COUNTDOWN TO GREEN (part 2 of 3)
ROCKY RAPIDS, AB (May 8) - After 9 years, 8 months and 17 days of dormancy, Rapid Fire Motorsports Park (Drayton Valley Speedway) came to life on the weekend.  The new operators swung open the gates for the very first time for an open test and tune.  "Had a lot of rookies trying out the track," exclaims track president Brandon Murray, "we also had veteran racers show up that have never been here before.  We learned lots.  Got some insight [from the drivers] as to what needs attention." 


NPP SERIES ANNOUNCER GORD CRAIG TALKS WITH DVS PRESIDENT BRANDON MURRAY

The front and back straights along with turn 3 and 4 were very smooth.  Turn 1 and 2 was very dry and pretty tricky for the drivers.  "We will be working on the corners to get them right for our official opening next month (June 4 and 5)."  One driver that has never set foot on the Drayton Valley track until the weekend was the 2014 season champion of the Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series.  "The track is good, I really like it," exclaims Mark Miller, "I like the design, like the layout.  It was a really hot day so the track was quite dry."  The Calgary, Alberta driver had several opportunities for car set-up adjustments on his A1 Autobody #69 Chevrolet. 


MILLER ON THE DRAYTON VALLEY TRACK FOR THE FIRST TIME

"It was a good day to test and change a lot of things on the car that we wouldn't have done in years past.  Did some drastic changes and it seemed to work a lot better."  Miller and team made a last minute decision to test at the Drayton Valley track.  "Overall it was a good day.  It was a fun day, learned a lot.  Car should be good when we drive on really hot days."  Also seeing the Drayton Valley track for the first time was 2016 NPP Series Rookie of the Year contender Kevin Larocque.  The Fox Creek, Alberta driver was only a spectator for the Drayton Valley test.  "Car was not quite ready in time," admits Larocque, "we'll be ready for the Edmonton test.  We might even do the Rimbey test the next day."  The single day test and tune at Castrol Raceway and Central Alberta Raceways run Saturday and Sunday, May 14th and 15th.  Laroque competed in only a handful of NPP Series races in 2015 which allows him to retain his rookie status for the upcoming season. 


#02 LAROQUE IN RIMBEY LAST SEASON / #50 HORST TESTING IN DRAYTON VALLEY

Also testing in Drayton Valley was Aron Horst.  The Evansburg, Alberta driver acquired a former NPP Late Model race car during the off-season.  "The car heads in for paint in a few weeks," adds Horst, "we'll be running the number 50 this season."  Last season, in a different race car, Horst finished third in points in his rookie season at Sangudo Speedway.  "We can run either in Super Stock or the NPP Series.  Maybe we'll do both."  Drayton Valley Speedway is not officially on the NPP Late Model Series 2016 schedule but that could change in the next few weeks.  NPP Series officials are looking at adding to the schedule or replacing  a current race date with an appearance at the now re-opened facility.  The NPP Late Model Series season opener is Saturday May 28th at Edmonton's Castrol Raceway.


DRAYTON VALLEY SEASON OPENER IS JUNE 4TH & 5TH

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GETTING TESTY
RIMBEY, AB (May 12) - With a higher competitor count expected this season, Central Alberta Raceways track officials have added an extra test and tune day to its 2016 oval schedule.  Originally scheduled as a one-day test on Sunday, May 15th, race teams now can test a day early on Saturday, May 14th.  Test and tune on the Rimbey, Alberta oval track will run from 11am - 4pm both days.  "We've re-sloped and re-banked the entire track," says oval race director and track president Quin Fahrenschon, "we've actually added a couple degrees of banking to the corners as well."  The banking has been increased from 5° to 9°.  "The whole infield has been lowered and the pit area has been improved as well."  Fahrenschon adds that the bonus test and tune day was done for a reason.  "We are going to have a lot of laps put down over the two days.  I want to see how much the track can take."  Central Alberta Raceways has 16 oval dates  (8x 2-day shows) on its 2016 schedule. Edmonton, Alberta's Castrol Raceway, which has scheduled only 9 oval race dates (1x 2-day show) this season, hosts a one-day test and tune on Saturday, May 14th from 1pm - 4pm.  The Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series has scheduled 4 race dates at both Edmonton and Rimbey in 2016.  Several NPP Late Model Series race teams are expected to test at both tracks this weekend.  The 2016 season of the NPP Series begins May 28th in Edmonton.

