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Racers ready for new season at Thunder City

Practice session prepares drivers for 2024 season opener.

THUNDER BAY – The long wait for local racers came to an end Wednesday night.

The Thunder City Speedway opened its gates for the first time since last September with an open practice session ahead of the 2024 season, which officially starts May 22.

For third-year Street Stock racer Cory Ward, the first night back on the 3/8-mile dirt track was beneficial in several ways.

“I want to make sure that everything that I worked on over the winter and spring is good to go,” Ward said. “Plus, you’re out of practice from driving over the winter so I’m kind of shaking the rust off a little bit.

“I also got a new car this winter so you never really know how it’s going to handle until you get it on the track. If I have any issues with it, at least I have a week to get all of that sorted out.”

Wednesday marked the first time out for Colby Petrunak in a Midwest Modified machine. He had spent the last two years in the Street Stock division.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Petrunak said before he climbed into his car.

“This practice is definitely important for someone like me because if you come into the first heat race of the year and you haven’t driven the car before . . . it could be pretty challenging because you don’t know what you’re doing.

“There’s a lot of adjustments and things to do on this car compared to my old car.”

Thunder City Speedway manager Todd Robinson said the open practice serves a variety of purposes.

“We have a lot of new drivers here and also those that are trying their hand at a higher horsepower car,” Robinson said. “This is their first time in those seats and it’s better to do that in a practice situation than during a race.

“Everybody’s anxious to get going, but there’s more of a loose vibe and it’s not as wound up as you see on a race night. The drivers are anxious to try out their cars and the fans are anxious to see who’s out there and what they got.”

This season will once again see five classes – Modified, Midwest Modifieds, Super Stocks, Street Stocks and Hornets – take to the track on a weekly basis through Aug. 28.

The oval itself has had one notable change since last year. The banking in the corners has been increased to 15 degrees from its original 10.

“We’re hoping that this will open things up for more multi-lane racing and we can have the drivers going low, high or in the middle through the corners,” Robinson said.

“We’ve also upgraded the lighting and there’s been a huge expansion to the pits. There’s always something going on here.”

In addition to the regular weekly schedule, Thunder City is hosting the Half-Way Motors Heartbeat Hot Sauce Invitational from June 20-22, which will showcase the Midwest Modified class.

The season officially concludes with the 11th edition of the Thunder Bay Truck Centre Dirt Track Nationals from Sept. 20-22.

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