KENNEDY AND GRUNDBERG SCORE SEASON OPENING WINS
OKOTOKS, AB – Darlington Raceway in South Carolina is often called the track too tough to tame. Canada’s dirt track version could easily be Rocky Mountain Raceway Park just outside of Okotoks, Alberta. The Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series kicked off its 2008 season at the Southern Alberta race track over the Victoria Day long weekend. “Two extremely tough nights for race teams,” says NPP Series announcer Gord Craig, “not too many cars came away without scrapes or body damage.” Track conditions changed frequently both nights. “It caught a lot of drivers off guard,” adds Craig, “even veteran drivers found themselves looking the wrong way down the track on occasion.”
Saturday night was the first time many NPP drivers had been on a racetrack since September of last year. “Other than the ‘A’ Dash, there was very little flow to the race Saturday night. I think the winter cobwebs were quite obvious. Sunday’s race though was completely the opposite. It was probably one of the most entertaining and unpredictable races in a very long time.” As some NPP Series teams struggled with race car handling, others adapted quickly to the new car ‘set-up’ rules which were implemented during the off-season. Sidney British Columbia’s Darrell Midgley, Stony Plain Alberta’s Mike Tom and Whitecourt Alberta’s Kevin Wheeler won both the Saturday and Sunday sessions of Heat races. A familiar name graced victory lane Saturday night. Dwight Kennedy drove his NPP/Lucas Oil sponsored #81 Dodge to victory lane. “You can’t win a race on the first lap,” says Kennedy, “patience is a virtue at this track.” Kennedy was referring to numerous spins during the Feature event. Whitecourt’s Paul Grundberg placed second and Edson’s Ken Clark finished third.
Sundays Feature was one of the wildest race events in years. At times it appeared that no one wanted to be in first place. Defending season champion Jason Beaulieu had pole position. The Campbell River BC driver and his All Weather Windows sponsored #46 Dodge would be sent to the back of the pack as he spun on the very first lap after being tapped from behind. Paul Grundberg would then lead for ten laps before he too spun out. Grundberg would be sent to the back of the pack. Beaulieu, Grundberg and Kevin Clark, who was sent to the back for an early race spin, would all make hard charges to the front. With Midgley the new race leader, Mike Tom and Dwight Kennedy would challenge the BC driver for a-half dozen laps until Kennedy’s hood would fly up ending his run. Enter Jason Beaulieu, Kevin Clark and Paul Grundberg, who fought their way from the back of the pack into the top 5. With six laps remaining Mike Tom would take over the race lead from Midgley. Tom however would spin two laps later collecting both Midgley and Beaulieu. With three cars stopped on the track, Kevin Clark would be handed the race lead. History would appear to be on Clark’s side this night. The driver of the Clark Construction #5 Dodge won his first ever Feature race at Rocky Mountain Raceway Park last season. In a cruel twist of fate, Clark would be the fourth driver of the night to spin while leading the Feature. “I changed my driving line,” says the Altario, Alberta driver, “I made it from the back of the pack to the front running the high line. I decided to move to the middle of the track for the remaining laps. I just lost it that’s all. I can’t really say any more than that.” With Clark’s misfortune, last years rookie of the year would find himself leading the Feature for the second time and would grab his first ever NPP Late Model Feature event in his Carlan Services #12 Pontiac. “There was no chance I was going to give away the lead twice,” says Grundberg, “we had a pretty good weekend here, the car is in pretty good shape. We’ll dust it off and prepare for the next race in Lethbridge.” Sherwood Parks Curtis Moore would finish second and rookie driver Travis Day from Whitecourt would finish third.