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Safety paramount at track for crew and equipment

LAKE DOUCETTE -  The vice-president of the South West Stock Car Association witnessed a spectacular crash and rollover at the Lake Doucette Motor Speedway on Aug. 19 and it left him shaken.

“We were scheduled to race after them and I was about to get in my car when I saw Freeman (d’Entremont) get just a little bit tapped off the corner,” said Kyle Hines.

“He kept trying to save it down the backstretch but his arc just kept getting bigger and bigger. I said, ‘Oh, Oh, this isn’t going to be good.’”

The car turned sideways in front of the cars on its tail. Some of the drivers did their best to nudge him off the track in passing but to no avail.

“They just collected him up and he started rolling. I was scared to death,” said Hines.

Smoke was pluming from the car as it lay on its hood. The onsite Salmon River fire department truck arrived quickly on the scene. The track’s safety crew and others grabbed hold of the upset car and flipped it back onto its tires to assist d’Entremont’s exit.

“We insisted he go get checked out and he was fine,” said Hines.

“We’re flying in those sportsman cars, like 120 mph on that backstretch. All in all, it was a testament to what’s going on there. We try hard to create a good product and to keep it safe.”

Alan B. Fitzgerald posted this video on the Lake Doucette Motor Speedway public Facebook Group

D’Entremont says he remembers getting  hit twice and going into the wall, then another car hit him.

“It was a racing incident, nobody’s fault,” he said.

“The ones that run the track do a good job. It was quite a ride, but that happens. I’d have drove again the same day but no car left,” he laughed.

D’Entremont says some of his friends think they can fix his car up to race again this season but he’s doubtful. The four-door Cavalier 2.2 Eco-Tech had a “peppy little engine,” he said.  

“It’s quite bad. It’s sad for the other car, ‘cause he got it too, he said. The other vehicle badly damaged in the crash was driven by Colin Boudreau.

Hines is grateful to the Salmon River Fire Department and the first responders.

“They do a great job. We give them the 50/50 for coming,” he said.

He’s also grateful for all of the safety measures that have been implemented in recent years.

The professionally built roll cages in each car are inspected weekly, as are helmets.

Drivers in the sportsman class wear the same gear as NASCAR, he says, with neck restraints, fireproof shoes, boots, gloves, suits.

“Our insurance dictates what we have to make drivers wear and we follow that closely. We make sure the fire extinguishers are up-to-date in the cars as well as those at the track. It’s amazing what goes into one race day. We absolutely couldn’t do it without the volunteers, we have 30-40 every race to keep things running smoothly,” he said.

After Fast Frank (Hurlburt) broke his neck in 2015 in a crash that ended his racing career, the track implemented measures to slow the fast class down. A head-and-neck restraint that tethers the driver’s head to the car is now mandatory. The size of the carburetor was reduced and slicks were removed from sportsman class tires to provide less traction and slow them down some.

Hines says the track is one of the fastest in the Maritimes.

“We made the conscious decision to slow the fast ones down. They’re flying, for little cars.”

Experienced drivers have provided valuable input for some of the changes.

Willard Hurlbert has been racing since the 60s, winning races every decade, right straight through, says Hines.

The 72-year-old won the championship last year and 14 races this year.

“He’s racing younger guys and they’re not giving these to him. These older drivers understand what’s going on. We take what they have to say into consideration,” he said. He also referred to Cliff Gavel as having a wealth of information.

“He raced with Willard back in the day. They would have duelled it out back then,” he said.

Hines urges people to come out for the last two events of the year, on Sept. 2 for Fan Appreciation Day and Sept. 16 for Fun Day.

“I think you’d be impressed with the quality of cars there and the crowds,” he said.

For more info

You can get more information about the races throughout the season through the Facebook group: Lake Doucette Motor Speedway.

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