Johnny Aantjes looks forward to a few things when it comes to a new Penticton Speedway season.
First, the Speedway owner is getting behind the wheel in the Street Stock series full-time for the first time since 2002. That year he won the sportsman championship.
“I’m hoping to have a good season, maybe get out and have some fun in the competition,” he said.
Aantjes will be driving the Penticton Toyota Camry and said with the resources they have at the track, it should help him have success.
He misses racing and after buying the track in 1998, he figured he would be able to race as much as he wanted. That wasn’t the case.
“We have a saying at the race track, we all die, but only some of us ever really live,” said Aantjes. “I don’t want to be one of those guys that forgets about that living part.”
On the business side, he hopes for continued good weather. Last year Mother Nature earned a big assist by drawing large crowds to the oval track. He believes favourable weather will result in a record year. He also credited success to the corporate sponsors and those who help at the races.
The Speedways schedule has 16 regular racing events as well as seven drift races and the Bull-A-Rama being held on July 16.
The Street Stock class has a core group competing and are joined by new drivers, including three from Kamloops. Defending champion Aaron Yazlovasky said he knows everyone is excited to get behind the wheel.
“This season is gonna be a good one,” he said.
Yazlovasky won the championship last season by 283 points. He said the season was a lot of fun, but his victory was bittersweet.
“Last year was light on car count,” he said. “Low cars made it fun to win. The competition wasn’t where it should be. Competition is what us drivers live for. That’s the fun part about it.”
Yazlovasky plans to defend his title in a 1986 Grand National, which he has put a lot of work in.
In the Hornet class, a young drivers program is being created for 12 to 17-year-olds. This gives potential drivers in that age bracket a chance to look at the cars and drive them. Aantjes said that group is in a bit of a down cycle.
Conrad Brightman, 17, is looking to improve on his third-place finish as a rookie in Hornets
“I was happy with how well I did and the car performed,” said Brightman.
A great group of drivers, including new ones, has Brightman eager to get going.
“I know that some of my main opponents from last year have upgraded their vehicles, gotten a bit better,” he said.
In the Dwarf class, Aantjes said they get a bump in cars, saying they typically have four to eight cars.
“Hopefully they can have a good turnaround year and it would be nice to see them hit 10 to 12 cars on a more regular basis,” said Aantjes.
This weekend’s action, which is part of Have a Heart Race 4 Kids, starts at 2 p.m. with Hornets, Street Stocks, Okanagan Dwarf Cars and Hit to Pass. Anyone interested in getting involved with the race classes can do so by contacting Aantjes at 250-809-9117 or email at email@example.com.