McKay To Make Historic First Pro Stock Start Saturday at CFS
Sarah McKay is set to embark on something that hasn’t been done in her lifetime.
Since bursting onto the Late Model Sportsman scene in Atlantic Canada earlier this summer, the Quispamsis, New Brunswick teen has been turning heads. One week after capturing the Speedway 660 Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman Rookie of the Year Award, she found herself in a “go or go home” situation with two laps to go in a Last Chance Qualifier for the Irving Blending and Packaging 150 at the same track. In her words, she really wanted to get into the show and when veteran Randy Moore made a slight mistake of leaving the bottom open, McKay capitalized by opening the door and seizing the opportunity to get into the show on a bump and run pass.
A rookie. With less than a handful of races. Bump and run on a veteran who has more seasons in a stock car than she has on earth. Guts? Yeah, the girl has plenty of them.
Less than a week ago, the team made their first start at Speedway Miramichi in the Coors Light 125. McKay quickly picked up the unique layout of the Miramichi oval in Friday night’s practice and quickly inserted herself on Saturday night as a contender for the big trophy while others were slipping and sliding, screaming for grip around the tricky oval. Starting on the front row after an inversion, McKay held her own up in front and ran in the top five all night long before winding up third on the evening alongside veterans Dave O’Blenis and one of her mentors in Lonnie Sommerville.
With nine Sportsman starts, eight of those being top ten runs, between three New Brunswick tracks, what is next for McKay?
Move up to Pro Stock, of course. At least for this weekend.
It has been nearly 20 years since Elaine Vance made her last major Pro Stock start and while the 17-year old McKay wasn’t around to see that last start, she will be the one climbing through the window of a Lonnie Sommerville Racing prepared Pro Stock on Saturday afternoon at the CENTRE For Speed in Shediac, New Brunswick to continue carrying the torch. While it should be noted as well that Petty International Raceway Street Stock champion Alexandra O’Blenis made a Pro Stock start at Speedway 660 on August 17th of this year, the start was made without a lot of fanfare, with a single Facebook post on the team’s page the morning of the race announcing the start in the RE/MAX Group Four Reality Pro Stock weekly division. O’Blenis was out early in the race with mechanical problems and finished 15th in the 40 lap feature.
McKay, who formally announced the debut on Nick Storey’s Energy Hour Radio Show last week, will set out on Saturday with the 14th Annual Atlantic Championships and 150-laps of seat time in her sights. While not a major touring event (the race is sanctioned by the CENTRE for Speed and has no formal ties with Maritime Pro Stock Tour Limited), it is still a sought after championship that boasts a Who’s Who of short track aces on the championship list, including Sommerville, Greg Proude, Craig Slaunwhite and the late Scott Fraser among others. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter and retired NASCAR Canadian Tire Series veteran Dave Whitlock have made starts in the event over the 13 year history of the race.
Sure, the cards are stacked against the rookie. A different car, on a track with a very tough layout that makes track position more valuable than most Grand Barachois ocean front property stands in front of the teenager. Not to mention she’ll be racing in a field that will be rich with talent that includes the likes of six-time Pro Stock champion Wayne Smith, IWK 250 winner Darren MacKinnon and former Tour feature winners Jonathan Hicken, Darren MacKinnon, Dylan Gosbee and Kevin Moore among a dozen plus others. Add in that her car builder and mentor Sommerville will be in the field trying to defend his title, along with former Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year on the Parts for Trucks Tour in Saint John, New Brunswick’s Steve Halpin, who also has talented wrench Geoff Armstrong at the ready. Keep in mind what Sarah has proven in a Sportsman car from stepping up from a go kart. McKay has taken the big step and seemingly has not missed a beat in doing so.
She also has fan support. You need look no farther than the RacingSpectator.ca Driver of the Year Award on TimsCorner.ca, where she finished amongst the top five 39 nominated drivers and will be on the final ballot for the prestigious honor when Round Two voting begins on Friday, October 5th. You can also hear the fan support every time she hits the track with one of the loudest cheering sections in the region.
Not only can she wheel a race car with the best of them, she is the complete package out of the race car as well. She’s not shy in front of a microphone and knows how to present herself in a professional manner which she has also picked up quickly in the stock car ranks. Ask teams who have big dollar sponsors, while presentation is not everything, it can go a long way in getting a new partner to sign on the dotted line when it comes down to crunch time.
You’ll be able to see that complete package this Saturday beginning at 1pm with qualifying for the Pro Stock 150 Atlantic Championships event at the CENTRE For Speed, located outside the town limits of Shediac in Grand Barachois, New Brunswick.
Oh, but wait, that’s not all.
As the team mentioned last weekend at the end of the Speedway Miramichi event, they will be dragging the Sportsman car along with them to the track on Saturday and the pink, green, yellow and black #23 will be in the Sportsman 100, but it won’t be Sarah driving. Her father Andrew McKay, a longtime supporter of the sport with his business A.E. McKay Builders and a former snowmobile racer himself, will be in the seat of the Sportsman car Saturday. With the season Sarah has had in nine starts, he’s got no pressure, right?!
Editor’s Note (10/02/2013): Team tells Tim’s Corner Motorsports that Andrew McKay’s Sportsman debut may have to wait with the team running out of time to set up the car for the CENTRE For Speed oval after last weekend’s top three run at Miramichi.
For more information on Sarah McKay Racing, be sure to stop by their website at www.sarahmckayracing.com. For all the latest, up-to-date information on the 14th Annual Atlantic Championships, including Saturday’s Late Model Sportsman and Pro Stock card, visit www.centreforspeed.com or follow along with Tim’s Corner Motorsports on Facebook and Twitter.
Photos by John O’Shea/Miramichi Racing Radio