The sun, slowly lowering in the western sky, sending painted tendrils of red light streaking across the horizon. A crowd gathered on the hills, sitting on seats or else spread out on blankets on the grass, their eyes to the wide oval laying out before them. Below, on that oval, a wide, chaotic variety of cars wait as their drivers and their mechanics pore over them; inside the oval, trailers stand shoulder to shoulder as people mill in, out, and between them. There is a nervous energy lying over everything, a quivering feeling that means that the night’s entertainment is about to begin. Later, there will be racing, stock cars vying against each other for bragging rights and even a small prize. For now, though, over Delaware Speedway, there is the delicious anticipation of seeing the raceway come to blazing, speeding life.
Delaware Speedway is a half-mile long oval stock car race track located in Delaware, Ontario, approximately twenty minutes west from London, Ontario on Highway 402. The speedway is built along a series of small hills, giving the track a shape much like an amphitheatre, which is something of a rarity among stock car race tracks. The race track first opened in 1952, built by Hugh Brodie as a quarter-mile dirt track for stock racing. Later, in the 1970s, this quarter mile was expanded to a half mile and the dirt track was paved over with asphalt so that super-modified stock racing could be added to the list of events offered at Delaware Speedway. While this ended up being a popular attraction (and a great way to introduce a number of other, more intense events to the lineup), super modified racing was taken off of the event list in the mid-1980s and didn’t return to Delaware Speedway until 2006.
During that period when the track was expanded and paved, it also became known as the “home of CASCAR”, the Canadian Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Established in 1981, CASCAR was the supreme governing body for both amateur and professional stock car racing in Canada. CASCAR was similar to NASCAR in the beginning, although with different rules; as an example, NASCAR rules dictate that modified stock cars must use steel-bodied shells, while CASCAR rules allowed for fibreglass shells that were covered by customized tube-frame racing chassis. CASCAR’s success during the 1980s and 1990s led to its purchase by NASCAR in 2006, and it’s rebranding as the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, which features a dozen races held between May and October. In 2015 that series was rebranded the NASCAR Pinty’s Series after Canadian Tire dropped its sponsorship of the series and Pinty’s Fine Foods picked up the sponsorship. A number of races in this series have been held at Delaware Speedway over the years, and the race track has become a solid destination for Canadian NASCAR hopefuls of all skill levels to practice and compete.
Weekly Racing Events
Delware Speedway is host to a number of weekly division races. One of the most popular of these is the Late Model division, which is well-attended for its often close races and its high breakneck speeds. Late Model stock cars are a catch-all term for car designs and build that are from recent years; this is to differentiate them from the early model, or “classic” car designs. Late Model cars come in three categories: super late models, late models, and limited late models. The categories indicate the performance level of the car: super late models are the highest performance vehicles, while limited late models tend to be more underpowered when compared to the other types. Super late model racers are typically built with engines rated at over 600 horsepower and the entire chassis normally weighs somewhere around 2700 lbs. Late model racers are heavier, typically around 3100 lbs, but deliver less horsepower. The engines are typically rated around 400 horsepower and can either be crate engines (that is, non-stock engines built in factories and dropped in to replace the stock engine) or custom-built engines by the specific garage the car belongs to. Limited late model cars are similar to late model cars, but their engines generate less than 400 horsepower. Late model cars of any type are normally the highest level of stock car racing at most racetracks, and Delaware Speedway is no exception to this. Individual racetracks often have different rules as to what constitutes the specifications for late model racing, although NASCAR-affiliated tracks will often have identical sets of rules so as to keep racing series easy to maintain. The late model racing series at Delaware Speedway uses the rulebook from the APC Series Late Model Championship Racing series.
Late model racing is the highest level of racing at most racetracks largely because they go fast, especially in comparison with other racing series. It’s one thing to see a nice car zipping along Sarnia Road at a good speed, it’s quite another to see them pushed to go all out in a setting where they’re allowed to hit their limits.
Delaware Speedway also features a class of Super Stock racing, a form of street stock racing. Street stock cars are literally that – cars that are available to you and me, out there at the dealership and ready to drive off the lot. “Dealership” is often a bit of a misnomer, though; a lot of street stock cars are purchased second hand and are often decades old. It’s not any surprise to watch a street stock race and see a 1983 Monte Carlo going toe to toe with a 1994 Cavalier; it’s more about the subtle modifications you do to the stock body than any aesthetic concerns. Delaware Speedway’s Super Stock racing events are races that feature street stock cars whose engines have been modified to get far more power out than you would from normal crate racing engines. Superstock racing engines typically get between 500-550 horsepower, approaching the kind of power you get from high-end late model racers.
