By Sean Trembath, The StarPhoenix June 25, 2012
Driver accepts wager, almost pulls off miracle victory for jackpot
Race fans were treated to a fantastic finish Saturday at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon during the Interstate Battery 150, the first race of this year's Dakota Dunes Casino Western Canadian Super Late Model Championship Series.
In a race series sponsored by a casino, one racer was offered and accepted a huge gamble and came painfully close to hitting the jackpot before Lady Luck tore it away.
The story started before the green flag dropped on the evening's feature super late model race. After qualifying, drivers Greg VanGool and Jamie McClennon earned spots at the front of the pack for the feature. During the evening's intermission the two men were offered a gamble: If they were willing to start at the very back of the race and managed to win it all, they would receive an extra $1,000 from the event's sponsors.
Both men found the offer too good to resist, and started behind all of their competitors with 150 laps to make their way to the front and capture the checkered flag and a hefty bonus.
Early on, the gamble was forgotten, as four cars got tangled in a crash only three laps in. The No. 67 car, piloted by Ken Ross, ran into PJ Kondra's No. 69, and eventually the outside wall. In the ensuing wreck there was damage done to Trent Seidel's No. 70 and the No. 8 car of Kelly Admiraal.
Then with 76 of the 150 laps to go, Greg Adams' No. 54 glanced off Greg VanGool's No. 17 on the front stretch, skidded out of control and hit the inside cement barrier hard, mangling Adams' front end and leaving the crowd with its collective breath held. Luckily, Adams was announced to be just fine after a check from the track paramedics, although the same couldn't be said for his ride.
By the time the race was restarted after that wreck, VanGool had worked his way up to fifth, and the $1,000 bonus was starting to look like a possibility. After pulling into third with 55 laps to go, he executed a great double pass with 47 to go to take the lead.
Once ahead, VanGool looked like he would not be caught, holding off Glen Hertzke in his No. 14 car time and time again. As the scoreboard's lap counter ticked down into single digits, it looked like he would be cashing the cheque.
It was not to be. With only three laps remaining, VanGool and Hertzke had to manoeuvre around car 00, piloted by Tony Lambert near the back of the pack. Coming out of turn four, Lambert lost control and skidded into VanGool, who in turn spun into Hertzke. With the caution up, it looked like VanGool would be given his spot at the front back, but during the accident one of his tires went flat, sending him to the pit and, as a result, back several spots.
That meant Hertzke was up front with only three laps to go. He held on and took the checkered flag. Although he has been track champion three times in the past, Hertzke has never won one of the 150-lap Dakota Dunes events, which are the most prestigious in Saskatoon for local racers.
"It's my career highlight right now. I can't think of anything better," he said.
After being in second behind VanGool for so long, getting into a late crash and not knowing what sort of placement he would have coming out of it produced a roller coaster of emotions.
"It's a total high, then a total low, then all of a sudden a total high again. It was up, and down, and all over," said Hertzke.
For VanGool, the incident was quite the opposite.
"It's just horrible. We had it in the bag, three laps left and then that guy went sideways. I almost missed him I thought," he said.
Even though he was spinning out of control in a speeding car, he kept a racer's mentality throughout, with only one thing on his mind.
"Just the race, not safety. He didn't hit me that hard. I wasn't going into the wall at 100 miles an hour anyway," said VanGool.
In earlier action, 18yearold Dexter Hucul of Edmonton won the Mac's Froster 50 in the legends division. Having broken his hand just a week earlier, Hucul had to take drastic measures to compete, getting a member of his crew to cut his cast off with a power tool Saturday morning.
Already leading the legends points race, there was no way Hucul would let an injury keep him away from Saskatoon.
"This is the biggest and fastest track we go to. It's personally my favourite one to be at," he said.
Hucul led the race from wire to wire. Having started racing karts at only eight years old, his whole life revolves around the sport.
In the evening's other two feature races, Aaron Anderson won the street stock division in his No. 19, while Kevin Dyck drove his No. 10 car to the mini stock victory.
The next event at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway will be July 7, with action in the western elite, pro truck, thunder stock, and super late model divisions.