2018 Year in Review - Highlights from Speedway Miramichi's 50th Anniversary Season
Speedway Miramichi's 50th Anniversary season was a memorable one. From hard hits, close quarters racing, and thrilling stunts, we'll be talking about this year for a long time to come. As we prepare to head into 2019 we take one last look back at some of the defining moments of 2018 including pictures from the one and only John O'Shea, maritime photographer Mike Francis, and others!
Conroy Scores First Career Win
On a blistering hot September day, a 15-year-old kid pulled off an impressive upset to claim his first ever win. Travis Conroy had shown flashes of potential all year, improving every race. Conroy lined up 3rd for the 25-lap make-up feature that afternoon, and quickly drove into 2nd place behind Rob Poirier. Within laps, Conroy was side by side with Poirier and waged war for a battle which lasted for over half of the feature. Poirier, who had dominated the 2018 season to that point, had his hands full but was unable to hold off the kid. Conroy cleared Poirier for the lead in the final laps and held on to score his first career win in the feature. Travis was able to follow up his feature win by taking the victory in his 10-lap heat race right afterwards and was awarded the Most Improved Driver award at seasons end.
October Modified Finale - McCray Wins, Battles Ensue Throughout the Entire Field
Storylines were aplenty for the final 35 lap feature for the Atlantic Modified Tour season. Not only was the 2018 Tour champion to be crowned, but also the first ever Speedway Miramichi Modified champion too. 13 cars were in the pits for the race, including 3 former Sportsman veterans, Yves McCray, Kim Hallihan, and Zean Dutcher. For the Miramichi points battle, Doug Matchett entered the race with a 2-point advantage on Joe Hoyt. The green flag flew, and nobody held back from the moment the race went green. Up front, it was McCray charging to the front, while Hoyt began to work his way through traffic after falling to the back early. As the race went on, a battle for the lead began to brew between McCray and Brandon Skidmore, while a 5-car war was being waged for the 5th position and the championships. Fans sat on the edge of their seat right until the end. In the end, McCray held off the hard charging Skidmore to win his first race in Miramichi in 15 years, while Joe Hoyt drove up to 5th, enough to claim the Tour championship. While it was initially thought Hoyt also won the track championship, final calculations showed it was in fact Doug Matchett claiming the championship by just a single point. The caution free 35 lap race was one of the best races contested all season in Miramichi.
Frank McKenzie’s Return
One of the most talked about stories in 2018 was the return of Maritime Motorsports Hall of Famer Frank McKenzie! At 80 years young, Frank completed a Dukes car just in time for the October finale. A fan favorite and legend in the eyes of many, Franks return to the track was a must-see moment for fans who spent Saturday nights at the track over the 50-year history cheering on #1. Franks popular return saw him bring his car home in one piece with a 3rd place finish.
Sportsman Veterans Push Modified Surge
A theme throughout the 2018 season was the growing popularity of the Atlantic Modified Tour on the Miramichi and in Northern New Brunswick. The number of cars in the area doubled, a trend that has been taking place for over a year but gained momentum when 2-time Sportsman champion Yves McCray purchased a car. When the July event rolled around, McCray debuted his new car. McCray would score 2 heat wins, 3 podium finishes, and a feature win in his return season, which vaulted him to 3rd in points at seasons end. Following in McCray’s footsteps were Zean Dutcher and Kim Hallihan, who both purchased Modified cars of their own which debuted in October. These 3 speedway veterans are just a few of the many drivers jumping into a Modified, which is setting up for an exciting 2019 season.
Pitre Narrowly Hangs on for First Championship
Joey Pitre’s consistent season allowed him to open up a sizeable point lead heading into the final points event of the 2018 season. To win the championship he’d have to hold of hungry veterans Trenton Silliker and Kevin Tucker, who remained within striking distance of capturing their first long awaited titles. For Pitre, disaster struck when a mechanical failure ended his night just 2 events in. It resulted in a waiting game, as Silliker and Tucker laid it all on the line in hopes of stealing the glory. Silliker would end up winning the final demo, but failed to score enough points, with Pitre hanging on to win the 2018 championship.
MacLean Celebrates Title with Massive Burnout
Many associate Brad MacLean victories with epic burnouts. But when MacLean scored the victory for the 2017 Street Stock 100, his car was unable to perform a victory burnout. MacLean made up for it in 2018. In September, MacLean took the victory in the Street Stock feature, which allowed him to clinch the 2018 Street Stock championship. MacLean celebrated the way he knows how to, with a massive burnout on the front stretch in front of a packed crowd.
