Victory lap

John Toppazini (23) leads Riley Matthews (9) during action in the A-modifieds division in May at Thunder City Speedway. The speedway will be front and centre this weekend with the Thunder Bay Truck Centre Dirt Nationals starting Friday.

Thunder City Speedway puts the wrap on their first season of racing with the 9th annual Thunder Bay Truck Dirt Track Nationals this weekend.

It’s the budding speedway’s marquee event of the year with $70,000 in total prize money up for grabs. The three-day event features all five classes of racers at the track. Racers start with a clean slate every day.

Friday’s activities begin at 7 p.m., Saturday’s start is 3 p.m., and Sunday’s matinee revs up at 2 p.m. Fireworks follow the racing Saturday night. The weather forecast calls for light rain Saturday and Sunday, but otherwise raceable weather.

Prize money climbs each successive day, topping out at $2,500 for A-mods on Sunday.

“It’s a good payday all the way back,” said track manager Rick Simpson. “They’re complete shows. You have three days to show us your stuff.”

John Toppozini, who captured the A-Mod points title during the regular season, is back to hopefully cash in one more time.

“We got the championship up here at the track. That was kind of our main goal this year going into the season. Let’s get a few wins. It was a lot of work,” said Toppozini.

Once Toppozini had the points title under control the racing strategy changed.

“If we had to make a risky decision to pick up a spot, you may just want to hang on to second or third,” he said. “There were a few times that I could have tried something, but it’s a bit of a risk. We need the points more than anything.”

Toppozini is following in the footsteps of his father, who used to travel to the United States for races. Those trips as a youngster planted the seed that sprouted into a career for Toppozini, who is now 36.

The A-Mod has a four-link suspension which affords more adjustability and traction.

“We’re also making 620 to 630 horsepower. A B-Mod is about 400,” said Toppozini.

B-Mod racers outnumber A-Mod racers at Thunder City at a nearly five to one ratio.

Plenty of local racers venture south to race in the upper midwest. A few American racers venture north to check out Thunder City as its reputation grows in the WISSOTA loop.

Thunder City is no slouch as a race track.

“Out of all the tracks we go to in the States this is a top notch facility. The hard work they’ve put in, everyone’s put in is awesome,” said Toppozini. “The fan turnout is absolutely crazy. . . . You don’t see that even down there, even on a special show, you rarely see anything like that.”

With the points title decided, Toppozini has shifted into another gear for the weekend.

“Now that the points are done we’re going for the win, at least once this weekend, that’s kind of the goal. Don’t care. Balls to wall. Let’s get her done.”

Kevin Monteith brings 40 years of experience to the track. His son Kyle also races in the B-Mod category. Kevin’s son-in-law, David Simpson, is tearing up the track.

“I tried to retire once when the Mosquito (Speedway) days were going but that only lasted the winter,” said the 58-year-old Monteith. “Then I had to go back to racing. Once you get started it’s pretty hard to quit. And it’s all the people you meet. It’s a pretty good sport to get into. Expensive but good.”

Kyle Monteith, 31, is relatively new to racing. He’s been helping dad on his race cars since he could walk. He also races in the B-Mod category. The track has taken time to settle in.

“The track started off rough,” noted Monteith. “It was a pretty hard go. It’s under pretty good control now. It’s turning into a really nice track. The facility is awesome. It’s one of the best ones around. That includes the ones in the States that have been going for 50 years. It’s top of the line that way.”

Simpson has no handle on who will be racing this weekend. Drivers are not required to pre-register. There is no driver limit.

There are 700 cars registered with WISSOTA and Thunder Bay has two of the top three drivers in the field in David Simpson and Cole Chernosky.

Simpson has recorded 13 wins, 38 top-fives and 46 top-10 finishes in 63 races this year, while Chernosky has 21 wins, 45 top-fives and 53 top 10s in 60 races. according to the My Race Pass website.

Attendance has been phenomenal this year, as evidenced by the huge 50/50 jackpots at times exceeding $6,000 in support of Our Kids Count and the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Centre. The stands are packed and the parking lot is brimming.

“It’s unbelievable the support we had from all the sponsors, the fan base we’ve gained over the year and the drivers,” said Simpson. “Every one of those drivers for the amount of hard work they’ve put in every week. They are the show.”

Thunder City has just signed on to have their event live streamed to feed the demand of fans that can’t make it out to the track or out-of-town followers.

“Good thing for all our American neighbours watch the races if they can’t come,” noted Rick Simpson.

“We’ve put a good foot print with the community and it’s only going to get better for next year,” said Simpson. “Especially having all the great sponsors we have. The majority of them, if not all, are coming back.”

All indications are the fans will be, too.