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OPINION: Reaction to Cape Breton Miners Memorial Speedway Being For Sale

The news has spread pretty quickly about Cape Breton Miners Memorial Speedway being put up for sale.

Fans, staff, crew members and racers alike have been talking about the news and we’ve been able to chat with a couple of those to get their thoughts and reactions on the past three seasons with Bill and Lynne Vasil at the helm. Some offered some reflections on the past few years, some offered criticism and some are already looking towards 2017 and beyond.

Here are a few thoughts from those within the racing community of the news.

Dave Matthews, #99 Mini Stock, Winner of the “Big Money” Mini Stock Race in October 2015:

“It’s a long haul (from the Halifax area) but it is a fun little race track. The track has had the best pay days for Mini Stocks over the past few years, the car counts to back it up and it has kept eyes on them from all around here. The competition is friendly, the people at the track are great and their hospitality is great too. Not to mention their tech man is very reasonable as well.”

JR Lawson, #81 Mini Stock, 2015 Mini Stock Champion:

“Cape Breton Miners Memorial Speedway was a track that was very welcoming to our whole 581 Motorsports team. Kody Quinn and I had some tough but clean races most of our championship year which is what I’ll miss the most about the racing at the track. I’m very thankful for Jerry Hayes, Miller Industries and all the track staff. I think what I’ll remember most are the incredible Cape Breton fans. Most times you could hear them over the cars as we came off Turn Four.”

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Matt Noblett, #51 Street Stock:

“I was shocked when I heard the news. I am really hoping the track sells to another owner who will keep it as a race track. A lot of guys have a lot of time and money invested into these race cars and I’d hate to see those cars leave the Island or end up in junk yards like they were six years ago (TCM Note: the track had closed in 2010 until the Vasil family reopened it in 2014). This track means a lot to me, I am a second generation driver and it is a place I have a lot of memories of growing up. Our last race in October saw the highest number of cars we’ve had across all three classes, and you’ve seen that the racing product is great. If the track closes, I’ll probably base my racing out of Oyster Bed Speedway in PEI along with some races in New Brunswick, I’ve always wanted to try Petty Raceway. If there is racing in Sydney in 2017, I will be there!”

Josh Benac, #3 Mini Stock, 2014 Mini Stock Champion:

“To me it’s pretty disappointing. I always loved the track here, it’s rough and old but it’s tight and fun. Not to mention it’s right here in our backyard. I’d love to jump aboard and run with the (newly forming Mini Stock) tour this year but it’s hardly affordable with the few small sponsors I have. Here’s to hoping someone steps up and puts Cape Breton back on the map, someone with some deep pockets and a real passion for the sport!”

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Brennan MacInnis, #26 Street Stock, 2016 Poogie Hache Memorial Winner:

“It sucks that the track is being closed. For me, this year has been my best year in my whole racing career after winning the Poogie Memorial. It will be a race I’ll never forget. After being able to help get his car ready with all the guys then going out and winning the race made it mean so much more. I’m looking into buying a Mini Stock and running that tour that’s being talked about but if not I’m going to make an appearance at Petty and Oyster Bed in the 2017 season with the Street Stock.”

“The Ironman” Drew MacEachern, #13 Mini Stock:

“It’s sad to see but hopefully somebody will step up and keep racing alive in Cape Breton. Some of the most passionate racers and fans in the Maritimes are in the Cape that I’ve seen in the past three years making the trip from Dartmouth, a lot of whom I’ve made good friends with.”

