Bird Soars to Strawberry Cup Win

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Story and Photos by Ken Keating

Victoria, BC (ISN) – Western Speedway was the site of the two-day Strawberry Cup event with the OTRA Series, the first appearance of the SDL Bins I.M.S. 4 Mini Stocks, and the Richlock Rentals Non Wing Sprint Car Series on Friday. On Saturday, these racers were joined by the always competitive Island Stock Car Series making for some great racing.

On Friday Mother Nature played a major part as rain invaded the Speedway and delayed qualifying until the track could be dried. Thanks to the persistence of track Officials, dedicated drivers, and above all loyal race fans, two Trophy Dashes were completed and as the Sprint Cars were about to get the green flag for their race, once again rain stalled the proceedings. After another lengthy delay, the track was once again dried enough for races to continue albeit a shortened program.

All three Series went right to Feature event action and were able to complete the required laps. Justin Woodske won the Dash for the Mini Stocks while Stephen Dardengo won the OTRA Dash. Matt Szauer shared the front row with Giles Parenteau in the Mini Stock Feature event and grabbed the lead on the first lap with Alex Mouner quickly jumping to the second spot with Justin Woodske pulling into third. On lap sixteen Jeremy Waksel moved into the third spot followed by thirteen year old Kale Woodske in his debut at Western Speedway. Szauer held off the charges from Mouner and took the chequered flag with Mouner, Waksel, Kale Woodske, and Gord Percival rounding out the top five positions.

Joe Dardengo and Kail Beck shared the front row in the OTRA Feature event with Dardengo getting the early advantage over Kail Beck and George “The Jet” Jenson after two laps. On lap three Jenson moved into second while Denis Morneau moved to third. This event provided some great racing between Jenson, Dardengo, Beck, and Stephen Dardengo with lots of challenges for position as well as the lead. On lap fourteen, Jenson spun out loosing several positions but causing no yellow, however, the yellow did come out on lap sixteen. On the restart, Dardengo grabbed the lead as the battle for the next positions included Dardengo, Tom Cinnamon, Kail Beck, and Denis Morneau. When the chequered flag dropped Stephen Dardengo got the win followed by Cinnamon, Joe Dardengo, Beck, and Morneau in the top five.
 

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Tom Cinnamon #39 races inside George Jenson

Rob Scott held the pole for the start of the Richlock Rentals non wing Sprint Car Feature event. He jumped into the lead on the first lap and before they could get around again Lance Wade and Jeff Bird got together bringing out the yellow. On the restart, Scott held the lead for seven laps until Deter Lejeune made the pass leaving Scott to battle with Chris Root and Matt Mansell. Once in the lead Lejeune checked out on the rest of the field while the race for the next positions heated up. Robbie Haslam and Chris Root were battling hard when both cars spun around bringing out the yellow. On the restart, Lejeune once again said “see ya” and took off leaving Scott, Mansell, and Jeff Bird, back in the mix, for the next positions and it would remain in that order for the chequered flag.

Saturday proved to be a better day weather wise and race wise as the sun was out, a bit breezy, and cool after the sun disappeared. A very talented Jenny Rhodes sang the National Anthem to start the run for the Strawberry Cup and watch as the racers began with Trophy Dashes, Heat races, a demonstration race with the Times-Colonist Go-Karts, and the Feature events for the night. Dash wins went to Ryan Flesh in the OTRA Series, Matt Szauer in the Mini Stock Division after a good tussle with Alex Mouner, Dave Reside in the Stock Cars and Chris Root in the non wing Sprint Cars. Heat races were taken by Joe Dardengo with OTRA by just inches over Tom Cinnamon, Jeremy Waksel in the Mini Stocks, Brian Clutchey and Cody Aumen in the Stock Car class, and Duane Zeinstra and Robbie Haslam in the Sprint Car Series.

Gord Percival led ten cars to the green flag in the SDL Bins I.M.S. 4 Mini Stocks twenty-five lap feature event. Matt Szauer grabbed the lead on the first lap but quickly had Alex Mouner take over the point on lap four. Szauer was left to deal with Sean Constantine and thirteen year old Kale Woodske for the remaining positions. Throughout this race Woodske and Constantine traded positions often as Mouner extended his lead and Szauer put some distance between himself and the third place position. Mouner cruised to the victory followed by Szauer, Kale Woodske as he won the battle for third, Jeremy Waksel, who jumped into fourth, with Constantine holding on for fifth in a very entertaining race.
 

