The final race at the North American Pony Chuckwagon Championships came down to last year’s champion Ray Adamson chasing Garry Thiel, who was looking for his first ever title.
Thiel and his Pumps and Pressure wagon put down the best run of the day in an exciting Dash For Cash finale at Westerner Days on Sunday. Thiel held a slim lead going into the last race but the Sherwood Park driver made sure there was nothing to stop him from his first championship by throwing down the best run of the five-day event in a time of one minute 15.6 seconds, close to a full second over Adamson who finished third in the heat.
“The track was awesome,” said Thiel. “I had to be cautious today and just come out clean but when the horn sounded my horses ran hard.”
The duel win (the Dash for Cash and the North American crown) was a career highlight for Thiel who is in his 25th year of racing. He has won the chariot championship portion of the All Pro Taste the Dust tour five times but was only able to crack third in the pony chuckwagons which was last year.
“There is 56 wagons here and they’re all tough competition,” he said. “To win both is very special.”
Thiel did win the chuckwagon title in Westlock in early June and felt confident heading into Westerner Days because his horses have been running good. He rested up his horses by not racing them last week and the move seemed to pay off.
“They have been doing well all week and I knew if we came out clean we had a chance,” he said.
The great final run gave Thiel a five-run time of 6:26.76 over two seconds better than Adamson’s Pidherney’s Trucking wagon who finished second with a time of 6:28.76. Curtis Hogg and the Kellough Enterprises Wagon held on to third place after posting the second best time on Sunday (1:16.38) and finished at 6:30.55. Wade Salmond drove the Nossack Food Group rig to fourth with a time of 6:33.26.
Jim Lang and the Hoff Trailer Sales wagon jumped up a spot to take fifth place with an overall time of 6:33.92. Dale Young’s Calgary Flames Ambassadors wagon also jumped up one spot to finish sixth at 6:34.43. Seventh place went to Chris Spreen’s Trojan Safety rig who started the day in ninth, but after posting the fourth best time Sunday (1:17.09), finished with a time of 6:35.62. Eighth place went to Louis Johner who clocked a 6:35.9 while Jack Stott and the Strategic Energy Group wagon finished ninth at 6:37.01. Rounding out the top ten was the ABC Country Restaurant rig and Neil Salmond at 6:37.28.
The drivers certainly saved their best runs for the final day as over half the field had their best times of the week. Thiel said the track was in great condition and it made for a great week with an exciting last run.
“The fair board and Westerner Park did a great job and treated us very well here,” he said. “It is one of our favorite places to come to and always makes for some fast races.”