From FlamboroSpeedway.itgo.com – The Grisdale Triple Crown tournament is one of the most anticipated and celebrated Late Model events in Ontario grass roots racing. The 8th edition kicked off at Hamilton’s asphalt arena Flamboro Speedway on Saturday May 29th with a brand new twist, time trial qualifying. It was a Flamboro first, setting the top half of the Grisdale Late Model starting field by lap times. For many of the competitors this was their first time racing the stop watch, and for the fans it was their first time to gauge the ranks of the Late Model roster.
The two-time Flamboro champion Jason Shaw was heavily favoured going into the trials, based on his history as a top performer and his experience in time trial events. Defending tournament champion Paul Howse was also at the top of the picks, along with ‘The Bull’ Jeff Stewart who is known for having great power under the hood of the Bruce Bennett motorsports Kubota #56. But after practice, the number one suspect became the ‘Iron Man’ Gary Elliott, whose sub 15.5 second lap times were shattering expectations.
Twenty-two cars participated in the time trial qualifying, and the results confirmed what fans had suspected of the Late Model field. The top half of the teams were running between 15.5 and 16.00 second laps, and the rest would have a lot of work to keep pace. The long standing pole sitters were Paul Howse and Jeff Stewart, sharing a 15.63 second lap time, with Howse edging Stewart for the top spot with a faster second time. But both drivers were bumped when Gary Elliott took to the track. A blistering 15.41 second lap time topped the charts and was untouchable for the remainder of the trials. #29 Mike Bentley also posted a fast time to nab fourth, and Jason Shaw rounded out the top five.
The ‘Iron Man’ cooled his jets long enough to join the parade lap and quick interview on the front straightaway before the start of the race night. Said Elliott, “I had no idea we were that good. We hoped and we worked really hard to get this car ready today, and the Quaker State ride is awesome, but my team didn’t say anything to me on the radio. I thought we were terrible and they just didn’t want to tell me. I found out from an official over pit side who pointed at me and said “#1″.
Another chapter writes itself in the ongoing history of Gary Elliott’s racing career, and his next step was to role the dice. The dice role turned up 8, determining the inversion of top qualifiers for the starting lineup. With $500 bonus in hand for the fastest lap, Gary Elliott returned to the pits now knowing he would roll off the grid in 8th.
The dice roll would have put the Dark Knight Shane Maginnis and the Budd’s Collision #03 on the front row, but the defending race winner failed tech inspection after his qualifying run. The downward spiral keeps getting deeper, as Maginnis was hoping to recover after a terrible opening night performance that saw his race car leap up and over the hood of the Paul Howse Truck Town #8, slide along the concrete wall and then crash hard back to the asphalt. It was off to the consolation round with the other non-qualifiers, to determine the rest of the starting lineup.
But Maginnis’ misfortune was new opportunity for former Canadian Nascar runner Kenny Forth. The Midnight Sun Tanning Salon #86 would set the pace from the front row, alongside past rookie of the year Ted Horsfall and the Hearth & Home #49. Shawn Chenoweth and Jason Shaw made up row two.
Brantford’s Mark Burbridge in the ProMar Electrical Services #27 earned the lucky 13th starting position with a win in the last chance race, with Sauble Beach’s #08 Jason Parker and Palmerston’s #4 Craig Zurbrigg on his tail. Maginnis continued to find flaw with the #03 ride and pulled off back to the pits unable to finish the race. He would start on the last row of the feature field.
After on-track race introductions and quick interviews with the starting field, the fans gave the command to the 22 weekend warriors set to do battle in the asphalt arena. The mix of General Motors crates and home-built engines roared to life and the Grisdale Late Model rumble filled the racing stadium. Fans cheered in anticipation of the green flag knowing what followed was to be 75 laps of racing history.
*Spoiler Alert* If you don’t want to know the details of what happened, stop reading now. The TVCOGECO broadcast will air on Friday June 4th at 9pm, repeating Saturday June 5th at 4pm. Schedule available at TVCOGECO.com*
The green flag dropped and Kenny Forth was away, taking the early lead from Ted Horsfall with the inside lane advantage, but it took two laps for Forth to clear the #49 as the outside lane was hanging in. Shawn Chenoweth played a part in helping Forth to the front, pushing the Parkinson Bus Tours #86 until he was clear of the Horsfall Auto & Machine #49. With mounting traffic behind Chenoweth and Forth tried to pull away and leaders duel began between former NASCAR and former OSCAAR.
