Green Flag falls at 7 p.m. for Opening Night this Saturday!
No disrespect to Joel ‘Hollywood’ Dick, but there will be an original ‘Hollywood’ premier on Saturday night.
Eugene ‘Hollywood’ Hoekstra, one of the winningest and most popular drivers in track history, returns to South Buxton Racing after an almost 20-year absence.
Hollywood Hoekstra, a seven-time track champion and seven-time championship race winner, will be back in his familiar No. 36 in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified class.
“I’m spending the money, I might as well have a little bit of the fun,” said Hoekstra, with his trademark grin, about getting behind the wheel again.
“I don’t want to tick Joel off,” he laughed about the return of the ‘original’ Hollywood, a nickname also bestowed upon the Leamington driver with his success over the last three seasons.
“He probably doesn’t even remember when they (the fans) called me Hollywood!” Hoekstra laughed.
Hoekstra made track history when he won five straight Street Stock season points championships from 1979-83.
He also won a Late Model points championship in 1989 and his then-record seventh in 1992 in a modified when the car made its South Buxton debut in the Pro/IMCA division, a combined class of modifieds and late models.
“We also ran a combined deal with (Checker Flag Raceway) Windsor that year,” Hoekstra recalled, as points accumulated on both South Buxton’s dirt and Checker Flag’s pavement went to one combined standing.
He also remembers taking a lot of heat from fellow late model drivers when he was the first to make the switch to the new open-wheel modified car.
“I was probably instrumental in starting the modified class … it was just one of things I always wanted to try,” he said about making the switch to a modified.
Back then, Hoekstra said a modified car was cheaper to run and a lot more fun and challenging to drive than a late model, a statement he stands by 21 years later.
“They’re crazy to drive,” Hoekstra said of the modifieds.
“A few late model guys have tried modifieds but went back because a late model is easier to drive,” he declared.
“I think it’s just that the small tires make them (modifieds) harder to control. You’ve got the stability of the bigger tires on a late model, and if you have a good late model, it’s easy to drive.”
And with the evolution of the two classes, Hoekstra’s prediction that the modifieds would some day be a bigger class than the late models has been realized.
“I’m thrilled they finally have a class of cars that’s filling the house,” he said of the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified class, which has 22 pre-registered drivers and several more expected to sign up on Saturday.
Hoekstra said he was bitten by the racing bug four years ago when he raced go-carts with sons Darryl and Jordan in Windsor.
Two years ago, he bought a modified car for Darryl, who shared the ride with Jim Fletcher, a former Sport Stock champion who had been out of the sport for over 12 years.
Last season, Hoekstra added a second car so each driver would have their own, and the team enjoyed a tremendous season.
Fletcher finished second in points with one feature win and 10 checkered flags before making history by becoming the first local driver to win the Canadian Modified Fall Shootout in September.
Darryl Hoekstra finished fourth in points with three checkered flags, including his first career feature win.
Fletcher, who worked for Hoekstra’s Dig ‘R Wright Excavating business, took another job and will not return to the race team.
“I’m not back full time, I’m just going to race when I feel like it,” said Hoekstra, adding he’s not sure if he will put another driver in the car on nights he doesn’t race.
He said recent partial coronary transplants in both eyes are another factor in returning to the driver’s seat.
Hoekstra said he is confident his old racing skills will lead to a ‘Hollywood finish’ in the winner’s circle sometime this season.
“That’s my goal, to be the oldest feature winner in track history,” said the 56-year-old Hoekstra, who also won seven championship races in his career - three in Street Stocks, one in Late Models and Pro/IMCA and back-to-back titles in the Modifieds in 1994-95.
Ironically, Hoekstra will be racing against the two of the three drivers who share the record for the most all-time track championships in the Schinkel’s Gourmet Meats UMP Modified class.
Shrewsbury’s Jim Dale Jr., the two-time defending division champion, is tied with Merlin’s Brad McLeod with eight career points championships. McLeod’s last title came in 2010.
Chatham’s Brad Authier, a UMP Late Model driver, also has eight career championships, his last coming in 2011 when he finished tied in points with Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford.
- The 2013 Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds will also feature two rookie drivers who are former Comp 4 track champions. Blenheim’s Shawn Jones, the three-time reigning Tirecraft Com 4 champion, and Cottam’s Denis DeSerrano, a two-time Comp 4 champion, will both be move up to the Modified class this season.
- DeSerrano will still drive in the Tirecraft Mini-Mod class, which as the name suggests will be restricted to the mini-mod style cars this year.
- James Beaulieu, of Tilbury, is also making the jump from the Comp 4s to Modifieds.
- Terry Rose, the 1994 Mini Stock points champion, is the third member of the ‘Over 50 Gang’ returning to South Buxton. The 55-year-old Chatham native is back in the Tirecraft Mini-Mods after a near 10-year hiatus.
- A total of 25 Mini-Mods have pre-registered, including 2013 championship race winner Rob Quick of Cottam.
- Chatham’s Gregg Haskell is the reigning UMP Late Model champ, as 11 cars have pre-registered including new drivers Erick Walker and Matt Wauthier of Chatham, Paul Trepenier of Windsor and Don Douglas of Sarnia, who raced in 2011.
- Three-time points champion Kirk Hooker of Chatham is also registered but plans on racing a partial schedule.
- Brandon Thirlby, of Traverse City, Mich., won the 2012 season championship race as an unregistered driver last September.
- This year, however, all drivers must be registered in order to run at South Buxton. Thirlby was one of eight unregistered Late Model drivers last season while another six ran in the Modifieds.
- Merlin’s Eren Vanderiviere is the two-time reigning Windride Transportation Sport Stocks champion while Dover Centre’s Tyler Lozon won the season championship race.
- Thirteen cars have pre-registered for the Sport Stocks, including Belle River’s David Bacon moving up from the Comp 4s while the father-daughter team of Jim and Tiffany Ellis returns.
- Three cars are pre-registered in the Bomber class, which made its debut last season.
- The four main classes will continue to run heat races and dashes for the Modifieds and Late Models (which will be extended to six laps this season), heats and crack-the-whips for the Sport Stocks and Mini-Mods, as drivers race forward to determine their starting positions for the features. However, there will be a pill draw after the preliminary races to invert the top qualifiers for the starting grid in the feature races.
- The Modifieds will run 25-lap features this year while the other three classes will run 20-lap features. The Late Model feature will be increased to 25 laps on nights when the car count is 15 or more.
- Voting for the Best Appearing Car will take place on Saturday, May 11 during the night’s races as well as at the new Tirecraft location on Richmond Street in Chatham, where cars will be on display from 12 noon to 4 p.m. The winners will be announced on Saturday, May 21.