Fair warning, this is by no means a technical review of the Ginga Ninja Nite Thunder racing event held at Castrol Raceway on Saturday July 18th. This is a recollection of what was my first racing event ever. An event that made both me and my wife fans of dirt track oval racing.
As my wife and I arrive at Castrol Raceway we immediately hear the rumble of the cars on the track taking laps prior to the event. This is how unprepared I was for my first ever racing event, I did not realize how loud it was going to be. We see other fans entering the venue and it is just like being at a football game as they came prepared with seat cushions and blankets for when the sun begins to set.
I’m telling you for the all the stigma surrounding racing fans, if I were allowed to post pictures of the crowd, you would not be able to tell this group apart from what you see at Commonwealth or Clarke Stadium, the Expo Centre or Rogers Place. If you take only one thing from this article, take any preconceived notion of the track being a “hillbilly heaven” and throw it out the window.
There was some preparation leading into the event. Chats with the Ginga Ninja himself Ron MacDonell and sprint car racer Sean MacDonell allowed me to know I was scheduled to see five different classes of cars race tonight. There would be heat races for each class to determine positioning for each respective feature race. It did not prepare me though for the first heat of the night featuring the mini stock cars.
That first race I saw had a Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac Sunfire, Dodge Neon and other “regular” vehicles all powered up to racers. The small world this is, I see the Reliant Tires logo on a race car. I reach to an old junior high friend of mine who is part of the ownership group for a comment. She tells me that Justin Horton is a great person and racer. Going into the feature race at the end of the evening, he had the lead position.
The second heat of the night was a second round of mini stocks. The announcer points out the Datsun 510. The Datsun spins out for a restart and would not finish the restarted race. Captain Am…err…Chris Evans in number 78 played cat-and-mouse for the lead until he had to bow out. Car #55 won.
360 Sprint cars were next. While I’ve interviewed Sean MacDonell I’ve never met the gentleman. When his race showed up I naturally rooted him. For the mocking racing gets for “left turn, left turn, left turn“, Jeebus Murphy is it intense when you are there live and cheering for a specific car. Sean won in dominant fashion.
The next race featured mini-sprint drivers from British Columbia that currently cannot cross the border to race in America so they came to Alberta. In the first grouping car number 14 won lapping two other cars in the process. For the second grouping, my wife is enjoying the races so much she records it via Facebook Live.
This leads me to Facebook Live the first grouping of Late Model cars in their heat focusing on the first turn because it absolutely captivates me how hard these racers take the corners.
In the second “late model” race, car number 6 wins heavily contested by 55.
The next races I believe were NSA 360 sprints, it is very hard hearing the announcer and I simply do not have the experience to differentiate the models. In the first grouping, car number 8 wins easily. In the second grouping of this class, car 24 (whom my wife and I disagree on whether we heard it was a 15-year-old or 50-year-old driving) was winning then Fleming had a spin out bringing out a red flag. Car 24 suffered a violation penalty for having his car worked on during this red flag time and gets moved to the back. Car 65 wins with car 24 placing 3rd.
FEATURES (final race for each class)
7 by a fender over 55 in mini stock feature. Easily the closest finish of the night.
Sprint car feature- two classes combined- Sean MacDonnell leading throughout had to go to the pits during a yellow flag. He returns behind Kelly Miller and car #38 with 7 laps to go. MacDonell would finish third with Kelly Miller winning. I messaged MacDonell and asked what happened:
“I had my radiator cap come loose so I started losing water. We had the 360 sprints and the sportsman sprint mixed together so I went behind the two remaining 360 cars on the restart.”
At this point my wife and I had to leave as the sky began to look ominous and we have a beautiful American Bulldog at home, thirty-five minutes away, that is petrified of thunder.
The next Ginga Ninja Nite Thunder events at Castrol Raceway are August 8th and 22nd. To keep up-to-date on when tickets go on sale and how to buy them follow Ginga Ninja on Facebook. Here is there post about August 8 ticket sales from earlier last week modified to reflect that the July 18 event being completed:
To our Fans, Race Teams and Families, we have finalized our 2020 schedule based upon the border not opening anytime soon. Go to our website and check it out. www.ginganinjadirt.comNow, we need the AHS & Alberta Government to allow us a few more butts in our seats to accommodate our fans & Families…If the July 18th race is completed then tickets for the August 8th event will go on sale July 22…Check out our website for news relating to the AHS and Ginga Ninja updates.Thanks to all of our Fans, Racers, Crew and families for your support in these peculiar times.
Ginga Ninja Dirt Promotions”