A quick pause in the action came early at lap 8, when a corner one incident brought out the first caution flag of the race. Viewed on the TVCOGECO replay, it appeared that Mark Burbridge started the chain of events when he was unable to keep off the bumper of the Jason Parker #08. Parker was turned up the race track and made heavy contact with the concrete, collecting the AB Wass Security #3 of Chris Bochsler in his passenger side door. The corner quickly plugged and several mid-pack cars were caught in the aftermath. Among them was Shane Maginnis, who cringed and held his head in his hands as he surveyed the immense damage to the front end of the Budd’s Collision #03. For the second week in a row the defending race winner was crippled early and carried off the speedway by Ray’s Towing.
The Cougar Delivery clean-up crew worked fast to sweep up the debris and get the corners back to racing condition. The new side-by-side Late Model restarts provided added excitement as Shawn Chenoweth lined up to the outside of Kenny Forth on the front row. With the green lights aglow, the race was restarted.
Chenoweth and Forth battled at the front, but eventually it was the man in black who muscled out front in the Automotive Truck & Tire #89. Now Chenoweth would set the pace, leaving the competition in his wake. Kenny Forth fought to stay in the top five, eventually finding his way behind the Richie Bros. Auctions #8 of Paul Howse who was on a tear to the front. Howse was clearly focused on running down the #89, who had left an impression on the #8 driver a week earlier when the two battled in qualifying. But with his eyes on the prize, Howse missed the challenge of Kenny Forth.
Forth was not deterred after losing the lead, and seemed to find new resolve to reclaim the top spot. Working to the tail of Howse’s #8, a slight tap in turn two opened up the inside lane down the back straightaway. Kenny Forth race to the inside and had the nose of his Parkinson Bus Tours #86 to the edge of the number on the side of the #8 car. Diving deep into corner three, Howse slammed down the track from the high side to the side and nearly sheared off the nose of the #86. As a result the #8 was sent spinning wildly while the #86 drove through. A caution flag followed as Paul Howse sat stalled in the middle of the racing lane. Fortunately no further carnage followed.
A tough call came down from on high, as Starter Ding deLeeuw sent the message through the field: contact means involvement, means you share the penalty. A black flag was thrown on the #86 and Kenny Forth was forced to join Howse at the rear of the field for the restart. It was a tough pill to swallow for the #86 driver who had raced his way to the inside and was clearly cut-off, but with no point of reference yet painted on the track (referee line???) the penalty would stand.
The restart put the King of Speed Jason Shaw on the outside of the front row in the Del Metals #82 Ford, giving the two-time Flamboro Champion a shot at Shawn Chenoweth. Not one to be intimidated, Chenoweth edged ahead of Shaw as they raced into turns one and two, and the side by side battle went to Chenoweth’s favour. Jason Shaw pulled in behind and gave chase from second. Behind him Jeff Stewart was propelling to the front of the action in the Jerico Industrial Maintenance #56, along with the Bentley Motorsports #29 Mike Bentley. Also in the thick of things was the Quaker State #36 Gary Elliott, who was fiercely trying to keep his nose clean as he could see trouble brewing.
The mix at the front started to change when Jeff Stewart’s #56 suddenly dropped out of contention and headed pit side. Mechanical failure retired the Ed Stewart’s Equipment race machine and opened a hole in the top five. A couple of small spins gave Jason Shaw a number of attempts at Shawn Chenoweth but the National Fire Equipment Ford just couldn’t muster the magic to beat #89. Maybe it was black magic that followed, as Shaw cut down a tire at lap 40 and limped off to his pit for a quick change under caution, removing him from the runner-up ranks. A new crowd hero would rise to the front row, and Waterdown’s Iron Man Gary Elliott was now side by side with the man in black.
It was a ferocious restart as Elliott tested the metal of the #89, racing number to number for the leadership right. Chenoweth smacked down the challenger early, but it was only just past the half-way marker in the 75-lap event and so there was still time for change. Just outside the leader battle, the car to watch was #29 Mike Bentley. The former pilot of #99 who took home a feature win late in 2009 came from nowhere to post a top-five lap time and was in the middle of the action doing all he could to steal some spotlight. The #29 driver had pestered Gary Elliott and just barely lost the chance to start outside Shawn Chenoweth. Bentley was in the midst of working on another run at the leader battle when he was caught in the second round of the Kenny Forth-Paul Howse battle. Off the back straightaway the #29 lost control and tagged the concrete wall, ricocheting back down the track. It’s unclear whether the failure came before the concrete contact or after, but it was clear that Bentley had no control over where the car was headed as he crashed back down the track into #8 Paul Howse and #86 Kenny Forth. Forth was able to escape with relatively minor complications, but Howse was wrecked again, sharing the luck of Shane Magginis. It was not the night of glory the defending champion and race winner had hoped for when the first green flag dropped.
