IWK 250 – 10th Anniversary – News & Notes
In just a few days Riverside International Speedway will come alive with excitement for the IWK 250 weekend. This year is the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the event being affiliated with the IWK Health Centre and Steve Lewis Auto Body. In the past nine years, the event has grown to be widely known as one of the most entertaining stock car races in Canada and has raised awareness and over $350,000 for the IWK Foundation.
The three-day event starts Thursday with Open Practice, and the inaugural IWK 250 Tailgate Party featuring a concert by Signal Hill. On Friday it’s the Highland Home Building Centre 100 for the NAPA Sportsman Series and the Maritime Legends Challenge for the Upper Clements Park Maritime League of Legends, Saturday is reserved for the IWK 250 where two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will take on the cars and stars of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour (PST) along with a collection of other racers entering the event from throughout Canada and the United States. As the event has grown, so too have the storylines…
From Sea to Shining Sea
The official expected entry list* for the IWK 250 sits at 36 and counting. At least two other teams have indicated they will enter the race Saturday, but have yet to file their entry form. We have entries from drivers in Newfoundland on the far east coast of North America all the way to California on the far west coast. Five Canadian provinces are represented (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Ontario), and three states in the U.S. (North Carolina, Maine, and California.) *based on advance entries and subject to change without notice/ complete list here (‘Entries’ tab).
Champions, Champions, and More Champions
The IWK 250 expected entry list boasts several drivers with championship titles including NASCAR celebrity driver Matt Crafton, a two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, John Flemming – five-time PST champion, Shawn Turple – two-time PST champion, Donald Chisholm – reigning PST champion, Jeff Fultz – multi-time short track late model champion in the U.S., Gary Elliott – two-time Vintage Modified Tour champion in Ontario, Cassius Clark – PASS North SLM champion, and Bubba Gale – a multi-time, multi-division champion in the U.S.. IWK 250 champions in the field include two-time winners Kent Vincent and Flemming along with Darren MacKinnon
Crafton is Determined to Win
The two-time NASCAR champion thought he had the checkered flag in the bag last year after qualifying second , winning his heat race, starting on the pole, and leading a lot of laps – until a brake issue forced him to the pits (while leading) and eventually a 21st-place finish. He finished 10th the year before. He wants to join Regan Smith as the only NASCAR drivers to win one of the most prestigious short track races in North America. He is determined to win the 2016 edition of the IWK 250 in his No. 16 Cat Car for Kids, presented by Atlantic Cat.
Gale Expected, Just in Time
Bubba Gale, a multi-time, multi-division racing champion in the United States, is expected to enter Saturday’s IWK 250. Gale, the owner of Gale Force Suspensions – a top supplier for top racers, will drive a car fielded by Vance Hanes. Gale hails from North Carolina.
First Time for Five-Time
Five-time PST champion John Flemming, also a two-time IWK 250 champion, will make his first start of 2016 in the IWK 250. Flemming suffered a devastating loss this spring when his race shop burned along with all the memorabilia, tools, and race cars that were in it. He will drive a car owned by Newfoundland’s Josh Collins in the IWK 250 and is looking to become “three-time” (250 winner).
Heat Races Will be Steamy
With upwards of 36 cars expected to attempt to qualify for a 30-car starting grid, Atlantic Tiltload Heat Race action should be intense. The top four in each of an anticipated five heat races will transfer to set the top 20 lineup then the rest will run a B Feature in which the top two will transfer to the IWK 250. The balance of the starting spots will be set with provisional spots as determined by PST and track officials. Qualifying heat races to set the starting grid for the IWK 250 will start Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Youth vs Experience
The IWK 250 entry list is a mix of youth and experience with a talented group of young drivers challenging wily veterans. At the top of the ‘young’un’ list is Dylan Blenkhorn, a two-time winner this year on the PST with one of those trips to Victory Lane at Riverside in June. Cole Butcher is another young driver who knows how to get it done with PST wins and stellar finishes at Riverside. At the opposite end of the spectrum we have Canada’s Iron Man of Racing, Gary Elliott, with over 1200 starts in his career – this his first in three decades at Riverside, and George Koszkulics with five PST wins at Riverside and one of three drivers to never miss a PST race at Riverside (Chisholm and Vincent are the other two.)
For the first time in the history of the IWK 250, two brothers will compete against each other. Cole Butcher and Jarrett Butcher, both Legends series champions, have entered the event. Cole, 19, is in his fourth season with the PST and Jarrett, 17, is running a limited pro stock schedule this year while still full-time on the legends circuit.
Two drivers, Jarrett Butcher and Dylan Blenkhorn, are expected to enter the Legends race on Friday as well as the IWK 250 on Saturday. Two brothers from Newfoundland, Waylon Farrell and Will Farrell are expected to run in both the Legends and Sportsman races on Friday.
