Friday night Thunder revs up

OHSWEKEN – For the 19th summer, the sound of roaring high performance engines will be in the air as drivers from the area and beyond open the 2014 racing season, this coming Friday night, May 16th.

Doug Leonard, track Director of Race Night Operations, is very excited about the new season and the new look of the Speedway.

For this Friday night’s Season Opener, all divisions will be driving extra laps. Normal 20 lap races will be 25 laps, normal 15 lap races will be 20 laps, and the Bombers who normally run 12 laps will be doing 15.
Average purse of $17,000 in prize money is awarded every night across all five divisions.

There are five divisions, including; Bomber Division (introductory class usually driving small 4-cylinder compact cars in the inner track); Mini-stocks (4-cylinder cars with full safety cages, which run on the main track); Thunder Stocks, or Street Stock class (V-8 models, usually Camaros, or Monte Carlos); and a new class this season, Crate Sprint Car Class. Then, there are also the Premier Sprint Class cars.

Every off-season, the Ohsweken Speedway has been adding more accommodations to the package for both drivers and race fans.

The Grandstands have been completely overhauled in recent years and with a few more tweaks this off-season, they can now accommodate 5,190 fans in the main Grandstand area with another several hundred seats available on the pit-side.

“We now have pubic Wi-Fi service,” said Leonard. “People can use their cell phones and have access to Wi-Fi. Construction of new “Tech Barns” in the pit area is something the general public may not see or appreciate, but the drivers certainly do.”

There has also been progress made on the new concession stands and washroom facilities in the Grandstand area, which will make a night at the Ohsweken Speedway an even better family experience for fans.

“Pit access is also open to track members of all ages,” Leonard adds. “Other tracks have age restrictions for the pits, but now a driver can bring his whole family and everyone can be close together. We just completed a membership for a four-year-old who will be able to go pit-side.”

Track safety is always a factor in the race game, and Ohsweken Speedway takes this very seriously indeed and boasts one of the safest tracks in Ontario for both drivers and fans.

“We have probably the best safety team in all of Ontario,” says Leonard. “Kevin Barry, who owns EMR (Emergency Medical Response) heads up our safety/rescue team. In each corner of the oval we have a safety crew. Two emergency response vehicles are in the infield that runs with three firefighters in full two layer fire-suits and a medic in each unit.”

Recently Ohsweken Speedway held an all day safety training session for their crews at Brantford’s Best Western.

Last year, the Ohsweken Speedway safety crew averaged between 9 and 18 seconds to be at the scene of a mishap with fire and medical teams at the ready.

“We had a violent flip last year that we captured on video,” Leonard said. “We watched, and in 28 seconds we had four crew members on scene, the driver was removed and his car was flipped back over on its wheels again.”

To protect the fans, the Grandstand area has a curved-over fence that separates the fans from the cars, reinforced with five heavy cables when the industry standard is three. The Grandstand is well away from the track but still close enough to not only see, but to feel the action.

Sprint drivers are recommended to place tethers on certain parts of their vehicles, which have been known to fly off during a crash. Although this is voluntary this year, it will be mandatory in 2015.

With a membership, anyone can get into the pits on a regular night for $20. Without a membership, it is $35 per race night. Adult Grandstand seating begins at $12 for members.

A track membership is worth $75 per season. There are 20 races scheduled, not counting special nights over and above that from opening night, May 16th until the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, which Ohsweken Speedway is hosting to close out the season.

“We want to treat a rave night like going to a movie,” says Leonard. “We hope to have you fully entertained and on your way home in 2-3 hours at a reasonable time to get the kids into bed.”

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