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Le Mans, Pinty’s Series and VARAC Father’s Day Festival at CTMP are highlights of weekend racing

Written by Norris McDonald

Photo Caption: Brian Redman is seen at the wheel of his Formula 5000 racing car at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park) in June, 1975. He is this weekend’s Vintage Auto Racing Association of Canada Grand Marshall. Photo Credit: Don Markle

There used to be a T-shirt around that had a very crude message written across the front of it. It said:

“If you ain’t a sprint car fan, then you ain’t – – – – .”

I will leave it to your imagination what word fits – – – – but I am going to update that expression today by saying that if you aren’t an auto racing fan, then you ain’t – – – – because this is shaping up to be one of the great weekends, both internationally and locally.

We have the 24 Hours of Le Mans starting Saturday and running till Sunday afternoon and that takes care of things international. Locally, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series will be racing Saturday night at Jukasa Speedway and – all weekend, but particularly Sunday – the VARAC Formula 5000 reunion at Mosport will be held featuring three-time F5000 champion – and one-time Formula One driver – Brian Redman as Grand Marshall.

And there is all sorts of other racing taking place at GTA-area speedways too. I urge you to check out what’s taking place by going to your favourite race track’s website and seeing what’s going on.

One of the more interesting things to happen in sports car racing this season is the return  of Roger Penske, whose brand-new Acura racing team is anchored by former full-time Indy car star Helio Castroneves. While southern Ontario racing fans can look forward to seeing Castroneves and The Captain in action at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July, they won’t be racing this weekend at Le Mans because of a situation that is all-too-familiar.

The World Endurance Championship and the IMSA haven’t been able to come to an agreement over the rules and regulations governing the LMP1 and LMP2 classes. Much like the Champ Car-IRL war ripped apart Indy car racing, the WEC-IMSA standoff is dividing fans and robbing them of the opportunity to see the best cars, the best teams and the best drivers going up against each other in classic races like Le Mans.

That doesn’t mean some non-prototype teams from the IMSA haven’t entered Le Mans , because they have, but not in any great numbers. And many of the drivers are independent contractors and free to do whatever, so a half-dozen or so are in France to race this weekend.

But Castroneves at the wheel of a Penske Racing Acura in the LMP2 class? Forget it, for the time being.

Many of us have been fortunate in recent years to have been able to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans because it was televised on Fox Sports Racing. This year, it is on the Velocity Channel and that is owned by Bell. So Bell and Shaw subscribers will get to watch the marathon this weekend but Rogers Cable customers will not, as Rogers doesn’t carry Velocity.

If you really have to watch it, and you can’t get it because your cable company doesn’t carry it, I suggest you go to IMSA.com and hope for the best. It’s possible it will be streamed – but don’t count on it.

Hopefully, and I mean this sincerely, the cable companies and the satellite companies will stop playing their stupid little games and we will all be able to get Velocity (sports cars), Fox Sports Racing (motocross, NASCAR trucks, sports cars and NHRA drag racing) and MAVTV Canada (short track and off-road) in addition to TSN NASCAR Cup and Xfinity) and Sportsnet (IndyCar). Cross fingers that this meeting of the minds comes soon.

Okay, here are some previews of the other racing going on this weekend, courtesy of the PR people employed by the tracks.

At Jukasa Motor Speedway (formerly Cayuga Speedway) just outside Hagersville, Ont., the NASCAR Pinty’s Series regular will race in the Rankin Construction 200 this Saturday.

The national tour will headline an action-packed card that will also feature the wildly popular OSCAAR Modified Tour and the OSCAAR Hot Rod Series.

“We finished our 2017 season with a huge show and a lot of momentum and our goal is absolutely to keep that going and deliver the kind of weekend our fans have come to expect from us,” said Jukasa promoter Alex Nagy.

“The [NASCAR] Pinty’s Series has some of the best side-by-side racing you could ever ask for and the OSCAAR Modifieds and Hot Rods have had the entire province buzzing already this season.”