Similar to the Super Stock racing events, Delaware Speedway also features a Trucks division, where modified, purpose-built pickup trucks vie against each other in a fast-paced, close-race competition. Truck races at Delaware Speedway often resemble driving on Wonderland, only the pickup truck drivers are supposed to be there and you don’t mind them driving at high speeds and cutting people off. The same could be said of the V8 stocks, in a way, in that people like to take Wonderland on as though they had V8 engines revving in their cars. The V8 races at Delaware Speedway, though, are something to behold. Those engines put out some serious power, and watching them blast their way around the oval is the kind of edge of your seat excitement for which Delaware has been known for decades.
Bone Stock Racing
A lot of these stock racing divisions can cost a fair bit of money to get into. The late model cars often cost upwards of $30,000 and while the super stock cars cost a bit less, the engine modifications can drive the price up a bit. The cost of entry to these races is why Delaware Speedway also features what they call a Bone Stock racing division. Bone Stock cars are just that – cars brought in off the street and given the barest modifications to provide for safety. Bone stock cars can be any car, as long as they have front wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine. The maximum horsepower rating on the engine is 180 and if the car can complete a lap faster than a specific time weight has to be piled in the car in order to provide an even playing field for all racers. When it comes to the Bone Stock division, then, the focus is on the skill and daring of the individual driver, rather than how much money the driver can pour into the vehicle to give it a competitive advantage. The cars cost on average around $2000 dollars but you can get a car up and running for Bone Stock races for much less as well; Delaware Speedway mentions that at minimum you’ll be spending $500 to get something that can compete without making you look too terrible and that the 2011 champion car for the Bone Stock division was put together for $1000. It’s a great division for people looking to get into racing for the first time, or for hobby enthusiasts to test the mettle of their home-brew builds.
One of the most beloved yearly traditions at Delaware Speedway is the annual Pumpkin Smasher event, which caps off the year’s regular season of racing. For the annual Pumpkin Smasher, fans are invited to bring pumpkins to the raceway; shortly before the second 50 lap race of the final day, fans are then invited to toss those pumpkins down onto the oval track. The pumpkins arc up, and then down, and finally smash into a wild orange mess all over the track. The Bone Stock racers then have to race through the tangle of pumpkin guts, to everyone’s general amusement. Some drivers like to roll cautiously through the pumpkins; some drivers like to go all out, letting reaction time and sheer strength of will keep them from skidding out and hitting the wall. It’s a test of nerve and endurance that separates the champions from the merely fast. The Pumpkin Smasher is often followed up with the end of year Demolition Derby where drivers smash their cars together until there is one final winner standing.
The Junior Racing League
In addition to the weekly racing divisions, Delaware Speedway also features a Junior Racing League, for area youth looking to get into racing as well as building cars in general. Divided into two levels (Junior, for those between the ages of 8 and 12, and Senior, for those aged 13 through 17), the Junior Racing League provides a well-rounded education for youth on all aspects of racing. There is on-track driving experience, of course, guided by expert, experienced instructors, but it goes further than that. Students in the Junior Racing League are also given theoretical experience through classroom sessions, as well as hands-on experience with the technology and engineering that goes into turning a mouldering scrap heap of a car into a fit, fighting stock racing car. It’s not just about the mechanics and the driving skills, either. The League focuses on the “complete racer”, where students are also given skills that will serve them well in all aspects of their lives. This includes lessons on maintaining focus, clear communication, conflict management, stress management, and being able to recognize and learn from mistakes. The cars used in the Junior Racing League are custom designed late model racing cars built at a half-scale to standard late model racers. Part of the customized design involves outfitting them with properly sized safety equipment, of the same type used in regular late model racing vehicles: full steel roll-cages, five-point safety harnesses, window nets, padding, and a rear firewall. Part of it involves a customized engine that puts out nine horsepower; the cars can go to a maximum of around 100 kilometres per hour, although for educational purposes the instructors typically keep the pace at around 40-50 kilometres per hour. The Junior Racing League costs a bit of money to get into, with car purchases and the cost of outfitting being the biggest expenses, but Delaware Speedway notes that the cost of getting into Junior Racing is often less than the cost of getting into minor hockey.
What if you’re over the age of 18 and want the experience of car racing without any of the outlay costs to buy and equip a racing vehicle? Delaware Speedway also partners with Rusty Wallace Racing Experience, which gives the average person the chance to drive a race car in a controlled environment for far less than the cost of building your own car from the ground up. You don’t get the visceral thrill of winning a race with a vehicle you patched together with your own two hands, of course, but you do get the thrill of driving one of these sleek speed machines for a period of time.
Delaware Speedway is the home of stock car racing for the London, Ontario region, and on any given week during the racing season, you can find an exciting, thrill-a-minute event to satiate your need for speed. Whether you’re looking for those high-end late model racers, you want to watch some streetcars rumble for the prize, or you’re young and looking to learn the ins and outs of racing, Delaware Speedway has got exactly what you’re looking for.