Speedway opener to be a hit

There’s a buzz in the air at Penticton Speedway as the sound of engines roaring returns.

Troy Braden is ready to end Kelowna’s reign on the Hit to Pass title at Penticton Speedway.

Troy Braden is ready to end Kelowna’s reign on the Hit to Pass title at Penticton Speedway.

There’s a buzz in the air at Penticton Speedway as the sound of engines roaring returns.

Brian Poppe, technical director for Speedway, is excited for the May 1 opener partly because the Speedway is having its second annual Have a Heart Radiothon. Proceeds are going to that charity and to the pediatric and maternity wards at Penticton Regional Hospital.

“There is lots of interest,” said Poppe, who loves the fact the money from this initiative will stay in the community. “Opening day can be a hit and miss.”

However, he is confident Sunday won’t be a miss as the season opener has Day of Destruction and Hit to Pass cars pulling trailers and boats. There will also be hornets and streetcars.

“It will be a big race,” said Poppe, noting they have longtime sponsor Boyd Autobody supporting again along with Sun FM.

This year Penticton Speedway, in an initiative to improve attendance, teamed up with SunFM and will be giving away a 2010 Dodge Challenger. When adults purchase a ticket, they will be asked to write their name on the back of it. Twenty tickets each race day will be drawn and put towards the final draw on the last race day to win the Challenger. Possible winners must be at the track to have their ticket put in the final draw and they must be at the track on the final race day.

On the track it’s hoped that the local contingent in hit to pass will have a strong season. Last year a group from Kelowna had their way.

“Kelowna cars work together and it’s created a rivalry,” said Poppe.

Among the locals aiming to dethrone Kelowna are Troy Braden, Dale Hyberg and Norm Swerdfeger. Poppe said the locals have devised a plan to work together more for success and try to get even with Kelowna.

Braden, who was given a piece of broken wall from the track as a trophy one year, is “stoked” for opening day. The 10-year veterean welcomes the partnership as he’s all too familiar with trying to take them on alone.

“Alone, you are wanted,” said Braden, also known as the Instigator.  “There is a lot of unfinished business from last year.” When asked what will be different about this year, Braden said his engine, worth $9,000, is good and built to specification of the track. With the help of sponsors, including Action Steel, and his mechanic Greg Olsen, Braden knows he can be a threat in his green car and pursue the Hit to Pass championship. He has placed police pursuit lights on the roof to symbolize that.

“I want to walk away with a championship,” said Braden, a father of four who plans to stop racing after this year. “It’s been a long time and I want to enjoy the Okanagan with my family. This is a big commitment (for him) and I love the racing, the excitement.”

Having gone through nine vehicles and 13 engines, Braden is confident he can achieve his goal. Parked in his backyard, Braden hops into his car with the No. 3 painted in honour of Dale Earnhardt and fires up the engine loud. Braden looks on without cracking a smile all business-like. The action at Speedway begins at 2 p.m. Gates open an hour before.