Rarin' to go

Shawn Polonoski, left, and his son Austin watch action at last week’s Thunder Bay Truck Centre Dirt Nationals at Dairy Queen Speedway.

There are just some columns where there is not enough room to fit everything that needs to be said. This would be one of those times.

There were chills, thrills and spills at last week’s Thunder Bay Truck Centre Dirt Track Nationals. To say the official opening of Dairy Queen Speedway was a success would be an understatement.

Kenny Simpson, the uncle of Ricky and Scotty, arrived from across Ontario to see what exactly his nephews had been up to. He was left smiling at the end.

“I am so very proud of what they have done for racing in this city. It all started when Scott’s son Davey asked the Hari family to use the track and look what has happened,” Kenny says. “I mean I am just so very proud of them and the hard work they do to put these events on. I am glad they kept racing alive.”

The elder Simpson could wheel a race car with the best of them at Riverview and he loved what he witnessed at the new track. Not sure where the Simpson race bug started, but it may have been with uncle Kenny. These days, Kenny is a semi-retired turkey farmer who drives truck now.

Brian Tulloch, a retired Air Canada pilot and late model driver at Riverview, was in town to meet with friends, family, fans and drivers. I noticed some race fans recognized him at the track. He was also pleased with the weekend.

“This is a fantastic facility. Thunder Bay is a racing town. It is so nice to have a home track again. It is also so nice to see family and friends together again. It is really nice to see all these fans in the stands,” he says.

Brian has a son, Adam Tulloch, who is on the radar for the big leagues in pitching. He is a left hander with a fastball over 92 m.p.h. Adam, 21, had offers from the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates but decided to go back to college at Arizona State and improve his game. He’s clearly a name to keep an eye on.

Longtime race supporter Ron Porichuk made a place in his home for fellow fans from Grand Marais, Minn. They got vaccinated and took COVID-19 tests to make sure they were safe to attend the race.

“David Beckwith says we always used to come up to Riverview and we will be back with friends. It is great to see racing back here,” Ron says. “Look at the fans. It is a racing community. We used to watch (Joel) Cryderman and (Tom) Nesbitt. We are cheering for the Monteiths too. I think they are going to need more seats.”

Beckwith came up with his nephew John Smith.

“We travel to some tracks to watch dirt track racing. We like Hibbing, Proctor and Ashland. We like the Red Clay Classic. We will be back,” he says. “This is a really nice track. We like the racing and we are good friends with Chops (Ron Porichuck). We always crossed the boarder and we hope it opens soon so you guys can visit us again, too.”

Mario Costa is older than me and he has been around racing since he was seven years old. The debut of the new track was a success, he says. “It was a 10 out of 10. I went an hour early Friday and two hours early Saturday and Sunday,” Mario says. “Brought a few friends who have never been and they are hooked. Beautiful facility and awesome track. Once they fine tune the track it will be even better. Add some late models and sprints and it will be perfect. Thunder Bay will once again be on the map for dirt track racing.”

Linda Schutte, the widow of track founder and former racer Richard Schutte (who passed away before the completion of the track) and daughter Lynn both told me the Dairy Queen Speedway has exceeded Richard’s dream and he would be very happy with the way the opening weekend turned out.

The racers put on a fantastic show. The biggest hit was victory lane. A roadway directly fenced off in front of the fans on the front stretch that allows racers to celebrate and talk to the fans.

Those celebrations and interviews showed the true passion for the sport. Truly, an epic experience.

The biggest cheque of the weekend went to the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Association. Impressive sales of 50/50 tickets brought in $11,961.50 to a very good cause. All the volunteers were awesome.

Johan Vass is a Thunder Bay-based writer. Reach her at jvass@tbaytel.net.