Half-way to NASCAR

Scale model drivers hit the track at Grand Bend Speedway

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

Grand Bend Speedway’s existence is only half a secret, with many people seeing the sign south of the Motorplex but never really knowing what goes on at the oval half-scale track. Built in 1996 and expanded last year, each summer weekend, the track hosts drivers from ages seven to adult who participate in racing that resembles NASCAR, but with cars half the size of the models you see on the road.
“It seemed like a good way to spend Saturday nights with the kids,” says Mike Koricina of Ailsa Craig, whose son and daughter are Speedway veterans. “We’ve been here eight years. I do all the work on the cars to prepare them and make them go fast. Sometimes it’s too much (to handle), but it gives you quality time. It’s not a big money game. It’s not a lot of return. You do it because you like it.”
“Every time we come here, we have a good time and it keeps getting better,” says Dillon West of Aylmer, who drives mini-trucks that reach speeds of up to 80 mph.
Michelle Koricina, 19, is a two-time 6.5 HP micro-sprint champion (2003, 2004) and currently leads the 9 HP mini-sprint standings heading into the tail end of the season.
“My brother did it first and I copied,” she says. “I’m a dancer, too, so it’s like opposites. But I wanted to try it and I really liked it. I like starting at the back and having to pass everyone to get to the front.”
In a sport dominated by men, women like Koricina and Katlynn Freel don’t let the pressure get to them.
“You kind of get looked at differently but once you get in the car, it’s different,” Freel says. “It’s good to be a role model for the younger girls.”
The 16-year-old Londoner takes her share of knocks, hitting the wall at the Flamborough track when she was nine years old. She’s stuck with it and plans to move up to the four-cylinder street stock class next year.
“I’ve hit the wall a few times, but you have a full roll cage and five-point harness, fireproof suit, Snell rated helmets,” she says. “Some guys roll and are back the next week. They get up and walk away. You can’t ask for anything else. You want to be safe.”
For Michelle Koricina, her career may take a safer path as she pursues hairdressing at Marvel in November, but her passion remains on the track.
“I’d like to race at Delaware,” she says as she drops a hint while her dad listens, “if my dad buys me a truck.”

Races at Grand Bend Speedway run Saturdays at 6 p.m. until October 4.To learn more, visit
//www.grandbendspeedway.com.