Martin restored as second-place finisher
South Buxton Raceway has not been John Watson’s favourite place to race.
He last raced here in 2009 with the Southern Ontario Sprints, finishing 12th in a 12-car field in their first visit and scratched from the feature in their second visit.
But the St. Thomas driver had a leg up on the rest of the field in Saturday’s Can-Am Topless Sprints series visit - he has been racing almost exclusively without the wings over the last few years, mainly on the Michigan Traditional Sprints and USAC series.
Watson finally conquered the ‘D’ on Saturday, as he started in the second row, took the lead from Lefroy’s Warren Mahoney on the fifth lap and led the final 20 circuits.
“This is probably one of the toughest tracks I’ve been on,” Watson said about South Buxton.
“The shape of it, the condition of it - it’s so tacky - it took me three years with the wing to get one solid lap here. Tonight I think I had maybe three of them.
“These guys pushed me right to the limit, I ran my guts out,” Watson declared.
It was his first feature win since winning at Shiawassee Speedway in mid-Michigan three years ago.
Rodney’s Justin Martin took second from Mahoney two laps later and took the lead momentarily through turns three and four but Watson slingshot back to the front.
The brakes on Martin’s car, however, began sparking heavily as the laps wore down, forcing Can-Am officials to black flag the Rodney driver.
Martin kept running until he lost the brakes and still finished second.
He was naturally incensed as he pulled into the Winner’s Circle, thinking he was the runner-up only to find out he was being penalized to fifth, the last car on the lead lap.
However, Ontario Topless Sprint and Can-Am race director Ken Baylis announced Monday morning that Martin has been reinstated as the second-place finisher.
“In conversation with Joe Irwin (Michigan Traditional Sprint director) and the rest of the drivers, we decided the fair thing to do was to overturn the decision and put Jason back in second place,” Baylis said.
Martin and several other drivers said because of the speeds they were traveling around the ‘D’, it was difficult to differentiate what flag was being shown.
Baylis said he was told by Watson that he didn’t let off on the cool down lap because he wasn’t sure he had taken the checkered.
Baylis also said his race official did not communicate with Martin over the race-ceiver, so he had no idea he was having problems, let alone was being shown the black flag.
“We will be changing our procedures as a result of this incident,” Baylis said.
“Justin is as good as they come and he’s the most underrated driver in Ontario today,” Watson declared.
Tilbury’s Kyle Patrick went back to his third-place finish, with Warren Mahoney fourth and his father Dick Mahoney fifth.
“We did a little tweaking after the heat race, we loosened the car up a little and it was much better to drive in the feature,” Patrick said, who won his heat.
“It’s pretty fun to get out here and wheel with these guys in this non-wing deal,” said Patrick, who celebrated his 28th birthday Saturday.
“It’s a totally different style than we’re used to with the wings.
“It’s kind of a cowboy-up and back ‘er in there … it’s really fun to get around on a heavy track like this in one of these (topless) deals,”he said.
Warren Mahoney finished third, followed by his father Dick Mahoney and Martin.
Chatham’s Eric Jamieson made his season debut and finished eighth, as 10 sprints took the green flag but only six finished.
An 11th driver, Nick Landon of Dorr, Mich., touched tires with Patrick at the start of the heat and rolled several times against the front-stretch wall. He wasn’t hurt but scratched for the night.
The Can-Am series continued at Humberstone Speedway on Sunday and will be in Tri-City Speedway in Auburn, Mich. this Friday. The series concludes Aug. 16 at Tri-City.
Patrick did not go to Humberstone and will not be going to Tri-City in Friday because he will put the wings back on his car to race at Ohsweken in a Corr-Pak vs. Patriots Sprint Tour showdown the same night.
“We’ve got things really rolling around there (Ohsweken),”said Patrick, who won the Corr-Pak Sprint feature on June 7 and finished fourth this past Friday.
“We’re having some good luck there the last two weeks. We’re hoping we can continue that into Friday and carry that momentum back here to the home track on Saturday,” he looked ahead to the Patriots’ visit to South Buxton.
The Patriots consists of sprint cars from Pennsylvania, New York, Quebec and across Ontario. Several cars from Ohsweken’s Corr-Pak series as well as the Southern Ontario Sprint will also be in the field.
South Buxton’s third sprint show will be the return of the Southern Ontario Sprints on Aug. 3.