'It's for bragging rights'

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ALGONQUIN – You can spend a lot of money or just a little and still have fun at the Wheels A Churnin' event at Augusta Motorsports Park, says a regular competitor of the past five years.

In his own case, Spencerville's Jordan Healey does a little of both.

The 21-year-old mechanic gets the most fun out of racing in the mud bogs – something that can be done on the cheap in his 2005 Chevy pickup, he said.

“I prefer playing in the mud. You don't need a lot of money,” he said Sunday as the event was winding down.

“I know guys with $200 jeeps who come here with friends and they're having a blast.

“In the mud, you don't really win any prizes. It's for bragging rights.”

Healey also has his feet in the other camp, driving a souped-up 1997 Dodge for more serious competition in the truck pulls.

He figures he's spent about $80,000 on a vehicle equipped with a 600-hp engine and 1,000-foot lbs. of torque to drive the wheels as they haul a load of weights down the track.

Healey also uses his truck as an on-road vehicle, unlike many more serious entrants who haul their trucks on trailers specifically for competition.

Those entrants put even more money into the sport, he noted.

Yet, he has managed to win a wall full of trophies from farm fairs and the three-times-a-year Wheels A Churnin' events against all competition.

“Usually, if I don't win, it's because I break something on the truck,”he added.

On Sunday, Healey added to his trophy collection with two second-place finishes in the one-tonne class and open class truck pulls.

Healey regularly competes at Wheels A Churnin' and the Spencerville and Lombardy agricultural fairs.

But Algonquin is his favourite place to compete and play in the mud bogs.

“This is my main one. It's more or less my hometown,” said Healey.

Many of his friends feel the same way.

Ryan Como, for instance, of Oxford Mills has been a regular in the mud drags for years.

Como ran into bad luck Sunday when a drive shaft and U-joint broke, leaving his oversized truck stuck in the mud for a couple of hours.

“That's all a part of it,” he said, accepting the fact mechanical problems cannot be avoided.

“It's still lots of fun, though.”

FAST FACTS: Numbers 'way up' for weekend event:

Augusta Motorsports Park owner Onne Van Hoek couldn't provide a figure on the size of the weekend crowd but said it was one of the largest ever for the second of three Wheels A Churnin' events held each year.

“The number of people was way up,” said Van Hoek, adding the number of competitors and spectators was well into the thousands, though still fewer than the typical spring and fall events.

Normally, the July show is a break-even proposition but Van Hoek said he expects to turn a profit this time.

He said many people are on vacation this time of year and skip the event but that seemed less of a factor this weekend.

Moreover, he said the crowds have been better behaved for the first two events this year because people realize they will be thrown out for raucus behaviour or have their keys taken away if they try to drive after drinking or race out of bounds.



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