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COUNTDOWN TO GREEN (part 3 of 3)
EDMONTON, AB (May 15) - A total of 29 cars from 6 different race classes attended Castrol Raceway's open test 'n' tune on the weekend.  Only one Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series race team was on the property for the afternoon test session.  "I think it went very well for us," says Shawn Kennedy, "we tried a whole bunch of set ups.  The car responded pretty well."  The Edson, Alberta driver was not behind the wheel of his regular NPP Late Model race car but his father's car. 


SHAWN KENNEDY TESTS THE #81 DODGE IN EDMONTON ON THE WEEKEND
.................................................................................... (photo: Rachel Craig)

"It looks like I'll be driving the #81 the whole season.  Who knows. Things can change."  Dwight Kennedy, the founder of the NPP Late Model Series, leads all drivers with 151 race starts, 121 top-10 finishes and 91 top-5 finishes.  Kennedy also has 25 Feature wins to go with his two NPP Series Championships (2001 & 2006).  "I've got some pretty big shoes to fill," admits Shawn Kennedy, "I was hoping to be able to race against my dad for another season."  The younger Kennedy briefly had the points lead last season and was aiming for his first ever season crown.  "Two blown engines in back to back races [last year] kinda ended that run.  Maybe this will be my year."   Kennedy wound up finishing 10th in points in 2015.


LAROCQUE IN RIMBEY AT FINAL RACE OF 2015 SEASON

One NPP Series driver that was planning on attending the Edmonton test and tune had some bad luck on the weekend.  "Blew the motor on my truck," exclaims Fox Creek, Alberta's Kevin Larocque, "got the car all ready and I was coming down to Edmonton to test and then bang."  The driver of the #02 Chevrolet is scrambling to find a truck in preparation for the 2016 season opener the end of the month.  "Got nothing to haul my race car with right now." Despite running a few NPP Series races last season, Larocque remains eligible for Rookie of the Year honors this season.  "This is sure not the way I wanted to start the season." NPP Series officials are expecting car counts to somewhat soft to start off the 2016 season due to the current state of the Alberta economy. The 16th consecutive season of NPP Late Model Series action begins Saturday, May 28th at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta.

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SEASON STARTER
EDMONTON, AB (May 23) - A trip to victory lane at the season opening race does not guarantee a Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series Championship but it can improve the odds.  Seven of fifteen NPP Series Championships awarded since 2001 have gone to the driver that initially won the first race of the season.  The 16th consecutive season of the NPP Late Model Series race action begins this Saturday, May 28th at Castrol Raceway.  Three-time NPP Series champion Trevor Emond was the first driver to win the season opener and a championship the same year (2003).  In 2009, Darrell Midgley won the season opener and his first NPP Series championship.  The Sidney, British Columbia driver became the first driver in NPP Series history to accomplish this feat twice by winning the 2015 season opener and later the season championship. 


MIDGLEY WINS FEATURE AT THE 2015 SEASON OPENER
.......................................... ............................... (photo: Stpracing Memories)

When the 2016 season gets underway in just a few short days, the two-time and defending NPP Series champion could become the first driver in NPP Series history to win three season openers.  "Anytime you can have an asterisk beside your name is nice," admits Midgley, "but I don't think too much about records.  I just go out there and do the best I can every night." Midgley has 10 wins and 48 Top 5 finishes in 87 NPP Series starts. 


