It was a night of firsts at the Emo Speedway last Saturday for feature winners Kenny Perry Jr. (mini-sprints) and Ron Westover (street stock).
Perry, in his rookie season on the local stock car racing circuit, captured his first feature win while Westover capped off the debut of his refurbished Chevy with the checkered flag.
Of course, if you’re modified feature winner Steve Arpin, then it was just another Saturday night at the Emo oval.
The 17-year-old took his seventh-straight checkered flag after rallying late to catch Rod Angus in the feature. Arpin caught the rest of the drivers early before having trouble overtaking Angus between the 10th and 17th laps of the 20-lap race.
The win also saw Arpin extend his overall lead over Gavin Paull to 14 points (410-396) since passing him two weekends ago.
Racing fans were reminded by the announcer that the bounty on Arpin’s head had ballooned to $500. This incentive for the other drivers seemed to spur the crowd in Angus’ favour as the number of remaining laps lessened.
But the last three saw Arpin squeak out a lead for a car-length win.
“Rod was really fast,” said Arpin. “He made me really work tonight. That was hard.”
Angus, who had come in second in the first heat to Phil Gavel, said just trying to hang on and win the race was on his mind—moreso than the bounty.
“It was a good race for the crowd,” he remarked. “He just outdrove me and that was it. I gave it all I had.”
Some rain had fallen on the track in the early afternoon, leaving Arpin, who had won the second heat, to say the additional watering made some of the corners hard to control—something he thinks might have spelled Angus’ faltering near the finsh line.
“The track was awesome. There was a lot of sand coming out of [corners] one and two that made it tough,” he said. “That’s what happened to Rod, the sand started to come up and he lost his way a bit.”
Long winning streaks are nothing new at the Emo Speedway. Mark Kangas, last season’s street stock champion, won all but one of the features he drove in.
Angus admitted he couldn’t remember the last time a modified driver had the kind of consistent success Arpin is having in the 14 years he’s raced in Emo.
“He’s approaching some kind of record,” he said. “I don’t even think his dad [Chuck Arpin Sr.] won that many in row.”
Yet if he had his way, Arpin would prefer to just keep his mind on the track and off any record books.
“Maybe it’s good I don’t know what the record is,” he said. “We’re just going to try and keep winning.”
Meanwhile, like Arpin, young Kenny Perry is making strides to carve out his own reputation away from his father, Ken Sr., after beating his dad, Kyle Ridlon, and Jason Strom in the mini-sprints feature.
“This is excellent,” enthused Perry, 14. “I cannot explain it in words. It’s incredible.”
He credited finding the dry spot on the track early in both the heat (which he also won) and feature. “It was a slimy track but where I was running, it was dry right done low and that’s where I kept my lead.”
In the overall standings, Perry narrowed the gap between himself and leader Strom to seven points. After losing to Strom in the season’s first feature in May, Perry mentioned he was using this rookie year to get used to the class and even joked he’d give whatever points he won to his father.
Now at the halfway point of the season and a number-one ranking in sights, he’s changing his tune—almost.
“If I can get the title, it’ll be good, but if I don’t, it’s just a beginning year for me to get better,” he reasoned.
Finally, in the streets, Westover brought out his #15 Chevy for the first time this season and won the feature over Denny Trimble and Jake Hassbargen.
Westover said he and friend Henry Krikke has spent many extra hours last week to get the car ready, which had last raced in Emo in 1998.
Trimble overtook Hassbargen to take a slim seven-point lead in the overall standings. Third in the standings close to 20 points back, Westover said he hoped Saturday night’s win spark the beginning of turning the points chase into a bona fide three-horse race for the title as the season enters its second half.
Westover had been using #55 but sold it to rookie driver Shane Korkola, who Westover said did a solid job despite finishing 10th in the feature.
“He did good for a first-time driver,” he noted. “He didn’t spin out out there like I did when I started so that’s always a good sign.”
The first street heat was the most erratic for most of the drivers. Richard Visser collided with son, Anthony, early to fall behind the pack and later was eliminated for good after flying off the fourth corner before the last lap.
Visser lost a back tire but wasn't hurt.
Darien Trimble also experienced trouble in that heat, pulling himself out with car trouble and did not return for the feature.
Racing action resumes this Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Emo Speedway (hot laps start at 6:30).