Sunday September 6, 2020 ~ LANGFORD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, editor| Island Social Trends
There were no fans in the stands, and some cars were tended to with bare-bones crews this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Canada 200 race at the Western Speedway oval track went ahead with gusto.
Televised live for over three hours on CHEK-TV this evening (preceded by a one-hour documentary about one of the older drivers, Dave Smith), it made for a marathon sports-watching event for local fans and hot rod racing enthusiasts.
The live broadcast was sponsored by the City of Langford, giving both a bird’s eye view and closeups to viewers including live on-track interviews with various drivers after they bashed up their vehicles or were completely out of the race.
The 200 laps were cut short to 191, possibly because of the over-run past the 9:30 pm wrap-up of the paid time slot. The last five minutes of the race were the most exciting, with a sudden turf-war for space and speed by cars #14 and #41, driven by brothers Brandon Carlson and Spencer Carlson.
This came as a bit of a surprise after watching car #33 driven by Dave Hemrich lead steadily for most of the race, including having a 50-lap lead around 9:15 pm. Hemrich is no stranger to the track, having won the Canada 200 in 2007, 2012, and 2017.
Third place was captured by car #5 driven by Gordon Thomas. Around lap 170 there was a small “battle of the 5’s” – when Darrell Midgley in car #5S produced a few colourful moments on the track in competition with car #5. Midgley was the Canada 200 winner in 1998 and 1999. He ended up in 7th place tonight.
Car #77 driven by Bud Hobbs quietly achieved fourth place. There was virtually no mention of #77 car during the race as Hobbs kept out of trouble and out of the top three. The car is owned by GFL/Alpine and had a number of other sponsors.
Quite a few cars had mishaps early in the race with various mechanical mishaps and failures. Some cars were attended by few if none of their own crews, so even competing crews helped each other out.
There were enough interruptions early in the race that the break was called at lap 92.
Cars were nicely spaced for work to be done before the second half, giving the crews plenty of room to work with the physical distancing requirements of COVID-19. Many crew members wore masks as part of public health protocols.
A drone camera provided aerial shots before dark. Parts of the track were not too well lit after dark.
The live broadcast was punctuated by numerous local commercial sponsorships.
Stacey Ross of CHEK-TV sang the opening national athem.
Not missing 2020 on the speedway calendar:
Western Speedway opened in 1954, and avoided a total blackout year during the pandemic by running this socially-distanced Canada 200. The Canada 200 and the Daffodil Cup, the latter which began in 1961, are the two biggest annual races hosted at the Langford oval. The open-wheel Daffodil Cup, which had its 59th edition cancelled this year due to the gathering-size restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City of Langford:
The City of Langford will have made a significant investment in the live broadcast of this year’s Canada 200, but the organization of it all was kept rather low-key including no promotion from the city on their website.
Many local businesses — primarily in the automotive industry and related services– were given prime-time exposure during the broadcast.