Fans of revving engines, metal-on-metal violence, the smell of burning tires and motor oil and a touch of theatrics were gifted a spectacular show at this year’s annual Bob Wilson memorial crash-to-pass.
A tradition held dear by many a Cariboo auto enthusiast, the stands at the Gold Pan Speedway were ram-packed well before all the cars had even made their way into the pits to get some last-minute tinkering done.
Despite a discouraging rain shower prior to the first timed runs around the track, not a soul moved from their seat.
Umbrellas, tents, awnings and rain coats were donned by the faithful, who were well prepared for any eventuality.
It would have taken a lightning storm to budge them, and even then, a lot would have argued the storm was only adding to the effect.
Estimates of crowd size were in the 3,000 to 4,000 range, and a record 50/50 of over $10,000 was won by Percy Burgess, who accepted the prize with his grandkids.
Forty-one cars took part in the carnage, with each one displaying more character than the next.
Shark motifs were popular, the Spiderman design was a hit with many of the kids, a stretch limousine flying a giant Dixie flag was an interesting juxtaposition, and one racer who crashed into the nearby woods decided to keep the branches he was hauled out with when he competed in the main event.
The pits smelled like engine oil, new spray paint jobs and something resembling anticipation, and the cars lined up to take part in a series of seven lap dashes.
Mechanics fiddled with engines right up to the last second, and ear -piercing engine revving could be heard for miles around.
A baby-faced Devin McAbee sat atop his orange No. 14 car, nervously awaiting his first race.
Reg Adams sported a black cowboy hat as he put a tire on the 43x car. Like many people in the pits, he was just crewing for the day.
Bliss restaurant owner Jas Sabbarwal was also sporting a rakish hat. It was his first time in the crash-to-pass, and he was proudly sitting in his ‘76 Lincoln ready to get doing.
“I’ve raced mini-stock before,” he said, “but I’ve been thinking about racing crash-to-pass for many years. I love the crew, and I love the people here. Everyone helps each other out. It’s just great.”
Sabbarwal needed the help after his first dash. His trusty Lincoln died on him after getting smashed on a straight-away three or four laps in.
A few nearby gear heads worked tirelessly to aid him, and he was able to get in a lap or two in the main event as a result.
He had no designs on winning any prizes and was just delighted to be in the mix.
“These guys are too good out there. They’ve been racing for many years. I’m hoping I can get a couple laps out of it and enjoy and have fun and get the crowd going. That’s all I want.”
Richard Carey travelled all the way from Mackenzie to compete.
A lively character with a sparkle in his eye that attested to his joy at being there, Carey was late to the meet and feverishly racing around his car to and trailer to get ready.
He said he had wanted to race in Quesnel for some time and was quite excited to get on the course.
His car looked like it had seen better days, but that does not often mean a whole lot when it comes to an event like the crash-to-pass.
“I built this car originally in one week [last September],” said Carey. “I picked it up on a Friday night, and I was racing it on Saturday night.
“We built it on a trailer in a week type of thing, and we took a couple trophies with it on our premiere night, so it was pretty good.
“But we put it away pretty wet and dirty. It had a hole in the engine block by the end of our race night, and it’s basically been sitting in the field for the last year.
Carey decided he wanted to race in Quesnel a few days before the meet and decided to put in a little work to see if it was possible.
“We pulled out a junk yard dog engine and spent a couple days getting it into the car and spent the day on tech and we’re here, so this is like a three-day build to get here.”
While he was unable to replicate his previous success with the vehicle, it lasted a lot longer than an untrained eye would have supposed.
One of the most gasp-worthy moments of the evening came courtesy of Vanderhoof’s Terron Sundby.
It was his third time racing, and he was behind the wheel of a big red pickup truck that took a number of rolls in one of the heats.
The crowd went silent and first responders dashed to the vehicle as soon as it was safe to do so.
An audible sigh of relief was heard throughout the track when Sundby emerged from the truck unscathed with his arms in the air.
“I always wanted to roll and finally got to, so it’s awesome,” the easygoing racer said shortly after the crash.
“On the last four laps [of the heat], the truck kept dying on me for some reason, and right before I got rolled, it completely shut off, and when the guy spun me and did a little hit on the box, that was enough to flip it over.”
He said he was not all that worried.
“Oh, no, I figured — I’m going to go for a little ride here — and then it tipped over and I was like, ‘Oh, here we go.’”
His exit from the overturned truck will be long remembered by many.
“I just let everyone know that I’m good and having a blast,” he said, chuckling.
Watch the Crash:
Dustin Brown has been around the track for many years. He helped organize the event and loves it like the race was his child.
“It’s amazing. People absolutely love this,” he said, grinning from ear to ear before the main event.
“This is what a lot of these fans come for. They come to Billy Barker Days for crash-to-pass. My personal opinion is this is the best crash-to-pass in the province of B.C.
“I don’t know what we do different. We just try to put on a good show and make it safe and make it fun, added Brown. “It’s all about entertainment; not about winning the money and I try to tell guys that.
“It’s nice to win some beer money, but it’s about those 3,000 or 4,000 people who came to watch. You want to entertain them.
“Here, the best trophy you can win is the crowd pleaser. I don’t care who wins the main event. It’s that crowd pleaser who puts on a show for those 4,000 people that pay the bills.
“That’s what it’s all about to me. I won it once, and it’s the best trophy I ever won.”
This year’s crowd pleaser went to the #47 vehicle belonging to Sam Davies. His white pick-up was rolled on to its side, bystanders righted him and he kept on racing to the crowd’s delight.
This year’s runner-up in the main event, No. 55 Dylan Apps, was also the runner up for the crowd pleaser award. His never-quit attitude in his brick-painted pickup was a shining example for the other drivers.
Every time people thought the vehicle could not possible drive another inch, he got it started up again and went right back to work, smashing and racing.
Also on display was the high level of goodwill shown between all the racers and their crews in the pits.
“There are no grudge matches,” says Brown. “In racing, you might help each other out, but you also get ticked of at each other every once in a while.
“Here? Who cares? Everybody’s friends at crash-to-pass.
“If you’ve got the parts the guy besides you needs, you give them to him. He might blow you out of the next race, but it’s all about everyone having the best time.
“We have cars that are broken or dead and guys will start ripping parts off and putting them on the car beside them. It’s that attitude of, ‘If I can’t race, let’s help somebody else race.’ It’s camaraderie.”
Justin Price, who was sporting the black 96 car, managed to win his dash, his heat and then the main event.
It was his third time winning the main event, but leading up to it, he was very humble.
“I may have won a couple times but it’s anybody’s game out there,” he said, standing next to his steed, which was racing for its second time.
“The simplest thing can take you out.”
Thankfully for Price, his technical ability, combined with a touch of luck, proved enough to prevail over the final crowd of 37 vehicles.
“All the hard work pays off,” he said shortly after winning. “I put quite a few hours of work in on [the car] and my dad and my mom did too.”
He said his love of racing comes from his parents, who used to have him in a car seat when they raced.
Price dedicated his win to his good friend Riley Nault, who passed away.
“I call him my brother because I grew up with him every day,” he said. ” This is for him. He’s my biggest inspiration.”