On the evening of Friday, August 25th, local Slingshot Racer Jacek Ashworth will pit himself against the hottest racers in his league as he attempts to close out the season with a championship title at Estevan Motor Speedway. It is his last season to drive in the Slingshot category before aging out of the 7-13-year-old division. Ashworth currently stands first in the league with a firm 10-point lead following a season of highs and lows.
"I've been racing all year for those points," explains Ashworth. "I had one bad race that put me down to 5th, then there was one car who led the whole season, from down in the States. Sadly he broke his collarbone, so he was out for the season, and the night after he broke his collarbone I got a win which put me up in first by quite a bit."
Although Slingshot racing is considered an introduction to motorsports within the community, these young drivers must put every ounce of their talent and skill into each race. Jacek's father, Jory Ashworth, explains that just because they drive smaller cars does not mean they are pulling smaller speeds.
"One of the neatest things about the kids racing is watching them run these cars, and when the winner steps out in front of everyone after the race it could be an 8 year old kid climbing out of a car that was just doing 60 miles an hour."
Further to his point, Ashworth added that many of the kids in these races record lap times similar to Hobby Stock drivers. No matter the age, speed is the name of the game. "Some kids get up to 65 miles an hour. It all depends on the car and the night, but average speeds are about 60."
Nerves of steel are on the list of qualities that make a competitive Slingshot driver, especially since practice runs are few and far between. "At home, we don't really practice," says Jacek. "At the start of the season they have one open night for practice runs, then every race night they have 'hot laps' where you can run 5 laps before your race."
"Too many things can go wrong at home, and the only place you can get parts for these cars is one place in Pennsylvania. So if you're playing around and something happens, you could miss your whole week of racing," explains Jory. He adds that the cars are purpose-built for racing on a track and are really only suited for turning left at high speeds.
Often considered to be a generational pastime, young racers typically inherit their passion from their parents after a lifetime of experience. Jory Ashworth says that although that is true, the racing community is incredibly open to fresh, new members who are interested in joining them on the track.
"We didn't come from a racing background at all, but just the way people accept you is phenomenal. We have friends now from every track we've ever been at. When you say 'adopted family' it really is just that. Racing families aren't just a metaphor, it's true. It's like a team sport because of that."
That shared passion and respect is palpable at the track and is a vital component in the growth of the sport. Jory marvels at the opportunity for local racers to compete at the Estevan Motor Speedway, a track that holds the reputation for being one of the best around.
"The upkeep of that place and the management is second to none," he says. "Even the people that come up from the States to race in Estevan brag about how well it's ran and how great of a track it is. Without their devotion, we wouldn't have this."
Now just two days away from the big night, Jacek Ashworth prepares for his final Slingshot race in Estevan by pouring over his unique car sourced from a specialty shop in Pennsylvania. Originally his sister's car before inheriting it to begin his racing career, Jacek can be spotted easily on the track sporting the number 33J and flying his custom Canadian flag decals. With the finale to his Slingshot career in sight, Ashworth ponders his next move in the world of racing.
"Most people will run Slingshots until they age out, and then quit. Most don't really return to racing, but some people will move up. I'm hoping to move up. Might take the year off after this, but I'll hopefully move up in a year or two."
You can see the epic conclusion to Jory and Jacek Ashworth's year-long journey to the Championship Race this Friday night at 7:00 p.m. by visiting the Estevan Motor Speedway. The gates open two hours before scheduled race times, providing an excellent opportunity to discuss the sport with the dedicated teams involved. The renowned creator of the Slingshot racecar, Rich Tobias, will also be paying a visit from his home in Pennsylvania to see the great local success of this sub-genre firsthand. Experience the thrill of racing, the culture of the track, and explore the opportunity to share in this lifelong passion by joining the Ashworth Racing Team in Estevan on August 25th.
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