~ by Daniel Demaras ~

Back in action at Sunset Speedway, and coming off a solid debut, I was ready for a second oval race. The #9 Acura Integra was upgraded with fresh K1 Speed decals, looking sharp ahead of an evening of racing.

This past week, K1 Speed Canada released their documentary about the 2023 World Championships (which I competed in) and to help promote my longtime sponsor, I decided to add a bunch of their decals to the No. 9 SKLD Acura Integra.

My dad even brought a 1:12 die cast of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing NASCAR as a sort of inspiration for the No. 9.

With one oval-track race under my belt, I was comfortable running with other stock-car on the banked oval in practice. My pace in the single practice session was similar to most of the other drivers, so it would come down to driving skill and luck in the heat races.

Pulling off track and heading downhill to the SKLD team paddock, I felt confident. I didn’t have any of the same nerves as last time. And since then I’d even won three F1200 races. It always makes me smile to hear the announcer tell the crowd that I’m actually a road racer trying out ovals.

Like usual at the race track, there’s lots of downtime between sessions. The SKLD Motorsports team were celebrating founding member Karlie’s birthday. She drives the hot-pink and black No.14 Integra parked beside mine, but engine issues had her sidelined. Not exactly a happy birthday!

Starting positions in the Heat Races are random order, so for Heat 1 I was right at the back of the field, which would give me pole for Heat 2. I was in for two very different races.

Heat 1 started well, as I used the inside line to make up some positions from my last row start. I struggled a bit with understeer, at one point pushing hard through Turn 3 with two cars on my outside! I lost some of the places I had gained, but fought to the finish.

Race 2 was going to be completely different, as I was starting P1. After one aborted start, I took the green flag and just nailed the launch, leading into Turn 1. Although not by much, I did lead those first two laps, the first in my short oval-racing career. Racecars were absolutely all over me.,

As I worked to hold the inside line, the No. 55 Cruz Ramirez Pontiac G6 swept around the outside in Turn 1 to take the lead. Heading into Turn 3, I was hit on the left side, as the No. 29 tried to get past, shoving me into both cars running on my outside.

On the front straight, the No. 29 came across, thinking he was clear, and got spun around before getting T-boned by the No. 22. Four cars all made contact with another, with one of us out of the race. My first stock-car wreck!

After a brief yellow-flag stoppage to clean up the wreckage, we got going again. All three cars involved in the wreck that were sent to the back of the field, as the fourth car that actually triggered the incident was already towed back to the paddock area.

As the green flag dropped to restart the race, I felt the engine sputter and began struggling for power. The cars restarting ahead of me just rocketed off, and I knew there was a serious problem. I tried to tough it out, even catching up with some backmarkers in the corners. But after several slow laps, I pulled off track. Clearly, something on the No. 9 Acura had broken during the wreck, and there was no point making it worse.

The SKLD Motorsports team worked hard to repair the car for the feature race, but as I drove the formation laps I could feel the problems had not gone away. The car died when I pulled into the infield pits, just as the race went green. I watched the race from pit lane.

It was tough just watching the race, not being able to compete. This happens in racing sometimes, but it’s never good. I remember being stranded just off track at Mosport one time, and just counting the laps until I could get towed back. Watching a race you’re entered in sucks.

It was a weird day. There were good moments, like leading laps for the first time (with my family watching from the grandstands) but the bad moment of not even getting the chance to compete in the Final didn’t sit well in my guts. Even though the short-oval racing season is almost over, I have no choice but to come back for one more shot at short track glory!

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