After last summer’s wildfires put the brakes on the auto racing season in Williams Lake, local drivers can’t wait to put the pedal to the floor this weekend when Thunder Mountain Speedway hosts its season opener.
“We’ve got all sorts of guys building cars, getting their cars ready for this weekend,” said TMS volunteer, racer and Tri-City Race executive member Tim Westwick. “We’ve got a great bunch ready to turnout this year.”
That will happen this Saturday, May 26 at Thunder Mountain Speedway west of Williams Lake off Highway 20 when drivers in the bone stock mini, pro mini, street stock and, a new division this year, the sportsman class, put the rubber to the pavement for the first regular season points race.
“I’m excited to start to rebuild the sportsman class,” said Westwick, who will, meanwhile, be making a full return to the street stock division this season.
“There’s a few local guys who have sportsman cars. They’re trying to bring it back, and hopefully we can get more at every race meet.”
For those who’ve attended TMS racing in the past, the sportsman class cars are identical to those driven in the Wescar Late Model Touring Series — billed as B.C.’s premier late model racing series.
Williams Lake racers Kane Fraser and Donny Kunka will be the first two drivers to enter their names in the class this weekend.
“Kane’s built a new car, and he’ll be running both the street stock and the sportsman class, and Donny will be piloting the No. 3 Zimmer Wheaton BFGoodrich car,” Westwick said. “They’re both rookies to the class, so it should be pretty cool. They’re both excited about it.”
In the street stock division it will be Westwick, last year’s runner up Darren Lemky, sophomore Garnett Schiller, veterans Garnett Grimard, Arnie Kunka and Donny Kunka, plus Fraser, Carson Fisher and Corey Price.
The bone stock mini class, meanwhile, has grown to be a big one, Westwick said.
“There will be a bunch of new racers this year,” he said.
“Third generation racer Damian Fisher — he’ll be out there, Jesse Fisher, his dad, he’ll be racing, too. Then there’s a young fellow, Evan Grant, and his father and brother out of 100 Mile — they have three cars they’re bringing and he’s really excited to get going.”
After the racing season was cut short due to the wildfires of 2017, Westwick said everyone’s chomping at the bit to get rolling.
“The weather is looking great, and we’re ready to kick things off up here.”
New this year, in conjunction with the Gold Pan Speedway in Quesnel, TMS will play host to the Doug ‘Logger’ Larson Memorial West Coast Vintage Race.
“Bruce Bentley of Quesnel had worked really hard to come up with this race, all the sponsors, and all that but had to cancel it last year because of the fires,” Westwick said, noting that event will take place Friday, Aug. 10 at TMS.
“We’re really excited for that event. It’s supposed to be packed with just over 20 cars, and we’ve heard nothing but great things.”
The Wescar Late Model Touring Series will also make a stop in Williams Lake for the TMS Memorial Race on Aug. 25 — also the day of the TMS Sportsman Invitational.
Then, of course, Stampede Racing at TMS is a popular destination for fans when track officials host a weekend filled with racing. Friday, June 30 will feature the popular Hit to Pass, Smoke Show and King of the Hill, while Saturday, July 1 will be the Tri-City Street Stock Race where drivers from Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George square off for supremacy.
“Arnie Kunka will be looking to defend his [Tri-City] title,” Westwick said, adding he’ll also be competing there, as well.
“We’re all just excited. There’s a great year full of racing ahead, especially after all the hard work and the hardship everyone went through last year. We’re all looking forward to getting out.”
At this Saturday’s season opener, pit gates open at 1 p.m., the spectator gate opens at 3 p.m., qualifying laps start at 5 p.m. and racing is slated to get underway at 6 p.m.
The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Children under 12 are free.