A bevy of improvements at the Pemberton Speedway led to a strong five-race season for the Pemberton Stockcar Association.
The auto-racing circuit wrapped its season with its final races on Sept. 30, with Dave Hennessey winning the hobby class and Scotty Newman capturing the hornet class when the series closed.
Hennessey, who is also the club's vice-president, topped the hobby class with 143 points to best friendly rival Tim Brooksbank by 10 points. Club president Richard Den Duyf took third with 115 points.
"It's a culmination of a bunch of hard work," said Hennessey, a six-year veteran of the circuit. "One of the things that I tried to do was consistently finish every lap. It's important that if you're going to go for the big win that you finish all the races. That was fairly successful except for the very last race. I missed a few laps and DNFed.
"The consistency is pretty important to gather all the points."
Hennessey, who drives a 1985 Monte Carlo SS, said the season was one where he was regularly jockeying with Brooksbank for position on the track and in the standings. It all came to a head in this past Saturday's showdown.
"The last weekend stood out as a highlight because I really enjoy it when there's good competition," he said. "We can trade spots and you never know who's going to win. That's the most fun."
Hennessey said he needed some time to adjust to racing and figuring out his strategy, but he's honed his technique in recent years with great success.
"The first couple years, really, were spent learning how to drive and being consistent. Earlier on, I was overdriving the car quite regularly, which meant spinning, not finishing, crashing. One of the keys to consistency is not to overdrive the car," he said. "Learning to drive my own race instead of looking at what everybody else was doing, concentrating just on what your car can do and what you can do, certainly was an improvement.
"Seeing how you could keep up and take their line was the wrong approach for me."
In the hornet class, meanwhile, Newman's 133-point total bested Danny Williams by just five points and Aaron Groen by eight points as the top three battled all season long. While he improved his driving during the year, so too did his competitors, which made for increasingly entertaining races as the season progressed.
"It was a good summer and I met a lot of good people," Newman said. "The competition almost got stiffer as the season went on. The first couple races, I didn't time it the best. I was out front at the start and as the season went on, I went and improved a lot. The last couple races were definitely a battle."
Newman's highlight was racing his 1993 Honda Civic under the lights in the night race in mid-September as part of an invitational weekend.
"It was a little dusty and a little hazy but the crowd was awesome and everyone ended up having a good time," he said.
Newman raced once outside of Pemberton, heading to Agassiz Speedway one weekend in a friend's car. He had pondered racing in Merritt this coming weekend as well, but decided against it.
"This was my first year doing it, so the fact that the track is 10 minutes away from my house in Emerald, the pieces fell into place," he said. "Now my friends are all super into it so we might try to travel a bit next year."
The future of racing seems bright in Pemberton, Hennessey explained.
"The track improvements brought out some new cars and some new spectators for sure. I think we concentrated more on providing entertainment rather than just driving," he said. "I really enjoyed Corners 3 and 4 that we rebuilt this year and lessened the angle on. That definitely improved the competition. I think it improved the durability of the track. I think it improved the show for the spectators.
"It slowed the cars down a little bit. I think it slowed the lap times down a little bit, but it helped with everything else."
As well, the club renovated the grandstands while creating a more accessible atmosphere.
"We did the driver introductions this year and had a meet-and-greet. A lot of times, the kids would come down and want to sit in the cars," Hennessey said.
Hennessey also thanked the volunteers who helped with such tasks as flagging and timing.
"Anybody that helps us put the event on, they're just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. It's the only way we can run it," he said.
Full results are available at www.pembertonstockcars.com.