Auto racers and fans were beyond eager to experience some high-octane fun in the lakecity Saturday night when Thunder Mountain Speedway hosted its first event at the local track in almost two years.
A large crowed gathered at TMS for its annual Fan Appreciation Night and return to the track, capped off with a chance for young race fans to hop inside a race car for a few laps around the track with an experienced driver.
Race classes included both bone stocks and street stocks, as drivers have been scrambling of late to get their cars ready for opening day since COVID-19 restrictions lifted enough for organizers to host an event and fans allowed to attend.
TMS vice-president Ken Waslen said volunteers had been working hard for the past few weeks getting the track up to speed, while track sweeping from Dawson Road Maintenance and grass cutting from Grassland Equipment Ltd. helped prepare the track and surrounding landscape for the return.
“It’s been a lot of crunching in the last couple weeks, but we had a good, core group of volunteers come out,” Ken said.
“I’ll tell you, all the racers were really impressed with the size of the crowd. It was excellent attendance.”
Drivers, meanwhile, were quick to resume past, friendly rivalries on the track where, in both contested divisions, qualifying laps, dashes, heats and 25-lap main events were raced.
In the bone stock main event it was 19-year-old driver Tristan Waslen of Riske Creek bringing home the checkered flag, edging out Allen Roberts in second place. Third went to Steve Panta, while Chrissie Gertzen finished fourth.
Tristan also posted the fast lap of the day with a 17.257-second time during the main event.
“He’s never been the fast lap of the day,” Ken said, who also happens to be Tristan’s dad and crew member. “After he ended up getting the fast time he was 10 feet in the air. Then, on top of it, to win the main, too, he was thrilled. It was an excellent race. He and Allen were back and forth there the whole time.”
The street stock main event saw Donny Kunka post a time of 7:28.747, along with the fast lap of the day at 17.257 seconds, to take first place.
Second went to Darren Lemkey, followed by the 2019 season points champion Tim Westwick in third, and Kane Fraser in fourth.
After the main events, TMS volunteers and organizers hosted a Mechanics Race, which turned out to be a special treat and crowd pleaser.
“It was a little extra to give the crowd something to watch at the end of the night,” Ken said. “Give them credit: everybody stayed after the street stock main and enjoyed it.”
In the mechanics race, each driver selected a member of their mechanic crew to drive their car.
Next up at TMS is the annual Memorial Race, slated for Saturday, Aug. 7 in Williams Lake, and Ken said it will be an all-class invitational.
“That means big money payouts for both street stocks and bone stocks, which will mean a higher car count and a bigger race for the fans,” Ken said.