With just 30 laps remaining the race was down to a Saturday night shootout. Gary Elliott once again lined up alongside Shawn Chenoweth, now with some new supporting cast members. #07 Todd Campbell was climbing to the top, along with #55 Junior Farrelly and #05 Brad Corcoran.
Paul Howse attempted a return as the green flag fell, but a shower of sparks from the undercarriage of the #8 was evidence enough that the car was not ready to safely continue competition, and the defending champion retired to the pits.
Gary Elliott and Shawn Chenoweth continued their fight at the front as the Timber Green Landscape #36 consistently caught the bumper of the Automotive Truck & Tire #89, but couldn’t shake Chenoweth from his lane. Elliott’s concentration was also being split late in the race as Brad Corcoran brought the #05 into contention. A week earlier this had been a car struggling to keep pace, but suddenly Corcoran was in the hunt and working on a top three finish.
Still refusing to concede to the Chenoweth-Elliott monopoly of the leader battle, Jason Shaw brought the Spira Fire Protection #82 back through the field after a tire change and was working to the top five. He got stuck when he met up with the original outside pole sitter #49 Ted Horsfall, and the two raced side by side for several laps, Shaw unable to overtake the young man from Paris on the outside lane. But trouble brewed again for another former champion, as a slight bauble by Horsfall in corner three caught the wheel of the Shaw #82. The sudden force broke the control Shaw had over the #82 and sent him sliding and spinning up the race track. It was a clear racing incident and a tough break, but once more the black flag fell for contact involvement and Ted Horsfall joined Shaw at the tail of the restart lineup, with less than 10 laps remaining.
What followed will go into the Triple Crown history books along with great moments like the David Elliott-Peter Vanderwyst save of 2005, and the Stewart-Howse-Elliott battle to the finish of 2009.
With the green flag flying and little time remaining, the pressure was on the drivers at the front to make their move. Out of corner two with tensions high, Gary Elliott looked to the high lane to move around Chenoweth. The #89 driver exited half a lane higher, trying to break momentum, and forced the #36 within an inche of the concrete wall. A slight bump with #05 Brad Corcoran, who dove to the inside to take second position, was enough to help Elliott get sucked in by treacherous walls of the asphalt arena. In the blink of an eye the right side of the #36 was racing on top of the wall á la Herbie Fully Loaded. You could see the roof numbers as Elliott sped along the back straightaway miraculously riding smoothly back to the asphalt – Hanging On after impact – and only losing the one position to the Brad Corcoran.
Unbelievably the race continued on without pause or hesitation, and while Chenoweth was able to sneak ahead by a couple car lengths the battle fell to second where Elliott hunted Corcoran to reclaim his position. Working first to catch the #05, there was just 2 laps to go as #36 went to the inside and made the pass for runner up. Narrowing the gap to be in striking distance the ‘Iron Man’ would chase the black bumper one last time before the checkered flag fell. Another unpredictable and incredible conclusion for a Grisdale Triple Crown race.
On the back stretch on the cool down lap Elliott and Chenoweth shared congratulations on a hard fought race that both could be proud of. Brad Corcoran was also smiling with a top three finish, and Millgrove driver Chris ‘PeeWee’ Bochsler was thankful to rebound from the early accident to finish fourth, with Junior Farrelly in the Bruce Bennett Motorsports #55 completing the top five.
In victory lane Shawn Chenoweth was riding an adrenaline rush as he climbed from the car to the cheers and jeers of an electrified audience. His first comments praised the competition and sportsmanship of his challengers Jason Shaw and Gary Elliott for good clean racing. He shared with the fans his excitement and the nerves of holding on to the lead, and sent out great thanks to Bill Grisdale and the Grisdale Racing team for all their support and sponsorship to make this great tournament possible. And Chenoweth paid great tribute to his car builder, “I have to thank Jeff Hanley, he made this ride as fast as it is. If you want a fast Late Model, you go see Jeff Hanley.”
Chenoweth then shared the winner’s circle celebration with his father Bob Chenoweth, who one race earlier had earned the checkered flag in the Thunder Car main event. Two weeks earlier the senior Chenoweth had been involved in an accident that required lots of work and attention to get back to track. Said Shawn, “We spent two weeks working on these cars and were thankful for the rain to give us the time to get back out and be competitive. My credit card’s going to love this victory.”
The Grisdale Late Model home series continues next Saturday night at Flamboro Speedway.
The next round of the 2010 Grisdale Triple Crown tournament is set for Saturday July 3rd. See schedule for details.