One of the long standing traditions at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo is the Short Track Night of Champions, which sees all the pavement and dirt champions from Ontario appear on stage throughout the ceremonies. As they have in the past, OSCAAR was once again part of the fun.
Three of the four Champions were in attendance for the event – OSCAAR Super Late Model Champion J.R. Fitzpatrick, OSCAAR Modified Champion Gary McLean, and OSCAAR Pro Midget Champion Ted Greenwood.
For Fitzpatrick, this past season was his first career Super Late Model Championship after making a move to the series in 2015 following success in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. The Ayr, Ontario native admitted on stage that it took some time to get used to the super late cars, including the amount of power that they have.
“I’ve been racing quite a while, since I was six years old, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the pedal work yet,” he noted. “But luckily, we were able to make it work.”
Fitzpatrick also took time to thank his team for their support en route to two victories and eight top-fives throughout the year.
“I got a lot of people to thank,” he said. “Chris, Shawn, Deon – everybody knows how much work this is to race. My fiance Alaura for being so supportive. My father-in-law for getting me to the track every week. And obviously I want to thank all the promoters – not just on the asphalt side, but the dirt side. Racing is getting harder so without the track promoters, we wouldn’t have a place to race. So thanks to all you guys.”
While this was Fitzpatrick’s first OSCAAR Championship, the modified champion marks Gary McLean’s fifth straight championship.
The fact quickly made host Adam Ross question how races McLean has won to date. While there was no exact number mentioned, like a true driver he was quit to note he’s also lost “quite a few,” and “could make a list of them that I would go back and do again.”
Of course, being as successful as it is, it certainly puts a target on McLean as the “guy to beat,” which is something he doesn’t mind.
“It’s pretty rewarding when you go on the track and see everybody run up with a stop watch to check it out because we know that it gets in their heads a little bit and we don’t have to race them as hard,” he said.
While noting his success, he also stated how much the competition has stepped it up over the years as “all the modified guys are stepping up – they race hard and race well.” Like Fitzpatrick, he thanked his team for their support.
“First of all, I have to thank the guys that work on the car,” McLean said. “Greg Gibson owns the car and puts together a spectacular piece. Those guys work so hard to get that car ready and have a good piece every time. Over than that, just the sponsors that sponsor the series, OSCAAR. Don’t know if we’re doing that this year, but it’s really good when you have sponsors that come forward and put a series together, and keep everybody going.”
Ted Greenwood also took to the stage as the Pro Midget Champion, though spent more time talking about the series overall following their inaugural campaign.
“It was a really good year because we started off a few car count and built up the class and ended up with 16 cars at Autumn Colours so we could put up a pretty good show,” he said. “Now we’re up to 32 guys, so next year we will be able to put lots of cars on the track. So it should be a lot of fun and better next year, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Greenwood went on to thank the short track promoters for taking a chance on the division and believing in OSCAAR to put on a first year of shows, knowing the counts would start off low.
“By the end of the year we got the numbers that they wanted, and now they all know that we’re going to double the count for next year,” he said. “It’s going to be great. I love the competition. We’re going to do things a little differently – we’re going to invert so the winner from next year is going to have to start dead last and come through the pack. So we’re going to put on a show for these promoters and owners, and that’s going to be put fans in the stands and that’s what we need in this country. The fan base is pretty low right now. We need to get that back up.”
Like those before him, Greenwood thanked his team for their support.
“First of all, I have to thank my accountant, which is my wife, for allowing me to spend all this money,” he said. “I have to thank my crew for coming out and helping an old man like me have some fun.”
By Ashley McCubbin