Six Down, Six to Go
The IWK 250 marks the halfway point in the PST chase for the championship. Cassius Clark leads the current standings over Dylan Blenkhorn, each with two wins on the season; Greg Proude won the fifth and most recent series race. Third place in the standings belongs to Craig Slaunwhite with Chisholm fourth and Cole Butcher fifth. The IWK 250 is a points race for the PST competitors so while racing for the glory of winning the event is one thing, gaining points is also on their radar. Complete series standings can be found online at www.maritimeprostocktour.com.
Quest for the Cup, the John W. Chisholm Memorial Cup
The majestic custom made trophy was unveiled last year in memory of John W. Chisholm, Riverside’s founder and builder who passed away July 4, 2014. It embodies a rich history of Maritime motorsports with the names of all the previous ‘250’ winners at Riverside engraved on it with spaces for those who will write their name in the IWK 250 history book henceforth.
Total offerings for the weekend are over $100,000. The winner of the IWK 250 is guaranteed $10,000 and can take home as much as $17,100.
350,000 to IWK, & Counting
Besides being a great race the IWK 250 helps raise awareness and funding for the IWK Health Centre with more than $350,000 donated over the past nine years, in addition to a surprise one million dollar donation made by the Chisholm family (owners of the track) during opening ceremonies for the IWK 250 in 2013.
While 2016 marks the 10th edition of the IWK 250, Riverside has hosted this historic event since 1977 when Ontario’s Billy Watson became the inaugural winner. Other former “Riverside 250” winners include the late Scott Fraser (six wins), the late Don Biederman (three wins), five-time Maritime champion Greg Sewart (two wins), Maritime racing legend Frank Fraser (two wins), North America short track legend Junior Hanley (two wins), four-time Maritime champion Terry Clattenburg, two-time Maritime champion Rollie MacDonald, Maritime racing veteran Mike MacKenzie, and Maine’s Ben Rowe. Scott Fraser, Sewart, Biederman, MacDonald, and Hanley are members of both the Canadian and Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame, and Frank Fraser, Clattenburg, and MacKenzie are members of the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Opening Act – Sportsman & Legends On Track Friday Night
The NAPA Sportsman Series will see round four of 10 in their 2016 title chase on Friday with the Highland Home Building Centre 100. Russell Smith Jr. (Halifax) is the defending champion of this event. His uncle, six-time Maritime pro stock touring series champion Wayne Smith (semi-retired from pro stock competition), is expected to challenge series regulars in a bid to return to Victory Circle at Riverside International Speedway. With a $10,000 purse, this race is the richest on the regional sportsman circuit.
Also on the card Friday night is the Maritime Legends Challenge for the Upper Clements Park Maritime League of Legends, round two of eight in the series chase for the championship. This event is one of two stops at Riverside for the series this year. Jarrett Butcher is the defending race winner and the defending series champion.
Both series will qualify with heat races to set the starting grids for the features.
It All Starts Thursday, Yes, Thursday
The IWK 250 weekend gets underway Thursday at 5:30 p.m. with an open practice session for teams entered in any of the three races on Friday or Saturday. Then, at approximately 9:30 p.m., it’s the inaugural IWK 250 Tailgate Party featuring a concert by Signal Hill, Canada’s east coast acoustic party band. The best part? It’s an exclusive party for everyone with an advance race ticket for either July 15 or July 16 – having a ticket is the only way to get it and it’s free with your race ticket purchase.
Atlantic Cat Kids Tent
The Atlantic Cat Kids Tent will be by Matt Crafton and the Cat Car for Kids during the autograph session (5:30 p.m. on Saturday) and have free gifts for the kids.
Mark Your Calendar
Racing starts Friday at 7 p.m.; the box office and grandstand open at 4 p.m. On Saturday the grandstand opens at Noon; Atlantic Tiltload Heat Races start at 4:30 p.m., the pre-race show featuring an autograph session and live entertainment with ‘Sparrow’ is at 5:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies start at 7 p.m., followed by the green flag for the IWK 250.
Fans Urged to Get Advance Tickets & Arrive Early
With a record crowd expected to attend the IWK 250 fans who want to avoid lineups (in traffic and at the box office) are encouraged to take advantage of advance ticket sales, and to arrive early. Plenty of good seats remain and can be purchased by visiting RiversideSpeedway.ca or the track office at 23 James Street in Antigonish through close of business on Thursday. Tickets will be available at the track box office on July 15 & 16. Please note reserved seats are only available in advance so must be purchased by Thursday.
RV Spots Sold Out
The camping area is sold out with more than 900 RVs expected. All overnight parking on Riverside International Speedway property from July 16 until the day after the IWK 250 requires a permit (RVs or otherwise).
Riverside International Speedway is recognized as a premiere stock racing facility in Canada. The 1/3-mile high banked asphalt oval roars to action several times a year for special events. It is the home for eastern Canada’s only NASCAR event, and of the IWK 250 – widely known as the best stock car race in Canada. Located in James River, between New Glasgow and Antigonish, the facility is easily accessible at exit 30 on Trans Canada Highway 104. For more information call 902.863.2410 or click www.riversidespeedway.ca.