BROUGHTON WON THE 2010 SEASON OPENER
.......................................... .......... (photo: Stpracing Memories)

Bruce Broughton knows the importance of starting the season off on a winning note.  The 2010 NPP Series Champion also won the 2010 season opener. "Winning the first race of the season does take a bit of pressure off," says the Stony Plain, Alberta driver, "it's a lot easier to race with the points lead than playing catch up."  Broughton adds that in the grand scheme of things all races are pretty much identical if you think about it.  "The points are the same for the first race, the middle race and the last race.  You add them up at the end and hope you have more than everybody else."  Broughton has 9 wins and 41 Top 5 finishes in 92 NPP Series starts. Broughton was also the 2005 NPP Series Rookie of the Year.


SEASON OPENING WINNERS (2001 - 2015)

2016    ????
2015    Darrell Midgley**
2014    Kevin Wheeler
2013    Kevin Wheeler**
2012    Chris Beaulieu
2011    Mike Tom**
2010    Bruce Broughton**
2009    Darrell Midgley**
2008    Dwight Kennedy
2007    Jason Beaulieu**
2006    Trevor Emond
2005    Jason Beaulieu
2004    Trevor Emond**
2003    Feature cancelled – snow (heats completed)
2002    Larry Simpson
2001    Larry Simpson
**also won season championship

2          Jason Beaulieu
2          Trevor Emond
2          Larry Simpson
2          Darrell Midgley
2          Kevin Wheeler
1          Chris Beaulieu
1          Bruce Broughton
1          Dwight Kennedy
1          Mike Tom
1          Snow Out!!

- 2016 SEASON OPENER -
NPP Late Model Series and Castrol Raceway

Gates @ 4:00pm // Racing @ 6:00pm
Classes Racing:
- Sportsman Sprint Cars / Northern Thunder Late Model Series / NPP Late Model Series /
Northern Alberta Mini Stock Series

Spectator Admission (set by track)
$20.00 Adults
$10.00 Youth /Seniors

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SEASON OPENER SURPRISE
EDMONTON, AB
(May 26) - The defending season champion of the Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series realized that he can't be in two places at the same time.  Darrell Midgley has announced he will not be in the driver's seat of his race car at the 2016 NPP Series season opener in Edmonton Saturday night (May 28).  Midgley is the promoter of Western Speedway in Victoria, British Columbia.  His track is holding a facility first this weekend.  "We are running a three-day monster truck show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Disappearing on my staff is not a good idea." 


MIDGLEY: RACE CAR DRIVER AND TRACK PROMOTER
........................................................................................................... (photo: Wildlight Photography)

Midgley says the choice was not easy to make but necessary.  "I have to take care of the business first.  My plan was to be at the season opener in Edmonton but after looking at everything from a business standpoint, I just can't be away from the track (in British Columbia).  I will be at the Rimbey race next month."  The #14 Integra Tire Dodge, which is stored in Edson, Alberta for Midgley, will not be sitting idle Saturday night.  "Dean Deatherage will be filling in for me."  Ironically Deatherage's race car is sitting idle Saturday night. 


#18 DEATHERAGE AND #14 MIDGLEY RACED HARD DURING 2015 SEASON
........................................................................................................... (photo: Stpracing Memories)

Thanks to the state of the Alberta economy his #18 Dodge is parked for the entire 2016 season due to lack of sponsorship.  "Dean's a good racer," exclaims Midgley, "I've left my car in good hands."  The last minute change of drivers is good news for the Beaumont, Alberta driver.  Deatherage won his first ever NPP Series Feature event at the final race of the 2015 season.  Thanks to Midgley's absence, Deatherage now has an opportunity of becoming just the 5th driver in NPP Series history to win a season closing, then season opening race.  Darrell Midgley was the last driver to accomplish this feat winning the 2014 season closer then the 2015 season opener.

