellis had her Victory Lane celebration before the night’s program, since there was no interview or photos after she won the June 14 feature.
- Brosseau was driving for Justin Mills, as he almost duplicated his three-for-three night last Aug. 31 while running for points for the Wheatley’s 6M car.
While Brett Hope gave kudos to brother Kyle for setting up his winning car, Kyle’s own machine wouldn’t fire in the heat or the feature. He did get out the track under a caution but was quickly sent to the pits as he didn’t take the original green. Kyle took a big hit in the points standings, going from fourth to ninth, as he led the standings after Week 4.
- The Junior Fan Club held its second Box Car Races during the intermission, always a big occasion as the kids work all week making replica race races of their favourite drivers out of cardboard boxes.
- Fans signed a huge get well card for Junior Fan Club member Michael Durfy, who is hospitalized in Chatham.
- Ken Haskell, of Chatham, won the Tilbury Knights of Columbus 50-50 draw worth $958.