Wet and Wild July Demo Sparks Fireworks
Any time a race falls on a full moon Saturday night, fans can expect nothing less than excitement and drama. That was the case on July 28th. The 3rd racing event of the year just happened to fall on the same night as the full moon, setting up a wild night. Some intensely contested and wild heat races for the stock car races started the night off, before a band of heavy showers soaked the speedway. With the track lost, the features were postponed, but the demo went on with a soaked track. The wet track leads to twice the fun, but before long tempers began to flare. The wet and wild night culminated with the Backwards Bash Demo Finale, which may have been considered more of a war by times. Sparks flew all night, but in the end it was Marc Andre Benoit taking the win at the end of the night.
Benoit Overcomes Figure 8 Crash to Steal Victory from Silliker
The Spring Smash at Speedway Miramichi kicked off the demolition season in Miramichi, and from the drop of the green Trenton Silliker dominated, sweeping all preliminary events contested on that May afternoon. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Benoit was the victim of one of the hardest hits in the “X” during the Figure 8 race in quite some time. With Benoit’s car done, he jumped in a teammate’s car, and went on to defeat Silliker to win the Spring Smash demo.
McLaughlin Dominates Street Stock 100
Luc McLaughlin was not to be denied at the Very Best Fall Shootout in October. After grabbing the pole and declining the pole challenge, McLaughlin put on a driving clinic, leading all 100 laps to best the 17-car field in the 2018 finale. The dominating win was impressive and shot McLaughlin up to 3rd in points at the end of the year.
The Oval Outlaw Takes on the Mini Stock 50
At October’s race, there was plenty of storylines. But one of the best kept secrets turned out to be one of the most exciting ones. “The Oval Outlaw” Wayne Smith unexpectedly rolled up to the gates of Speedway Miramichi the morning of the race driving a #33 Mini Stock car. Luck wasn’t on Smith’s side during the race as a mechanical failure ended his day early, but it was a great story to see a 6 time Pro Stock champion, and a former MASCAR winner at Speedway Miramichi back on track.
The Pinto Turns Heads
One of the most unique and iconic cars in Atlantic Canada took to the track for the first time in June at Speedway Miramichi. South Esk’s Steven Curtis, a 3rd year Modified driver, poured countless hours into his car over the off-season, with the end result being the first Pinto bodied Modified car in the area. The badass car turned heads both on and off the track, with lots of fans admiring the vintage look. Curtis took the car to the front of the field on several occasions, and lead some laps and scored multiple top 5 finishes in 2018.
Track Veterans Duel for Dukes Championship
2 of the most experienced active drivers in Miramichi, Robert Legere and Darcy O’Neill, took on the challenge of competing in the Dukes class in 2018. Both drivers were former track champions, and they thrilled fans with their back and forth battles all year, producing some edge of your seat entertainment. The close battles set up a tight points battle, but when the checkers flew in was Legere winning his 4th track title by just a single point.
Pure Adrenaline Family Day Kicks Off 2018 in Style
2018 kicked off on the Victoria Day long weekend with a different type of motorsports action. A Monster Truck and Freestyle Motocross show highlighted an unforgettable kickoff to our 50th Anniversary Season. A packed house saw thrilling daredevil stunts, got opportunities to take a ride on a monster truck, and more!
Former Drivers Gather for Season Opener
A special moment in 2018 took place during the season opener, when a number of former drivers joined current drivers for a special 50th anniversary ceremony. Among the drivers who were in attendance were Stephane Savoie, Yves McCray, Zean Dutcher, Chris Sickles, Joel Clancy, Frank McKenzie, Jerry Greene, and Leslie Hallihan among others. Some of those mentioned drivers have since jumped back behind the wheel again since that day.
First Banquet in Over a Decade Caps Off 50th Year
For the first time in upwards of 15 years, the season at the Miramichi oval was wrapped up with a year end banquet. A classy and celebratory night saw 5 champions honored, along with several other award winners. Frank McKenzie received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of contributions to the track. And then Sonny and the Jets played all night and brought the house down at the Nordin Rec Centre to wrap up a memorable season.
These are just a few of the many headlines talked about during the course of the 2018 season. From Go Karts debuting at the speedway, to Brody Levesque's vicious crash, to "Super Dave" flipping onto his roof, and a visit from Trackchaser Randy Lewis, 2018 did not disappoint. Our 50th year produced some memorable moments and provided a surge of momentum that will help ensure the track remains for another 50 years and beyond! Happy New Year to all fans, we will see you at the track in 2019!