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Loud and dirty finish for speedway's golden year

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FORTHTON – Amid a grandstand packed with fans, a pit area stacked with race cars and crew and a sea of RVs covering adjacent fields, owner Paul Kirkland reflected Saturday on two milestones marked this year at the Brockville Ontario Speedway.

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It’s been 50 years since the speedway opened under the hands of the late local sports builder Ralph Hurley who brought the site – and another in Cornwall – to the forefront of the region’s racing community.

And it’s been 25 years since Paul and Cheryl Kirkland purchased the then-moribund quarter-mile dirt oval and restored a thriving operation that brings thousands of fans and drivers from Eastern Ontario and Northern New York to the area each week for six months.

Kirkland is proud of upgrades to facilities and the track over that time, as well as a decision 11 years ago to add what’s become a popular sequel to the season, the Loud and Dirty Fall Nationals race weekend in October.

With favourable weather, the weekend attracts huge crowds of fans and racers beyond the BOS’s regular reach and this year was no exception,

Under a bright blue sky Saturday afternoon, Kirkland beamed at the already full grandstand of eager race fans and the excitement in the air.

He didn’t have a confirmed car count at the time but noted Friday’s racing attracted a field of more than 40 .358 modified race cars in the top division of competition as well as strong fields in the other classes.

“It’s really good. There’s lots of cars and we had more campers than ever, for sure. The event just keeps growing,” said Kirkland.

“Some years we’ve struggled with the weather. We had some rain Friday and it’s a little cold at night, but that’s it,” he said.

He takes a diminished role at the track these days, concentrating on track preparations, while Cheryl continues to run the business office and sons Brad and Rick look after racing operations.

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A strong group of officials includes more than a dozen who have “been with us for 25 years” and keep things running smoothly, said Kirkland.

“They do it all. Now I get to be a fan again.”

Kirkland also paid tribute to “a loyal crew of drivers” who call the BOS their racing home.

“It’s nice to have the support from the guys,” he added.

That includes Kingston’s O’Brien family who have been among the elite drivers at the BOS over Kirkland’s tenure.

Pat O’Brien has been a multiple track champion and brother Danny, who retired from racing this year, has been a nearly perennial champion up to 2018.

Danny continues to own a car now raced at the site by his brother Tim.

Renfrew’s Ryan Arbuthnot, who replaced O’Brien as the track champ this year, showed no signs of rust, winning his opening heat Saturday.

The Renfrew driver, who has called the BOS his Friday racing home every summer for the past eight years, also won the 2019 track title at the Can-Am Speedway in Lafargeville, N.Y.

“Paul does a really good job here. It’s one of the best tracks around,” said Arbuthnot. who added he enjoys the opportunity to extend his season at the Fall Nationals.

“It’s a full weekend of racing that can be cold and wet but it’s nice today,” he said.

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