Mechanic Mark Richmond in the driver’s seat of Penticton Speedway owner Johnny Aantjes race truck which will see action this weekend at the annual Gordy Mannes Memorial event. (Mark Brett - Western News)

Drivers revving up for South Okanagan speedway ‘marquee’ event

The Gordy Mannes Memorial event is the premiere racing event and more at the Penticton Speedway

The track’s the ticket this revved up weekend at the Penticton Speedway.

“It’s going to be huge. It just doesn’t get any better than this and we’re going to be jam-packed,” said Speedway owner Johnny Aantjes this week. “Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’re going to have hornets, street stocks, late models, hit to pass and finishing it all up with destruction.

“This is the big one.”

Describing it as the Speedway’s “marquee event” of the season, Aantjes said the Underwriters Gordy Mannes Memorial weekend has something for everyone.

This year even includes a petting farm where visitors can spend some time with miniature horses, goats, pigs, bunnies and more.

Norm Swerdfeger makes some adjustments on the interior of his race car that he will be driving in this weekend’s huge event at the Penticton Speedway. (Mark Brett – Western News)

The event is named after the man who was the track’s most prolific and most winning drivers, someone Aantjes described as a bit of rebel and who passed away in the late 1990s.

“Gordy Mannes was a guy who went hard, he was a fast driver. He was definitely a friend to people at the race track; he could always make a race car go fast even if it was a bit of a junker,” said Aantjes. “At the end of the day he was a true race guy and a true friend of the racing community and that’s the reason we celebrate him.”

READ MORE: Gordy Mannes Memorial races honours B.C. speedway legend

But it’s not just Mannes’ life that is celebrated during the three days. Aantjes said there are others like the Dunseith family—Andy Dunseith owned the track from 1982-1994—and two young racing enthusiasts, Bobbie Wilson and Dayton Dery who died in a car accident in 2008.

The Young Guns Memorial Weekend at the speedway began the following year in their memory and each year a monetary award is presented to an aspiring young driver.

Aantjes also established The Andy Dunseith Family Scholarship which goes to a Penticton Secondary School or Princess Margaret student planning to further their education.

Gates open each of the three days this weekend at 5 p.m. and fans are urged to get there early for the 7 p.m. race start.

One of the high-end cars which will be racing for thousands of dollars in prize money at the Gordy Mannes Memorial event this weekend at the Penticton Speedway. (Mark Brett – Western News)

“Friday night in qualifying and some heat races, Saturday will be heat races and main events and Sunday is heat races, main events. We end the whole weekend off with a big destruction event,” said Aantjes. “With the street stocks, we’re hoping for 50 cars but 40 will still be 30 per cent bigger than any field we’ve had in the street stock class.

“We try to really focus on family entertainment. We’re trying to expand out a little bit with the petting farm and some of the other events like bull riding and go-carts starting next week and trail rides down the road.”

READ MORE: Young Guns Memorial Weekend at Penticton Speedway

He thanked the many participants, fans, sponsors, supportive neighbours and volunteers who have helped keep racing alive in Penticton during his first 21 years of ownership.

“I think we’ve got 10 or 20 years left in us anyway,” said Aantjes. “With the exception of a couple of years, this race track has just continued to get bigger and stronger every year.”

As much as $17,000 in prize money will be up for grabs during the weekend plus an additional $3,000 for drivers who compete this weekend and in the Young Guns event on the Victoria Day long weekend.

Tickets are $20 for adults, youth and seniors are $15 and kids 10 and under are free. Parking is free, including a tailgate section.


 

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