Story By: ASHLEY MCCUBBIN / QUESNELLE RACING – ORILLIA, ONT – After a solid campaign last year, Ron Quesnelle will be back at Sunset Speedway once again taking part in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I / Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park Late Models.
“I’d like to thank Dick Launspach and Jim Locking both for letting me be part of this team and drive this car for these guys,” he said. “It means a lot because I was pretty much retired in my eyes and then these guys gave me a call and we got back together.”
After ending the 2017 campaign with a string of solid results, Quesnelle is hopeful they can pick up where they left off.
“I think the biggest thing is we improved a lot later on in the year, but we definitely want to change the start of the season,” he said. “We had a big learning curve going into last year, and I knew we would. We also had some bad luck – we got into that one big wreck, it kind of hurt us for two weeks about. So we’re just trying to change our luck. If we can have a better start and continue how we finished with five top-fives and qualifying better, it’ll be good.”
As Quesnelle noted, the 2017 season did not start off strongly as hoped with some struggles. However, as the year came to a close, he scored five top-fives in last four nights, including a runner-up.
“We have a very good racecar underneath us – just need to get the whole package, and that track is very hard to learn,” he said. “I thought I would just race it like any other place but both corners are totally different so you have to learn a lot. I picked Rick Walt’s brain and he helped me huge on the line, so those guys are good to help you on the line. Then Paul Geniole Jr was huge on the test night that we had on a Wednesday as he helped us huge on the line. That got us – I think, the big hurdle was a lot of my guys aren’t really drivers and know the line and what I am doing. It was nice to have Paulie there and tell me what I was doing wrong.
“The biggest thing was the line wasn’t that very good where I was running, and the car wasn’t the way I liked it to feel so we got both where we wanted to get them.”
Knowing where they stand right now, the past Barrie Speedway Champion is keeping his goals in check for 2018, keeping the initial focus are trying to string together some top-five finishes.
“I’d really like to run stronger and be more a threat to win a race,” he added. “We had two seconds last year so we were close and I think with the crate advantage this year – four barrel carb, weight rule and the clutch – I think we should be a little stronger than the builts. The biggest thing is to run more top-fives and qualifying better. We were qualifying about 14th at the start of the year, and ended up fifth or sixth near the end of the year so we did improve in times.”
Ultimately though for any team, vying for the track championship and having a chance to attend the NASCAR banquet in Charlotte, North Carolina is at the focus. Quesnelle has had the opportunity do that before, following a dominate 13-win season at Barrie Speedway.
While admitting that a second championship may not outweigh that achievement, he says it’d be huge to do it again.
“The biggest thing is you have to beat the best which is like Gord Shepherd, Nick Goetz – they really have their programs set-up,” he said. “I’m probably in the best racecar that I’ve ever been in and hopefully we can produce a few more top-fives and plug away and get a win. But yeah, the ultimate goal is to win the big championship and go back to Charlotte when we really earned it that one year at Barrie and won 13 races.
“I’d like to win one and then work my way into a second feature win. But first, pick away at one. Hopefully we’ll be strong. We’ve spent a lot of money and time on this car this winter. We went through the whole deal and tried to find what we were lacking, and hopefully we come out of the box a lot better.”
While working at their own program has been the focus, it’s no secret the whole division is in a bit of a flux right now following a series of rule changes by track officials over the winter. The biggest, which has been talked about by most industry experts, is switching from an eight-inch tire to a 10-inch.
“It’s hard to say how many guys are going to convert their cars and do it,” Quesnelle commented. “We went to McColl’s and we had a fair bill when we were done converting the car over and we did a lot ourselves. So it’s hard to say how it’ll fair out. It’s kind of a huge turning point in the division. If they don’t pay for our type of car to race, there aren’t going to be many left as they’ll drop off like flies. So this depends on opening night and how many cars we actually have. Some guys are also thinking of going to Sauble Speedway as you have a couple different tracks you can go to, and some guys we’ll see if they spent the money to convert it over.
“I thought it was a rash decision to switch it over. I thought we were okay with the eight-inch tire deal. The tracks are saying that it is saving us money, but it didn’t save us any; we spent a lot this winter and spent a lot of time in the car this winter, where I don’t think we would’ve had to have done half the conversion. It’s hard to say what the division will do. Hopefully it produce some stay-in.”