In the Pinty’s Series’ most recent Jukasa appearance, Quebec heavyweight Donald Theetge was one corner away from victory before ultimately settling for a runner-up finish. This Saturday, Theetge will be in the field alongside perennial contender Andrew Ranger, multi-time series winner Kevin Lacroix, D.J Kennington, who raced in the Daytona 500 in February, and a bevy of other front-runners like Alex Tagliani, all eager to add a Jukasa Motor Speedway triumph to their resumes.

“It’s impossible to point to just one driver to keep an eye on this Saturday,” noted Nagy.

“I know that our fans are in for a treat as soon as the field hits the grid this weekend. This is the perfect time to be a Pinty’s Series fan because there’s so much excitement around the roster and what the season has in store. The drivers had a fantastic race at [Canadian Tire Motorsport Park] in May and I’m positive they’ll be bringing that same energy to Jukasa for Round 2.”

In addition to the top-shelf action on track (and it’s rumoured that sprint car ace Glenn Styres will be taking the place of Mark Dilly in his stock car, which might very well be the price of admission), Jukasa and Pinty’s Delicious Foods have also joined together to host a wing-eating competition at the start-finish line prior to the 200-lap NASCAR Pinty’s Series race. For more information, including gate times and ticket sales, visit www.JukasaMotorSpeedway.com.

Meantime, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park north of Bowmanville, Ont., a special treat for dads is being planned for Sunday, Father’s Day: a chance to see beautifully restored cars from the past 50-plus years of motorsports racing on CTMP’s legendary Grand Prix circuit. The VARAC (Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada) Vintage Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is being held this weekend.

The feature race of the weekend is the Formula 5000 Revival Series, which brings the popular open wheel class launched in 1968, back to one of its iconic circuits to mark the championship’s 50th anniversary.

Grand Marshal will be three-time Formula 5000 champion and ex-1970s Formula One driver Brian Redman. Redman’s four-decade career also includes victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

I will interview him in a Fireside Chat at lunch on Sunday in the CTMP Event Centre.

The weekend will also include beautifully-restored open wheel formula cars, GT muscle cars, MGs and Triumphs. A full schedule of off-track activities is planned including the ‘Legends of Mosport Drivers’ meet and greet.

Weekend Super Tickets are available online for purchase starting at $30. Children 16 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit canadiantiremotorsportpark.com or call the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Hotline at 1-800-866-1072 or email info@ctmpark.com.

NOTES FROM AROUND THE SPORT

Sportscar365.com’s John Dagys reports that Toronto’s Paul Dela Lana has served notice that he will enter Aston Martin’s new-generation Vantage in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Wrote Dagys:

“The Canadian, who currently races the previous-generation Aston Martin Vantage GTE in the FIA World Endurance Championship, confirmed the first order of the new car, which will be offered in GTE and GT3 specifications.

“The twin-turbocharged V8-powered Vantage made its competition debut in last month’s WEC season-opener at Spa and is running exclusively in GTE-Pro this year, prior to planned customer sales in 2019.”

Ohsweken Speedway, on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, is gearing up for another evening tonight of Friday Night Excitement when Burger Barn presents Wall of Fame night in support of the Canadian National Autism Foundation.

Ohsweken Speedway’s Wall of Fame will welcome five new members, including Fred Carleton, Keith Dempster, Kelly Hallett, and Ken and Cheryl Pelkie. Meantime, the Action Sprint Tour powered by RaceRivalz.com is gearing up for its debut appearance at Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne, Ont. on Sunday for a special Father’s Day meet. The race will mark the fourth event of the upstart tour’s inaugural season.

The annual Canada Day weekend Nitro Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park (Cayuga) has got a special Father’s Day promotion going. From now until Sunday, you can purchase the following tickets in advance for big savings:

Friday Adult Admission: $15 (regular $20)

Saturday Adult Admission: $55 (regular $60)

Sunday Adult Admission: $40 (regular $50)

3-day Weekend Pass: $90 (regular $100)

General Camping $25 per person (regular $30) Note: 3-Day Pass must also be purchased for each camper.

Oh, and you can get a free 2018 Event T-shirt for orders of $200, or more.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca