But there was racing. Lots of racing.
Altogether, there are five—count’em, five—series running through Lakeshore Blvd. and the surrounding area; the top brass IZOD IndyCar series, the NASCAR Canadian Tire stock car series, Firestone Indy Lights, Canadian Touring Car Championship and the Ferrari Challenge. Friday was practice day for all five, and qualifying day for both NASCAR and CTCC—the Ferraris, Indy Lights and IZOD cars are scheduled to qualify tomorrow, starting with the Ferraris at 10:20.
Carpages.ca, meanwhile, has a special investment in the Canadian Tire series. For the first time, we will be sponsoring a car at the event: Car #56, a Dodge Avenger stocker driven by Howie Scannel, Jr. and owned by Jim Bray of Jim Bray Autosport in Brantford.
The Canadian Tire Series is technically the support race of the main IZOD IndyCar event, but make no mistake; these are full-blown racers from the ground up. They use the same tires that teams in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series do, they spit fire out of side-exit exhaust pipes when they slow and downshift for corners, and they push a healthy 550 horsepower. And they’re loud.
Naturally, we are excited about seeing our logo hurtling through the tight confines of the Toronto Indy track—see for yourself live at 2:30 PM on Saturday (well, 2:36 to be exact), or in HD on TSN and TSN2.
Here’s a quick rundown of a few choice members of car #56′s team:
Jim Bray, 77, has been in racing since the tender age of 19, when even NASCAR itself was barely 20 years off of being a haven for former prohibition-era rum-runners–cowboys that had fast cars and nothing to do with them.
He and his Ford Galaxie Starliner racer were on the grid when the first stock car race ever happened at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, about an hour northeast of Toronto just past Whitby, in 1962. He would eventually follow that up with a run on a much bigger stage. Well, the biggest, actually: the 1964 Daytona 500 (he had raced there in 1963 as well, but in a supporting race as opposed to the main event) which, to this day, remains the flagship stop on the NASCAR circuit and one of the most widely-viewed races the world over. It’s an event he remembers fondly.
“I can close my eyes and punch a stopwatch in my hand,” he says, “and picture myself going around the racetrack. I punch the stopwatch again, and I’d be within two-tenths of the time I actually ran.
“That’s how much you concentrate. It’s like when you get your first solo flight as a pilot; a bomb could go off behind you and you wouldn’t hear it, you’re concentrating so hard.”
Since then, he has covered a lot of ground on North American race circuits, from Richmond, Virginia–where he raced his first NASCAR race–to Daytona to Dover, Delaware where he raced his last.
“I was in the first NASCAR race at Pocono in ’74, and the first road course (as opposed to closed oval) race in Augusta, Georgia.” He has since been inducted into the Augusta International Speedway hall of fame. But through all this, Bray remains modest, saying “we did a lot of interesting things in a mediocre way, put it that way.”
To which I say “baloney”; for a Canadian to have made it to the bright lights of NASCAR’s courses, always a stomping ground for the U.S.A.’s “Good Ol’ Boys” from down south, is an achievement in itself, whether you finished 1st or 31st.
Howie Scannell, Jr. has been racing stock cars since the Canadian Tire Series was called CASCAR, which it was up until five years ago. He ran fairly well today, but wasn’t all that pleased in the end with his qualifying result, which placed him 11th overall. That’s no small feat, considering the grid is 33 cars strong, but it actually ended up being slower than his practice runs, where he finished 9th fastest overall.
And that simply ain’t gonna cut it.
“We made a few adjustments (after practice) that didn’t quite work out,” he said. “The car got really loose, but with a few quick adjustments, we will be fine (for tomorrow’s race).”
Regardless of the end result, Howie is happy to be here, if his exit from the paddock before the practice session, wheels a-spinnin’, tire smoke a-billowin’ and engine a-gunnin’ is any indication.
Racing is truly a family affair in the Scannell household; his father, Howie Sr., was a career racer and Howie’s son, Matt, 14, is a budding racer himself.
He races in Karting races throughout Ontario. But dont’ kid yourself; these aren’t the things you’ll find at the Speed City Raceway at Canada’s Wonderland; his is a 150 cc monster-kart, and he shares the track with over 20 other opponents.
And from what he tells, the competition gets, well…
He recalls a race where an overzealous opponent tried to get by him by braking late into a turn: “We don’t have rear-view mirrors on our cars,” he said. “So I couldn’t see him coming. He hit me so hard that he flew right over top of me, and tore off my front end. I still have the helmet with a tire mark on it.”
Matt is excited because in Ontario, as crazy as it sounds, you can race cars on the track before you can drive them on the road, at the age of 15.
Which means, we could, theoretically, see Matt in a full-blown race car as early as next year…
Stay tuned for our coverage of Saturday’s and Sunday’s events.