Dany Gagne, Johnathon Ferguson and local racing fans were the big winners on Saturday night.
Make that, fans who were willing to watch Cornwall Motor Speedway action on their devices.
The pandemic prevented having fans in the stands, but it got the 2020 campaign underway despite very iffy weather, and Gagne would take the Back to the Track 50 for the Modified Division, with Ferguson the checkered flag recipient in the Sportsman Division.
An exciting 20-lap Mini Stock feature was also held, and won by James Clarke.
The speedway back in mid-May announced it would hold the Back to the Track 50 but without any spectators at the facility.
“The (speedway-owning) Lavergne family would like to thank everyone for their support in these challenging times, and hopefully we will be able to return to the speedway soon,” said Martin Belanger, the track’s public relations director, in a news/results release issued after the event.
The program was held in collaboration with 360nitro.tv, the streaming available for online purchase.
Speedway owner/promoter Raymond Lavergne back in late May said racing without fans in the stands is far from perfect, but at least it’s a start to the season.
“As a promoter, you want to have people talking about (racing),” Lavergne said. “If they’re not talking about it, not watching it, they’re doing something else.”
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The previous owner of the speedway, Ron Morin, knew this all too well, about a decade ago, when over a two-to-three season span, the track seemed to have the worst weather luck, many rainouts each season. And that made it hard to get fans back, once that weather pattern finally seemed to change.
The speedway managed to get some Saturday night co-operation from Mother Nature. There was a fairly heavy shower in mid-afternoon, and some very threatening skies early in the evening, but the speedway got its program in.
Lavergne last month said his best guess as to when fans would be welcomed back into the stands was late in July or early August.
The effort made to have racing without fans in the stands wasn’t a financially-beneficial one, but one less painful by having a reduced purse, and speedway officials going without pay Saturday, stepping up because of their love of the sport.
When the green flag finally dropped on the campaign, there was some very competitive racing. In the Modified main event, the last lead change occurred on lap 28, Yan Bussiere getting a little too high on the track and Gagne swooping in to take over top spot.
The race concluded with a green-white checker, Gagne making no mistakes late in the race for his first ever victory in the division. Bussiere was second and Corey Wheeler finished third.
Ferguson in the Sportsman Division feature had the lead for most of the race. It wasn’t a cakewalk though – he had some challenges on restarts from Justin Lalancette and Junior Mailhot, but was able to build a sizeable lead by the 32-lap mark.
Lalancette would finish second, and Scott McGill was third.
Clarke’s win in the Mini-Stock Division was the first of his career. There was an exciting ending to the race, Clarke surprising leader Sebastien Beauregard on the final lap to move in front.