South Buxton,ONT — Andrew Reaume breathed two huge sighs of relief on Saturday night.
First, the Blenheim native received word from the hospital that his father Brett was OK after a horrific crash in the hot laps earlier in the evening.
Second, he finally won the Castrol UMP Late Model Shootout at South Buxton Raceway after several disappointments in the past.
“It feels real good to finally win it … but it’s a bittersweet thing, I wish it was under different circumstances,” Reaume said outside of his hauler, moments after receiving the latest update on his father’s condition from family members at Chatham-Kent Public General Hospital.
Andrew was following his father on the straightaway during the early stages of their hot lap session when Brett’s car went flying off the end of the track, flipped violently several times and crashed through the chain-link perimeter fence behind turn four.
The 50-year-old Reaume was trapped upside down as South Buxton’s emergency crew had to cut the car to get injured driver out of the mangled mess. He was transported by ambulance to hospital where he spent three days recovering from several injuries, including cracked ribs, a broken nose and thumb plus head and facial contusions.
The 24-year-old Reaume admitted it was tough to get back into his own car for his heat race.
“I wasn’t worried about myself being out there at all … that’s pretty hard to stop thinking about,” he said.
“You have to focus on what you’re doing. When we were going green I was OK, but under every caution, that’s all I was thinking about,” said Reaume.
He finished second to Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford in the third heat race and drew the fourth starting position for the 35-lap ‘A’ Main.
Reaume took the lead from Justin Robinson, of Shepherd, Mich., on lap 12.
“I put a little pressure on him, he pushed just a little bit and had to get out of it,” Reaume said of his pass for the lead coming out of turn four.
Once in front, Reaume was unchallenged for the final 23 laps.
The final 12 laps ran under green, which didn’t help runner-up Brian Ruhlman, of Clarklake, Mich., who helps Reaume set up his car.
“Even if we had about a 20-lap run, we probably still would have had that same gap,” Ruhlman said.
“But if we had a caution, I might have tried to intimidate him a little bit to see if he’d make a mistake,” he laughed.
“I’m glad to see him finally win … he deserves it,” Ruhlman said of his protege.
Robinson hung on for a third-place finish, followed by four more American drivers – Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio; 2005 Shootout champion Jamie Zidar of Greenfield, Wis.; Eric Spengler of Lake City, Mich.; and 2007 Shootout champion Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich.
Chatham’s Brad Authier was the second highest local finisher in eighth.
Glassford, the track’s 2009 Late Model season champion, rebounded from a flat tire for a ninth-place finish. Jason Haskell of Chatham rounded out the top 10.
Defending Shootout champion Chris Ross of Wallaceburg was involved in a crash that ended his night after just seven laps. He was credited with an 18th-place finish.
For Reaume, the Shootout win is the biggest of his stellar career.
“It’s definitely the biggest money win ever,” he laughed, as he collected the $4,000 first-place prize as well as a $500 bonus from Dig ’R Wright Excavating, owned by six-time South Buxton track champion Eugene Hoekstra, for being the top Canadian finisher.
With his Shootout win, Reaume won six of seven features and collected checkered flags in 14 of 18 races as he ran just a partial season at South Buxton in order to race more often in Ohio.
Ruhlman recovered from his second-place finish in the Late Model to win his second straight Advantage Warehouse UMP Modified feature and $2,500 first-place prize.
The Modified feature was called after 16 of its scheduled 30 laps because of a dense fog that rolled in off Lake Erie and covered the race track.
After a lengthy red-flag situation, drivers agreed with track officials that conditions were too unsafe to continue racing.
“You couldn’t see in either corner. The fog just rolled in so quick under that caution … it wasn’t safe to go on,” Ruhlman said. “The last restart, I turned in (to turn one) about three car lengths too early. I was actually inside the (infield) tires.”
Chatham’s C.J. Field started on the pole beside LaSalle’s Mike Demars, but a crash on the first lap sent Demars to the pits and moved Ruhlman to the outside of Field on the front row for the complete restart.
Ruhlman got the jump on the outside and led the entire 16 laps.
Ruhlman said his biggest challenge in completing back-to-back Shootout wins was just getting the car to South Buxton.
“We just put the motor back in on Friday, a guy named Chuck Noonan in Toledo put it together for us. We got it off the Dyno at 3:30 in the morning (Friday), went home and put it back in the car.”
Ruhlman was supposed to run his Late Model car at Mt. Pleasant on Friday night, “but we were behind on getting this one put together and we wanted to make sure everything was all right for tonight.”
Merlin’s Brad McLeod posted a strong second-place finish and earned the $250 bonus from Dig ’R Wright as the top Canadian.
John Brooks of Wayne, Ohio, finished third, followed by 2009 Modified points champion Jim Dale Jr. of Shrewsbury and Justin Coulter of Leamington. Tim Richardson of Tilbury, who races on the Ohio Modified circuit, was sixth, followed by Scott Bowersocks of Wapakoneta Ohio, Rutherford’s Chris Van De Wiele, Todd Sherman of Chorobosco, Ind. and Dave Baker of Grand Rapids, Mich., to round out the top 10.
Ruhlman, McLeod and Field won the heat races while Bowersocks won the ‘B’ Main.
The Late Model field had just 20 cars, down from a record 38 at the 2008 Shootout, while the Modifieds had 26 cars, just four less than the inaugural 2008 Shootout. The threat of an all-day rain deterred several drivers from both sides of the border from making the trip to South Buxton. The only track received was a five-minute shower at 4:30 p.m. and a light mist during the drivers’ meeting at 6 p.m., but the cars were on the track for hot laps at the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start time.