Jeff MacInnis, #92 Street Stock:

“I’m very sad to here that the owners of CBMMS have decided to sell. All I hope is that new owners take over and keep it going. I was lucky enough race there back in October and was there in 2014 when it was called off for rain. That track is one of a kind and is so much fun to race with great staff who were always helpful and wanted to accommodate any way they could. Most of all the drivers are who I feel the worst for. I see and hear of cars going up for sale already. I met so many racers up there and made friends with a lot of them and still talk to them weekly. They love the sport of racing as much if not more than I do. Most of all I feel for them. They work hard to build those cars and get to the track every time there is a event. They have some amazing fan support also. When I was thinking about going up to race and had actually decided to call it a year after Miramichi, I had dozens of people private message me on Facebook asking me to come to Sydney. Why? I don’t know. I’m just a normal guy from PEI who loves the sport and tries to promote it anyway I can. Whether it is at my home track of Oyster Bed, Petty, Shediac, Miramichi or wherever I go. I want to see the sport thrive everywhere in Atlantic Canada. I try my best to promote me, my sponsors and all the tracks as best I can. If I can get five more people in the stands then that’s five more that pay at the gate. In the end of new owners take over and the track fires up again next season I will be going with my #92 street stock to race. After all, it’s only 6 hours away, haha.”

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Jeff MacInnis and Craig Ward, pictured here in 2016 at Petty International Raceway, made the trip to Sydney for the final race in 2016. Ward, who likened the oval to River Glade in his first visit, finished on the podium. Photo by Mike Francis

Brian Axworthy, #02 Mini Stock, 2016 Most Popular Driver at CBMMS:

“I am sad to see this track for sale again. It was one of my life time dreams to race on this track in my home town. I hope someone buys it and keeps it open. My biggest memory is my Dash 4 Cash win in July. It was my second race with my new car, I worked hard to get where I was in the standings every year I raced as did everyone else. The track means to a lot to me as my Grandfather, Aunt, my Dad and many of my family members have raced there. Looking up to my dad as a racer I always wanted to race there. The bug hit me at very young age, but when I was old enough to build a car and afford a car. the track was closed. As soon as I seen that it was opening again, it was a no brainer to build a car and come race. It’s a sin to see all of us Cape Bretoners who have sunk money back into our cars to have the track gone again. If I had the cash and resources I would buy it. I’m sure Lynne and Bill have issues that are out of there hands to deal with if they have to sell a business they have put money into. If this Mini Stock Tour is a for sure thing they are talking about, my racing career isn’t over just yet. My sponsors are supporting me in every way, they want to see the car on the track again with their names on it.”

Shawn Waterfield, #23 Sportsman, 2016 NAPA Sportsman Series Champion:

“I’m surprised but not surprised, if that makes any sense. Talking as a business guy and not a driver or fan, you can only use your own money for so long before you have to say enough is enough. Yes, there are things that the owners could have possibly done but if you are running out of funds or have to decide when to stop putting money in, then its obvious. Bottom line, no support for racing kills racing and race tracks. We were talking last night and some of the best side by side racing this year was at the Cape Breton track. It’s a shame some folks did not get to see if because it might have made them come and in turn come back and help racing stay alive here.”

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Kelly MacIntyre, longtime race fan and crew member:

“I cant say I’m totally surprised. Bill and Lynne did everything they could to bring cars and fans but there are a portion (not all) of fans and car owners and drivers would rather argue among themselves than show up at the track. Some of the ones that did show up at the track always had something negative to say. For me to say I’m not going to Sydney and drive, say, an extra hour to Petty instead really says something. It sucks because it is a great little track but those negative teams did it to themselves and have no one to blame but themselves.”

Chris Reid, #8 Sportsman and 2014 NAPA Sportsman Series Champion:

“I’m not surprised however I am disappointed. Sydney is a hard place to make things go but I don’t think it was done justice. It seemed like they started out strong but it’s like interest was lost at the end. Shawn Waterfield and I did quite a bit of work for them at the start and I think it made a difference but at the end of the day we’re racers and not owners. There were all kinds of little things behind  the scenes from the on track product that most people don’t know but in the end I feel bad for the guys who cannot afford to run (tow) much further than Riverside. Can stock car racing work in Sydney? Yes, most definitely. Stan Dicks ran a successful show for many years. It’s a fine balance between business and the passion for the sport. You need to have the business end of it as good as the competition for it to truly thrive.”

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