Buffenbarger Online

BUFFENBARGER: Oh, Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges throughout motorsports, many of which are still being felt today. As challenging as the situation as for us in the United States, our sprint car racing counterparts in Canada had bigger hurdles to overcome.

The longest wait to return to action might belong to Ontario’s Ohsweken Speedway. Located on the Six Nations of the Grand River reservation just outside of Brantford, Ontario, Ohsweken remained idle for 993 days due to various local and national restrictions. The gates finally swung open for weekly racing on June 3.

Imagine having to wait 993 days to have your favorite pizza, read your favorite book or watch your favorite television show. That is what the Canadian sprint car scene endured as its premier dirt facility for sprint car racing and host of its crown jewel event, the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, remained idle. Even from afar I felt the pain of having Ohsweken inactive as it is one of my favorite places to watch sprint car racing.

Thankfully, Ohsweken Speedway owner Glenn Styres and general manager Clinton Geoffrey did not stay idle during the down time. Even though they could not open the gates for racing, several improvements were made during the down time, including building suites on the backstretch, pouring lots of concrete in the pit area and replacing some of the block walls around the perimeter of the racing surface with concrete.

Ohsweken is taking a page out of Eldora Speedway’s playbook this season and will host three editions of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. The Canadian Nationals is the premier sprint car event in Canada has grown in status over the years by drawing large fields of cars that produce some of the most competitive and intense sprint car racing season anywhere on a given season.

Race fans this year have three opportunities to attend an event that should be a part of any sprint car racing fan’s bucket list.

The down time could have been devastating to the Ontario sprint car industry. The sprint car scene in Ontario often flies under the radar of the American audience, but for those who paid attention were rewarded witnessing the steady growth of the sport in the province.

Sprint car racing has steadily grown since the formation of Southern Ontario Sprints in 1996. Ohsweken Speedway opened that same year and later helped raise the bar with the Canadian Nationals and other special events.

With only a handful of races with limited attendance being contested over the past two years, many onlookers wondered if the sprint car racing in the province would withstand such a pause.

Thankfully the news during the first portion of the 2022 season in Ontario is positive. After it appeared the Southern Ontario Sprints may go on permeant hiatus, the series returned to action and has drawn full fields of cars.

Ohsweken Speedway’s weekly program continues to draw strong fields as well, including several up-and-coming drivers moving up from the crate sprint car division it formed back in 2013. The crate division is proving so popular that Brockville Ontario Speedway added the class to its weekly
program this season.

While several U.S.-based series have scaled back their participation in Canadian events, the Knights of Thunder Sprint Car Tour was formed as an offshoot of Ohsweken’s weekly program to help provide another touring series for teams to participate in during the season.

The Action Sprint Tour, which is still in its infancy, also appears to be recovering well from limited competition over the past two years.

Sprint car racing in Ontario has remained resilient during a time where I felt the division could be hitting a stumbling block. Thankfully everyone from track staff, series officials, teams and drivers kept their passion for the sport alive during a time where they could have found other activities to occupy their time.

Hopefully, over the next several years the growth of Ontatrio sprint car racing can continue and maybe draw a few more American eyes to a market that has loads of potential growth opportunity for the sport.End Bug

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