Drive hard, have fun … and party hard.
The late Gord DeWael was the epitome of this dirt car racer’s creed.
No one drove harder, no one had more fun … and no one would party harder after the races than DeWael.
‘The Old Fella,’ as he called himself, would think nothing of smashing in someon’e rear bumper on the race track or give the flagman a one-finger salute over a call, but after the races were over, Gord would be all smiles and laughs as he enjoyed a beer with his adversaries.
South Buxton Raceway is honouring the memory of one of the track’s most colourful and successful drivers on Saturday night with the first Gord DeWael memorial race in the Lube Tech/Great Canadian Oil Change UMP Late Models.
DeWael passed away this past January at the age of 62. Many of his family members participate in the post-race trophy presentation.
Sherry Lemesurier has secured additional sponsorship and lap money - including donations from NASCAR Cup champions Terry and Bobby Labonte - to add to the overall purse which will hopefully lead to a bigger field of Late Models.
It was Sherry’s husband Gary Lemesurier who owned the ‘03′ car that DeWael drove to multiple feature wins at South Buxton and the former Ridge Raceway in the 1980s.
DeWael won the 1984 Sportsmen season title and the 1987 Late Model championship at South Buxton in the ‘03′ car.
He began his racing career when Raleigh Raceway opened in 1971 and won the Late Model championship two years later.
“He drove for his dad, but when Johnny gave up the coupe, Gord asked me if I needed a driver,” Lemesurier said of how the owner-driver relationship started.
“He was aggressive, he wanted to win every race, but no one had more fun than Gordie,” Lemesurier said.
“He was a blast, he really was.”
And as much as of a fun-loving, free spirit he was behind the wheel, Lemesurier said DeWael knew the race car inside and out.
“Anything he said, you’d better listen to him,” Lemesurier said.
“I remember one time the car was missing and he said it was the air filter and I said, ‘nah, you’re crazy.’ And it was, so I always made sure I listened to him after that,” Lemesurier said.
DeWael’s favourite NASCAR driver was the late Dale Earnhardt, which is appropriate because DeWael was an intimidating driver that the fans either loved or hated - and both sides were vocal in expressing their views.
“He was aggressive … aggressive and fast, I enjoyed his driving style,” said Chatham’s Brad Authier, who watched DeWael as a young fan when the track opened and eventually raced against him in the Street Stocks and Late Models.
“He was a legend in his time,” Authier said, “I used to love watching Gord and Don (Hendricks) when I was a kid, and then had the chance to race against them, and I had a blast.”
Authier said Gord’s father helped him when he started racing in the early ’80s.
“Old Johnny used the help me when I first started in the Nova, and he always said he liked the way I drove because I reminded him so much of Gord when he was younger,” Authier said.
Authier shares DeWael’s love-hate relationship with the fans, although he doesn’t always get away with the same high jinks as his mentor.
DeWael once answered the catcalls by mooning the crowd in front of the flagstand after a feature win, then drove away laughing.
When Authier pulled the same stunt, he was also left a little overexposed in the wallet.
“Brad (McLeod) took me out (in a Street Stock race) and I came around (to the grandstand) and gave them the moon,” said Authier, in response to the crowd’s raucous cheers after his misfortune.
“Gord came to the trailer, laughing his butt off because they fined me,” Authier recalled, with a hearty laugh.
“He told me all the times he did it, he never got fined once!”
Authier has had a rough start to the 2013 season as the eight-time track champion is still looking for his first checkered flag
He said Saturday would be the perfect night to turn his fortunes around.
“We really want to win that memorial race … it would be awesome to be the first because Gord meant so much to me and to racing,” Authier declared.
Chatham’s Jim Jones began racing against DeWael as a 15-year-old in 1976, but unlike Authier, he was on the other side of the fence as a young fan.
“When I was a youngster, was he my favourite? No,” Jones said of DeWael.
“I know what I thought of him as a fan because I had a different favourite driver,” said Jones, who cheered for Al McCauley back in the day.
“And I didn’t like it when he drove into the rear end (of McCauley),” Jones said, grinning.
“But as a driver, I never really had any problems with him, he always seemed to run me clean,” he said of DeWael.
“He was an aggressive driver, very good at doing what he did.”
Jones said it was the many moments off the race track that made DeWael so special.
“He was always a nut, by what he said and what he’d do,” said Jones.
“People would boo him and he’d shoot them a moon … but that was Gord, that was his character.”
Jones, 52, said it would mean a lot to be the first DeWael memorial winner because of what Gord meant to racing and the fact he works for the division and race sponsor Lube Tech.
“I know how much work Sherry has put into this to make the night special,” Jones said of his employer.
“And it would mean quite a bit to be the first winner because who knows how many years I’ve got left,” Jones said with a smile.
Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford, who won last Saturday night’s UMP Late Model feature, said memorial races are always special nights.
“I appreciate everyone who makes a special effort for the Late Models, it’s always nice to win the (Don) Hendricks and the (Rick) Haskell memorial races because I’ve known all of them and they’re special to the Late Models.
