Joel Dick capped a roller-coaster season with a smooth ride on Saturday night, leading all 30 laps to win his second Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified season championship race in the last three years.
“It was a great way to end the season,” Dick said after his flag-to-flag run.
The Leamington driver got off to a slow start before winning three straight and four features in a five-week span during a mid-season hot streak.
“Definitely, at the beginning of the season we were not a real contender but we the car figured out,” Dick said about the lead-up to his red-hot summer.
But then came a second lull following his Aug. 3 feature win.
“We unloaded a lot of fast races but we got taken out a couple of times,” said Dick, who had three third-place finishes along with a 14th and 17th since his last win.
“Fortunately we didn’t have any problems tonight.”
With the 23-car field lining up by points, Dick started on the front row beside Chatham’s Darryl Hoekstra, who clinched the points title with his fourth-place heat race finish earlier in the night.
However, the caution came out for Hoekstra, who was penalized two positions for jumping the original green.
Dick opted to restart on the outside of the front row and never looked back after jumping to the lead as the green waved.
Merlin’s Jeff Daniels pressured the leader near the midway mark of the race before pitting for a flat tire on lap 15.
Chatham’s Louis Clements took up the chase and although he pressured the leader, he was unable to make a pass.
“I was kind of worried, I knew Louis was fast and he gets a good drive on the bottom,” said Dick.
“It was hard to pass out there, so it was a matter of hitting my marks on every lap, trying not to overdrive the car staying consistent,” he said.
Clements felt he could have given Dick a better challenge without the four cautions.
“I definitely needed long green flag runs to get a shot at him because the restarts were killing me,” Clements said.
“We had an issue with the carburetor. On every restart, I’d jump on the gas but I’d get a little hesitation and by the time it cleared, he’d (Dick) have a couple car lengths on me and I’d spend the next couple of laps trying to reel him back in.”
Clements said he accidently got a piece of Dick’s quarter panel in turn four with under five laps to go.
“I had to get off the gas to keep from turning him,” he said.
“Joel and I get along real well and the last thing I wanted to do was turn him.”
The cautions actually helped Dick throughout the race as they fell just as he was encountering lapped traffic.
“There were a couple of ruts in (turns) three and four I had to avoid, but the track was good in one and two,” he explained.
“We were good on the restarts so it was easy to go through one and two and then hammer down.
“We were off in the heat race but we made some good changes to free up the car for the feature,” Dick added.
Clements held on for a second-place finish, followed by a pair of eight-time track champions - Shrewsbury’s Jim Dale Jr. and Merlin’s Brad McLeod - in third and fourth.
Belle River’s Mario Toniolo rounded out the top five.
“I’m very happy with second, considering the season we’ve had,” Clements said.
“It’s been pretty tough overall, we’ve had a lot of little mechanical issues that cost us good finishes and I’m pretty surprised to be sitting seventh in the points.”
Dale Jr., the two-time reigning points champion, was also satisfied with his finish to cap what he called a disappointing season.
“I’ll take a third, the car was good but not enough horsepower for that track,” he said.
“I thought I was going to get lucky when Louis almost clipped into Joel.”
McLeod had another strong, as he started 19th but was able work his way through the field and avoid cautions in his vicinity to finally crack the top-five on lap 17.
Toniolo was also a threat as he ran third for 14 laps until Dale Jr. got by after a lap 22 restart.
Hoekstra was running fourth until he cut a tire on lap eight. He was saved by a caution to stay on the lead lap and salvaged an eighth-place finish.
“I was hoping for a better finish but I’m happy with the points championship, it means a lot to me, my dad (Eugene) and the whole race team,” he said, as along with his father’s seven points titles, they join Brett and Andrew Reaume as the only father-son championship duos in the 42-year track history.
Hoekstra clinched the points title with his fourth-place finish in the heat. He had two feature wins and a division leading 10 checkered flags.
Dick posted a division-leading six feature wins - including the mid-season and championship race victories - and nine checkered flags in total. He finished 58 points behind Hoekstra in the final standings.
“Points are what they are, I come here to win races,” said Dick, who was not disappointed in the least finishing second on points.
“Hats off to Darryl for winning the championship,” added Dick, who has 19 feature wins since moving up to the Modifieds in 2010.
Steve Shaw started in the last row but needed just two laps to take the lead and never looked back, leading the final 18 circuits to win the Windride Transportation Sport Stocks non-points feature. LaSalle’s Bob Visnjic, Chatham’s Darren Marchand (in Jason Fox’s No. 93), Harrow’s Patrick Lajeunesse and Chatham’s Eren Vanderiviere, the third-time division points champion, rounded out the top five. Shaw, who had four feature wins and 19 checkered flags after the Sept. 7 championship night, also won the heat.
- Cottam’s Rob Quick was also a double-winner in the Tirecraft Mini-Mods as he won his heat and took the checkered in the feature, after taking the green in the 14th starting position. He had five feature wins and 23 checkereds after the Sept. 7 championship night. Blenheim’s Trevor Jones, Tilbury’s Gerry Rivait, Chatham’s Joel Desjardins and Kingsville’s Darren Small rounded out the top five while Dresden’s Matt Sorrell won the other heat.
- Blenheim’s Jeff Schives won the 10-lap Bomber non-points feature, the last race of the evening. The infield track was not raceable earlier in the night because of the overnight rain.
- Schives was the only championship race winner from Sept. 7 on hand for Saturday’s non-points night. Sport Stocks champion Tyler Lozon and Mini-Mods Steve Shaw Jr. parked their cars for the season.
- South Buxton’s track crew did a phenomenal job getting the facility in shape to race. Over three inches of rain fell overnight Friday and Saturday morning, leaving turn one almost completely submerged. There was still standing water at the bottom of turn one into the infield but the racing surface was fantastic, many drivers said, considering the conditions earlier in the day.
- John Landydt won the $812 50-50- draw from the Merlin St. Patrick’s Parish.
- The 2013 season ends with Fun Night this coming Saturday, with special mechanics, power puff and staff races along with a pit crew challenge. It’s $5 admission on the grandstand and $10 for the pits.