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Race enthusiasts put airport runway to the test

“We’re all coming here for fun but at the end of the day we want to return home safe to our families.” Colin Smith
Cars of all shapes and sizes put the Ponoka Industrial Airport to good use last weekend during the second annual Ponoka 1/8 Mile races.

Racers put the Ponoka Industrial Airport runway to good use during the second Ponoka 1/8 Mile Drag Racing Association event last weekend.

Junior racers and seasoned veterans showed how heavy their feet could get putting the pedal to the metal, which resulted in high speed race times. By the time official racing began, the stands had filled quickly with spectators eager to see a variety of vehicles, some of them  ethanol-fueled, travel at high speeds.

There were four categories of racers with their times closely monitored by members of the Central Alberta Raceways group from Rimbey: junior, sportsman, professional and super professional.

The junior category was for young drivers still gaining experience but that did not stop them from travelling at speeds in excess of 128 km/h on the one eighth mile stretch of runway. Brad Adie, 14, has been racing out of Drumheller for the last year and his ethanol-fueled rail car can travel at speeds of 150 km/h.

Why does he do it? “I like how I can go really fast.”

His grandfather Paul Barry says most junior racers are not allowed to travel faster at races due to their age and reaction time. On the back of his car is a time flag that shows 7.9 seconds, which marks the fastest he is allowed to travel on the track.

Being on an acreage may have been one incentive for the young driver, who learned how to ride ATVs at an early age. Barry says his granddaughter won last year in Ponoka as well. “It’s a family event.”

The sportsman category was for vehicles racing with little to no modifications and the professional and super professional were rated on their times.

Vice-president of operations Colin Smith said the group’s focus this year was ensuring a safe weekend of racing for spectators and drivers. Crews kept strict safety guidelines for drivers and did not let them race if they were not wearing necessary safety equipment.

Smith used the example of a recent incident in Rimbey, where a driver lost some fingers after colliding into some water barriers.

“We’re all coming here for fun but at the end of the day we want to return home safe to our families,” said Smith.

“We’re more stringent on teching,” he added.

Tickets were relatively cheap at $10 per person or $20 per family and Smith says their goal was to make it affordable for spectators. A donation is going to be made to Central Alberta Raceways for their help over the weekend and any profits made will go to improving future races in Ponoka.

“We want to continue growing the event. This year we were lucky to enough to get the bleachers from the Calnash Ag Event Centre,” explained Smith.

The bleachers gave spectators a better vantage point when watching racers and were bought at a discounted rate from the ag centre. There were 112 cars that competed in the Saturday races and 100 on Sunday.

Saturday winners:

Junior Dragsters: Ava “Muffin” Smith, Red Deer

Sportsman: Corey Adams, Red Deer

Pro: Keith Villeneuve, Camrose

Super Pro: Mike Black, Bluffton

Sunday winners:

Junior Dragsters: Brad Adie, Drumheller

Sportsman: Cindy Long, Stettler

Pro: John Brown, Rimbey

Super Pro: Shaun Schnurer, Hanna