THUNDER BAY – Race weekend has arrived.
The Dairy Queen International Speedway is set to host the Thunder Bay Truck Centre Dirt Track Nationals over the course of the next three days.
Racers will take to the track on Friday night to test out the track for practice laps, with heats scheduled for Sunday and the feature races slated for Sunday afternoon.
Among the divers is Cambridge, Ont.’s Carol Gunsch, a first-time racer who will make her dirt track debut this weekend.
“I have never been in a car before,” she said, moments after randomly choosing her practice lap time.
“My brother Bob Gaudet does race and has been for a long time and it’s been our bucket list to race together. So he’s brought three cars here today, one for me, one for him and a spare one for me.”
Although it’s something new, Gunsch said she’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie and has been around the track for years.
Getting behind the wheel is the logical next step, she said.
“Both my brother and I have always been into sports, and extreme sports in particular. He’s been doing this for a while, loves it and I tend to have a bit of a heavy foot, so we’ll see how this plays out today,” said Gunsch, who will race in the No. 18 car.
“Having said that, I’m also not a youngster. I plan on playing it with caution to a certain degree.”
She’s excited to be one of the first racers to test out the brand new speedway, which opened last month with a night of practice racing to give drivers a feel for the upcoming Dirt Track Nationals, formerly held at Mosquito Speedway.
It makes a great addition to the Ontario race scene, Gunsch said.
“It absolutely does,” she said. “I grew up in Thunder Bay, moved away in my 20s and now in my 50s I’m back. My brother still lives here. This is a fantabulous environment. It’s great to see all the camaraderie and all the people helping each other.”
That’s just what track co-owner Norm Nadin was aiming for when the idea of building the speedway, located on Highway 130 in Oliver Paipoonge.
It’s hard to believe the first weekend of racing is set to go, he said.
“It took a lot of work to get to this stage. It’s all come together quite quickly and it’s just exactly what we wanted. There was a little bit of rain the night before which helps us with the track preparation,” Nadin said.
He expects crowds to number between 3,500 and 5,000, adding drivers have come from all across Ontario, Manitoba – and possibly even the United States – to participate.
“Tonight will be a little bit of a taste of what’s going to come up on Saturday and Sunday, which is actually the big event,” Nadin said. “The indicators so far have been awesome. The pits are full of cars, which is exactly what we were hoping for. The campgrounds have sold out, so that’s another good indicator.”
COVID precautions will be in place and masks will be required to enter the speedway. Fans are asked to maintain six feet of separation in the stands.
Time trials for Midwest modified begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The grandstands open at noon on Saturday and Sunday, with racing slated to begin at 2 p.m. There will be total of five classes cars taking place – modifieds, Midwest mods, super stocks, street stocks and hornets.
General admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors 55 and older and students, and free for five and under. On Friday, admission is $10.