SEASON CLOSER THEN OPENER WINNERS
2014/15   Darrell Midgley
2013/14   Kevin Wheeler
2010/11   Mike Tom
2004/05   Jason Beaulieu

NPP LATE MODEL SERIES SEASON OPENING WINNERS
2016    ????
2015    Darrell Midgley**
2014    Kevin Wheeler
2013    Kevin Wheeler**
2012    Chris Beaulieu
2011    Mike Tom**
2010    Bruce Broughton**
2009    Darrell Midgley**
2008    Dwight Kennedy
2007    Jason Beaulieu**
2006    Trevor Emond
2005    Jason Beaulieu
2004    Trevor Emond**
2003    Feature cancelled – snow (heats completed)
2002    Larry Simpson
2001    Larry Simpson
-
**also won season championship

- 2016 SEASON OPENER -
NPP Late Model Series and Castrol Raceway

Gates @ 4:00pm // Racing @ 6:00pm
Classes Racing:
- Sportsman Sprint Cars / Northern Thunder Late Model Series / NPP Late Model Series /
Northern Alberta Mini Stock Series

Spectator Admission (set by track)
$20.00 Adults
$10.00 Youth /Seniors

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SEASON OPENER STALLS
EDMONTON, AB
(May 27) - Thanks to several days of non-stop rainfall, the 2016 season opener of the Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series and Castrol Raceway has been cancelled. Although the oval track itself is in superb condition, the facility is super saturated. The oval pits and infield were a huge concern for track officials. The call to cancel the Oval season opener was made on Friday afternoon. NPP Series officials were on-site touring the oval facility shortly after call was made.


SUPER SATURATED PIT AREA AT CASTROL RACEWAY
(photo taken: Friday May 27th @ 3:03PM)

For NPP Late Model Series race teams, a season opening rainout is nothing new. This is the tenth time in sixteen seasons that a scheduled season opening race has been cancelled due to rain. At the Edmonton racetrack, the NPP Series has experienced a season opening rainout a total of eight times since 2001.


WAS GOING TO BE A FAST TRACK SATURDAY NIGHT
(photo taken: Friday May 27th @ 2:54PM)

Central Alberta Raceway track officials in Rimbey also cancelled their two-day season opening weekend (May 27 / 28) due to the recent rainfall. Next scheduled race for the NPP Late Model Series will be at Central Alberta Raceways on Friday and Saturday, June 10th and 11th. Castrol Raceways next oval race date is set for Saturday, June 11th.

UPDATE (at 11:45am Saturday, May 28th) - Central Alberta Raceway track officials in Rimbey have announced that the track will now be open on Sunday, May 29th as an Oval 'rainout' date. Gates open at 11am / Racing at 1:00pm.

SEASON OPENING RAINOUTS
2003 - Edmonton
2006 - Edmonton
2007 - Edmonton
2008 - Edmonton
2009 - Edmonton
2010 - Edmonton
2011 - Lethbridge
2013 - Edmonton
2014 - Rimbey
2016 - Edmonton

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NICE NIGHT FOR A RACE
EDMONTON, AB (May 29) - Track and weather conditions were near perfect Saturday night at Castrol Raceway.  Unfortunately on Friday afternoon, track officials were forced to cancel the 2016 season opener.  More than 150mm of rain had fallen at the facility the past week saturating the competitor pits and the infield of the oval track.  A final blast of rain Thursday night into Friday morning sealed the fate of the oval opener.  The track was silent. 


EXCELLENT TRACK CONDITIONS DID NOT MATCH OVAL INFIELD
(photo taken: Saturday, May 28th @ 4:55PM)

"It was the right call," exclaims Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series announcer Gord Craig, "I was at the track site Friday afternoon and then again Saturday afternoon.  A lot of drying had taken place but the pits and the middle of the oval was still saturated."  Craig says the decision to cancel a race is never an easy one to make.  "Sure we could have gone racing but think of the outcry if an ambulance or emergency vehicle got stuck responding to an on-track incident."  The NPP Late Model Series, along with three other classes, were affected by the cancellation notice.  "The weather was fantastic Saturday night, unfortunately it was the bad weather leading up to race night that did everyone in."  The last 'dry' day at the track was May 16th.  "Castrol Raceway has a weather station.  It measured just over 150mm of rain the past week."  Central Alberta Raceway's will now host the season opening weekend of the NPP Late Model Series on Friday and Saturday night, June10th and 11th.  Castrol Raceways rescheduled oval season opener will be on Saturday night, June 11th. The NPP Series next visit to Edmonton is not until August 13th.

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