Excitement Builds for Riverside's IWK 250 Track PR Report
Clark, Benjamin and Thibeau Take on the Best SLM Drivers in the Maritimes
The 2008 edition of the IWK 250 presented by DuPont Refinish and Steve Lewis Auto Body is this weekend at Riverside International Speedway - and the stage is set for an event maritime motorsports aficionados will not want to miss.
Some of those fans have already set up camp at the renowned facility, with RV's arriving as early as last Friday to assure parking spots at what is expected to be a sellout event on Saturday.
Advance ticket sales are going at a record pace, so much so the track box office has had to extend their hours this week in order to keep up with the demand for tickets.
More than 40 of the best short track racers in the Maritimes will go fender-to-fender with top New England drivers and two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racers, Regan Smith and Aric Almirola, both employed by the fabled Dale Earnhardt Inc.
All tolled, the local "offering" sees a stout lineup with 12 maritime touring series championships combined between Rollie MacDonald, Wayne Smith, Shawn Tucker and John Flemming.
Johnny Clark, with two New England touring series championships, leads the charge among his fellow Maine-based expected entries which also includes Travis Benjamin and Kirk Thibeau.
NASCAR's Smith and Almirola have the same agenda - to win - but come to the race from different avenues. Smith has made good on his promise to return to Riverside after finishing third in the '07 edition of the IWK 250 - in which he had no prior late model racing experience. Almirola on the other hand, won races and championships racing Florida short tracks while driving late models before moving to the NASCAR ranks.
Smith has vowed to apply a "checkers or wreckers" strategy in his bid to better his '07 finish by two spots; Almirola is expected to take a more laid back approach until he gets a feel for the track and the competition.
The 2008 IWK 250 offers a total purse exceeding $103,000 including the potential for the winner to take home more than $23,500 - including a guaranteed $10,000 for first place plus the opportunity to win as much as $13,750 in sponsored competition bonuses.
The event is sanctioned by the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour, being billed as a "supershow" - with special rules - one of which includes a flat 200 championship points being awarded all drivers that attempt to qualify.
Thirty cars will make up the starting gird for the IWK 250 with four "elimination-style" rounds of qualifying action: time trials, heat races, semis and a last chance race - for which the winner will have the option of going with $1,200 or starting the IWK 250.
Besides pro stock action, fans in attendance at Riverside International Speedway on Saturday will see the Kenworth Maritime Legends Challenge. Pit gates will open at 8 a.m.; practice starts at 10:50 a.m. the box office and grandstand gates open at Noon; time trials for both divisions start at 4 p.m. and racing action starts at 5:30 p.m.
Riverside's Superweekend kicks off Friday with the NAPA 100 for the Highland Home Hardware Sportsman Series, which will be joined by the APM Atlantic Open Wheel Series. Time Trials start Friday at 6 p.m.; racing starts at 7 p.m.
All seats at the facility are being offered as reserved seating for both Friday and Saturday. Advance tickets are available at the Riverside Int'l Speedway box office in the Antigonish Mall through Thursday at 8 P.M.and then at the track's box office in James River starting at 3 p.m. Friday and Noon Saturday.
Johnny Clark is heading to Canada to race at Riverside. (Jamie Williams Photos)