“If I can win this one, it would be one of the more special races to win … it’s the one race that I’m looking forward to the most this year,” Glassford said of the DeWael memorial.
Glassford said he has always happy when DeWael, after he retired from driving, would come over and talk to him after the races.
“He used to come around too when Nick was racing go-carts the last couple of years,” said Glassford, whose son races at Tilbury.
“Gord would be out walking his dog and he’d stop by and talk to us almost every week.
“Sherry and Gary have put a lot into this race, so if I could pull this one off, it would be one of the more special wins,” Glassford said.
Jeff DeWael, Gord’s son, said the family is very appreciative of the effort by the Lemesuriers and everyone at the track in putting together the memorial race.
“To see this much support is pretty amazing,” he said.
“Dad was loved and hated by a lot of people, he stirred the pot a lot and had the pot stirred on him, but it’s nice to see that he’s getting this kind of respect.”
Jeff had a brief racing career in the Street Stocks and Endurance races but now he’s concentrating on the fourth generation of racing DeWaels as his son Zach races go-carts at Tilbury and on the U.S. circuit.
The DeWael race is one of four memorial features slated for Saturday, as the original date of June 1 was rained out.
The Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds will race in the Brian Outhouse memorial, named in honour of the long-time track worker who died in 2004.
The Windride Transportation Sport Stocks will have the Len Bryden memorial feature, named in honour of the former track owner who along with his wife Peggy, changed the name to South Buxton when they took ownership in 1980 and operated the track into the 1990s.
The Tirecraft Mini-Mods will race in the fifth annual Cory Schives memorial, named in honour of the Blenheim teen who died in 2009, less than a week after his 17th birthday, following a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Points To Ponder
- Eren Vanderiviere, on the strength of three straight feature wins and back-to-back three-for-three nights, has opened a 30-point lead over Steve Shaw in the battle of Merlin drivers in the Windride Transportation Sport Stocks. Vanderiviere took over the lead after Week 6 and was two points up on Shaw going into last week’s action.
- Cottam’s Denis DeSerrano also used a three-for-three night last Saturday, including his fourth feature win, to increase his lead to 79 points over second-place Steve Shaw Jr. in the Tirecraft Mini-Mods.
- Chatham’s Gregg Haskell still holds a comfortable 115-point lead over Authier in the Lube Tech/Great Canadian Oil Change UMP Late Models. Haskell, the only Late Model driver to race in all eight weeks, had a 121-point lead going into last Saturday.
- The first DNF of the season for Brian Speelman allowed Darryl Hoekstra to reduce the deficit in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds from 18 to 11 points going into this week in the battle of Chatham drivers.
- And in the Bombers, it’s still Jeff Schives by eight points over Ryan Bonner in the battle of Blenheim rookie drivers. Last Saturday, Eric Heitnz, driving for Luke Small, won both the heat and feature.
- The track’s Late Model division sponsors – Lube Tech Automotive in Chatham and Great Canadian Oil Change in Leamington – are joined by Luken Marina (Ken and Cindy Jubenville) in Lighthouse Cove and the Lemesuriers (L&M Racing) as major sponsors for the DeWael memorial.
- Sherry has secured 47 lap sponsors for the 25-lap race, as the additional sponsorship money will be added to the overall purse.
- Warrior One Transportation, owned by Leana and Norm Bechard, had added a Hard Luck sponsorship of $200, which will go to the race team who has the hardest luck in the DeWael memorial.
- John Pinsonneault, at Smooth Customair, will offer a free airbrushing on a helmet. All Late Model drivers in the field will be eligible to win the prize from Pinsonneault, which will be drawn at the end of the feature by the race winner.
- The Schives memorial trophy has stayed ‘in family’ for the first four years. Nate McNally drove the No. 8 to wins in 2009 and 2010, with Shawn Jones winning in the 27-car in 2011 and Trevor Jones in the 27T last year. The four winning cars come from the same race team that Cory worked on as a teenager before his passing.
- Scott Schives and his wife Lisa will again donate a bicycle, in honour of Cory’s memory, to be won by a lucky Junior Fan Club member on Saturday.
- The Chatham-Kent Big Brothers/Big Sisters 50-50 draw from last Saturday is still unclaimed. The winning ticket number is a 423863 on a green ticket, worth $709. If you have this ticket, please call Sherry Lemesurier (519-360-0371) or bring it to the tower during the races this Saturday.
- South Buxton Raceway has lowered the age requirement to enter the pits from 14 years to age 6 beginning this Saturday night. Track officials, staff and drivers encourage parents to ensure children are under complete supervision since they will be in a work area, to prevent them from running around or wandering alone in the pits because of race car and emergency vehicle traffic. A parent or parental guardian must sign a waiver at the pit entrance window for each child. The admission for children to enter the pits is $25, the same fee across the board.
- Next Saturday, July 13, is Mid-Season championship in all classes. Line-ups for the mid-season championship features will follow the same procedure as a regular race night through heats and dashes/crack-the-whips.