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Matt Szauer #18 battles Alex Mouner in Mini Stock Series

Kail Beck and Ron Simpson shared the front row for the start of the OTRA Feature event and the first four laps Beck and James Miller took their turn upfront until George “The Jet” Jenson took over the lead. Joe Dardengo and Tom Cinnamon were coming forward in a hurry as they moved into contention in the early going. On lap nine Cinnamon took over the second spot and started to put pressure on Jenson in the lead. Cinnamon went to dart to the inside of Jenson and the door closed with Cinnamon spinning collecting Dardengo with Miller just missing the crash going into turn one. Both Cinnamon and Dardengo suffered enough damage to end their run. After the caution Jenson led but had Denis Morneau after him along with Ryan Flesh. Again there was a lot of side by side racing with Morneau and Flesh and at times, Morneau pulled up to run with Jenson. These three drivers traded places quite often over the next several laps. When the chequered flag dropped, Jenson managed to hang on for the win followed by Flesh, Stephen Dardengo, Kail Beck, and Morneau after he spun around in the late laps rounding out the top five positions in yet another great race.

Mike Derepentigny and Chris McInerny led twelve Stock Cars to the green flag with McInerny getting the edge on the first lap. Rory Smith moved up quickly to run second for four laps and then up to lead two laps later with Kerry Steen driving in the third position. Steen cut a tire and had to go to the pits after being in the thick of things early. Smith led until he seemed to have handling problems and began to drop back after fifteen laps when Clutchey went by and into the lead. Smith had to now contend with Dean Mackeney and Flyin’ Ryan Wade moving to third and fourth respectively. Wade and Mackeney waged a good battle for several laps as Clutchey started to build a good lead up front. Cody Aumen was making his way forward and worked into contention battling Smith, Wade, and Mackeney almost going three wide but thought better of it going into turn one. On lap twenty-three Aumen took over the second spot dropping Smith back to fourth while Daryl Crocker also moved up to challenge this group. The last thing Clutchey needed was a yellow flag late in the run but on lap twenty-eight Aumen slapped the back stretch wall bringing out the caution flag. On the restart, Clutchey now had Wade on his outside for the resumption of green flag racing with lots of time left. On lap twenty-nine Wade got just a bit loose coming around turn four and that allowed Crocker to take over the second spot. When the chequered flag dropped, Clutchey came away with the win followed by Crocker, Wade, Mackeney, and Smith rounding out the top five in a thirty-five lap event and the third great race of the night.
 

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Rory Smith #16 locks the brakes in Stock Car Series

Lance Wade and Robbie Haslam shared the front row with seventeen cars set for the chase for the Strawberry Cup with the Richlock Rentals Non Wing Sprint Car Series. Wade jumped to the early lead with Haslam running second and Rob Scott running in third. Wade built a good early over the next several laps as behind him Chris Root and Paul Verhagen were making up some distance toward the front along with Jeff Bird. By lap fourteen Bird moved into the fourth spot and took third one lap later until he moved to the second spot on lap seventeen. Behind him Scott, Haslam, and Root were still battling hard for positions. Bird continued to try and reel in Wade and on lap twenty-four made the move and got by Wade as he spun around on his own. Just after the restart one lap later the yellow came out again as a couple cars got together on the back stretch including Brian Bickford, Mark Stuart, and Paul Verhagen. Again on the restart, Bird got out to the lead on the green flag and went on to the win followed by Rob Scott, Chris Root, Robbie Haslam, and Deter Lejeune filling the top five positions that featured more thrilling racing. This marks the third time Jeff has won this prestigious event for Sprint Cars but his first in a wingless Sprint Car.
 

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Jeff Bird (left) was the winner of the Strawberry Cup on Saturday

The next event, at Western Speedway, is scheduled for Saturday, June 16 on $30 Car Load Night: O’Dell Slinger Service featuring another Keg Steakhouse & Bar Drivers Challenge with the Late Models (Twin 50’s), Stock Cars, Mini Stocks, and the Dwarf Cars.

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