CLARK WINS OILMENS/WHEELER GRABS CHAMPIONSHIP
KINDERSLEY, SK. – Kevin Wheeler won his first ever Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series Championship in dramatic fashion on the September long weekend. “I may need a few days because it really hasn’t sunk in yet that we’ve won this!” Heading into the inaugural two-day race weekend at Flatlanders Speedway, the Whitecourt, Alberta driver was tied for second in the NPP Series standings with Edson, Alberta’s Dwight Kennedy. Wheeler and Kennedy were only 43 points behind leader Chris Beaulieu. Edson’s Darin Borysko was third in the NPP Series Championship standings just 26 points behind Wheeler and Kennedy. Wheeler, Kennedy and Borysko would all lose ground to the point leader with their finishing positions in Saturday’s two Qualifying Heats. Dean Deatherage and Kevin Clark won both Heats. Wheeler however would win the ‘A’ Dash securing the pole position for the Saturday night Feature. Unfortunately for NPP Series teams and race fans, a nasty summer storm system developed just west of the facility. No rain fell at the track site but 90 kilometer per hour winds would blast the facility forcing a delay of the Saturday night Feature by more than 30 minutes. When the hurricane force winds began to subside (gusts reduced to 40kph), NPP Series teams hit the unique tri-oval track for their first Feature event of the weekend.
At the drop of the green Kevin Wheeler took advantage of the pole position and stormed out to the race lead and dominated the entire race. Wheeler drove the Bill Wiens Trucking/KW Mechanical #3 Dodge to his first NPP Series Feature win since September 1, 2008. “It took a while to figure out this track,” exclaimed Wheeler, “I think we got it. The number three wins on the tri-oval.” Darin Borysko finished second and Beaulieu finished third. Beaulieu still had the NPP Series point lead after Saturday nights Feature but a look of concern was etched on his face in the pits after the race. “Something is a little off with the engine but we’ll be okay for Sunday.” With his Feature win, Wheeler chopped the points gap with Beaulieu to 23 with just one race to go in the 2012 season. Kennedy dropped to fourth in the NPP Championship points chase after a ninth place finish in the Saturday night Feature. Borysko remained in third.
Windy, overcast conditions and much cooler temperatures greeted race fans and NPP Series teams at Flatlanders Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The 2012 NPP Series Championship would be decided. It was also the 19th running of the Oilmen’ Classic. Any concern regarding Chris Beaulieu’s engine all but disappeared in Qualifying Heat #1 as the point leader moved from sixth up to second on the very first lap. Sidney, British Columbia’s Darrell Midgley drove to his first NPP Series Heat race win since August of 2009. Kevin Clark got by Beaulieu just before the finish line in the Heat race but the two drivers came together underneath the flag stand. Beaulieu careened off Clark’s car into the steel guardrail. Beaulieu was credited with second as Clark was penalized two positions by race officials.
Qualifying Heat #2 had four different race leaders. Curtis Moore and Dwight Kennedy would spin while leading. Kevin Wheeler took over the race lead from Jeff Grundberg on the white flag lap and drove to victory. This was Wheelers third Qualifying Heat race win of the season. The win secured a spot in the all important and final ‘A’ Dash of the 2012 season.
Darrell Midgley continued his strong weekend in Saskatchewan by winning the ‘A’ Dash with Wheeler a close second. Beaulieu finished 5th after a late race spin. Moments after the conclusion of the ‘A’ Dash came word out of the NPP Series pits regarding engine problems for Beaulieu’s #90 Dodge. “We’re done,” exclaimed a disappointed Beaulieu, “no oil pressure at all. It [the engine] may last for one or two laps but that’s it. It’s game over.” With Beaulieu out of the running, Wheeler needed to finish 8th or better to clinch the 2012 NPP Series championship. Borysko and Kennedy still had an outside chance at winning the 2012 Season crown. Darrell Midgley lead 11 laps of the Feature before a left front tire went down. Kevin Clark got by a slowing Midgley and led the rest of the way.
The Altario, Alberta driver registered his second Feature event win of the 2012 season and won the Oilmen’s Classic for the first time. Wheeler finished the Feature in third giving him the points needed to clinch the 2012 Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series Championship. “We’ve been consistent all year long. We got it together [Saturday night] and pulled off a Feature win. Four years to the date was pretty neat. We survived some carnage today [Sunday] and pulled out a third place.” Wheeler had an average Feature finish of 3.8 in 2012 (2.75 the last four races). “It was real tough luck on Chris losing his motor. We’ve had our share of tough luck over the years but that’s racing.” Wheeler blew his motor at the 2011 Season Championship weekend in Lethbridge. “This is definitely a hard Series and we finally got to the top.” Darin Borysko finished Sunday’s Oilmen’s Feature in 7th and wrapped up his season just 8 points ahead of two-time NPP Series Champion Dwight Kennedy in the standings. Kennedy finished the Oilmen’s Classic in fifth. New Sarepta Alberta’s Mike Dunn won the NPP Series Rookie of the Year honors.