South Buxton,ONT — When Dale Glassford won the very first race on Opening Night, he figured he was in for a checkered 2009 season at South Buxton Raceway.
But after winning the class’s very first heat race, he didn’t collect his second checkered flag until the final race of the season – but it was the biggest race of the year.
Glassford put on a dominating performance, leading all 25 laps to win the 2009 championship race in the Ultimate Sandblasting UMP Late Models on Saturday, Sept. 5.
He clinched his first career points championship earlier in the night, after finishing second to Blenheim’s Andrew Reaume the past two seasons.
“I wish we could have mixed in a few more flags along the way, but we had a pretty consistent year,” said the Ridgetown, Ont. native.
Glassford, the 2008 Canadian UMP champion, finished in the top-five in 10 of the 11 feature races. His lowest finish was sixth in the Summer Sizzler on Aug. 1.
“It was tough in the features because we were always starting in the middle and we had a lot of good, fast cars starting in front of us,” he noted, as cars line up in inverted order of the previous week’s feature finish.
The championship race marked not only the first time Glassford started on the front row, it was the first time he led a lap in a feature all year when he took off at the initial green.
Glassford built a quarter-lap advantage during two long green-flag runs. A late caution, ironically caused by his older brother Mark Glassford’s single-car spin, set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish.
Chatham’s Brad Authier looked on the inside of Glassford coming out of turn two after the restart but couldn’t make the pass.
“I knew I had to stay right down on the inside to win,” he said. “I went into (turn) two and the car kind of bobbled, so I had to let up just to stay on the bottom. Fortunately it worked out.”
Authier saw Glassford’s brief hiccup but couldn’t take advantage.
“I had my hands full with Mikey (Lewis) behind me,” Authier said. “He jacked me up just as I went to the bottom so I had to let off.”
The six-time track champion tipped his hat to Glassford’s dominance.
“He ran a great race … second’s good,” said Authier, who also finished second to Glassford in the final points standings.
Wallaceburg’s Mike Lewis, Blenheim’s Brett Reaume and Chatham’s Kirk Hooker rounded out the top five.
Jeff Daniels pulled off a huge upset by winning the Schinkel’s Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds championship race.
Daniels, in his first full season in the Modifieds after several years in a sprint car, finished an unassuming sixth in the final points and had just three top-five feature finishes all season. His first and only checkered flag came on Aug. 15 in a heat race.
But the Chatham native took the lead on lap five, survived a couple of spinouts and led the final 15 laps to pull off one of the biggest upsets in track history.
“No, I had no clue I’d have a chance at winning this,” Daniels answered, when asked if he had any thoughts before the race that he could win.
He started in the third row and moved into second place on lap three behind points champion Jim Dale Jr. of Shrewsbury, who went into the race as the driver to beat after winning four features in a row in August.
“When Jimmy pulled away, I figured I’d run second behind him,” Daniels said.
But on lap five, Dale Jr. spun out between turns one and two, handing the lead to Daniels.
“Trying to go too fast too soon,” said Dale Jr., who also lost the lead in the 2008 championship race seven laps from the end under the same circumstance.
Daniels survived two spinouts from behind, courtesy of the father-son duo of Curtis and Justin Coulter while both were running second.
Jason, the 2008 championship race winner, was sent to the back for causing contact with the leader under green on lap eight. One lap later, his father Curtis got into the back of Daniels under caution, but both drivers kept their positions.
Two laps later, the elder Coulter spun out on his own and exited the race.
Daniels drove the final nine caution-free laps virtually unchallenged, although he did have some late-race issues.
“I thought I was losing power the last three laps,” he admitted. “The car didn’t sound good, but I looked down at the gauges and everything seemed good, so I just kept going for it.”
Daniels said he concentrated on running his line and “trying not to spin out” as the laps wore down.
He said he almost missed the white flag. “I wear an amber colored shield … I thought it was another caution at first,” he laughed.
But he didn’t mistake the checkered as he pumped his fist while crossing the finish line and then took an emotional victory lap with the flag.
“This is pretty remarkable. We had a slow start but Laser Chassis helped us with the set up and that heat race win really helped my confidence.
“And I have to thank my race team and family for their hard work,” said Daniels, who will be a first-time father this fall.
Chatham’s Joe Field finished second while Dale Jr., who clinched his sixth career points title a week earlier, finished third in his bid for a sixth championship race win. Belle River’s Mario Toniolo and LaSalle’s Mike Demars rounded out the top five.