Sarah Cornett-Ching will realize a dream Saturday night when she straps into the Cruisin’ for a Cause-sponsored #25 Chevrolet for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at the MotoPlex Speedway in Vernon.
The Penticton 20-year-old couldn’t believe her ears when NASCAR driver and team owner Jason White of Kamloops called her just a couple of weeks ago about the A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300.
“I wasn’t really sure why Jason White would be calling me,” said Cornett-Ching. “When he said he might have an opportunity to drive one of his cars at MotoPlex Speedway I was blown away. The short time since then has been surreal.”
White and his partner Rob Zimmer entered a Cruisin’ for a Cause car driven by his brother Jim White in 2010. This year he chose to offer the ride to Cornett-Ching.
“Cruisin’ for a Cause is an important event for my main marketing partner A&W Restaurants,” said White. “I’ve watched Sarah for a couple of years now. She works as hard away from the track as she does on the track, and I know she’ll do a great job as an ambassador for the sport and for the charity event.”
On Aug. 25, A&W hopes to raise $1 million for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. All 738 A&W restaurants nationwide will donate $1 from the sale of every Teen Burger to the MS society.
Cornett-Ching feels ready to tackle the challenge of a NASCAR stock car and the responsibility of representing a worthy cause. The charismatic welder by trade is an accomplished race car driver who also studies in an educational program called RACE 101 for aspiring racers.
“I was awarded a scholarship to attend RACE 101 in North Carolina this year,” said Cornett-Ching. “The program has taught me a great deal about race cars, but I’ve also learned a lot about marketing and promoting sponsors.”
Cornett-Ching progressed this year from street stock race cars to the ARCA West OK Tire series which travels throughout B.C., racing at various speedways. She has scored a few top-five finishes and turned plenty of heads with her charitable work. Cornett-Ching visited the B.C. Children’s Hospital to spend time with the kids and share stories of her racing endeavours.
“Sarah has all the qualities anyone needs to make a career in racing,” said White. “This will be a great experience for her, and you never know where it could lead. All anyone wants in our sport is the opportunity to make an impression.”
Cornett-Ching had hoped to find a ride in the support division during the A&W Cruisin’ the Dub 300 race. Finding herself in the main event wasn’t on the radar.
“It’s amazing how things can change in a short time,” said Cornett-Ching. “Three weeks ago I was planning to go and watch the race. I had hoped to get a ride in the support class, but this is far beyond anything I had in mind.”
This is the first of a two-race swing to Western Canada, and the fifth straight season the series has visited the half-mile track.
For those chasing Scott Steckly in the championship point standings heading west to Vernon, it is not good news. The half-mile tri-oval is perhaps Steckly’s strongest track.
In four starts there, the Milverton, Ont. driver has a win and three second-place showings. The victory came last season as he beat out eventual NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion D.J. Kennington. Steckly pocketed $10,500 for the win.
He was about 300 yards from the win in 2007 as he and J.R. Fitzpatrick came out of turn four side-by-side, but Fitzpatrick was able to get a nose in front at the line to win by a scant .029. Steckly finished second to Don Thomson Jr. in 2008 and Andrew Ranger in 2009.
Steckly, the 2008 series champion, has a 92-point advantage on Kennington and has finished inside the top-five in all five races this season, including a win in the season opener at Mosport Speedway in Bowmanville, Ont.
He is looking to bring Canadian Tire its first title after Steckly picked up the sponsorship in 2009 from Peter Gibbons.
“Canadian Tire has been so good to our race team and is so deserving of a championship,” Steckly said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to make it happen.”
There is not a specific reason for the success at the 7,500-seat MotoPlex, according to Steckly.
“It’s a great track to race. The surface is good. The lights are good. There’s little to not like,” said Steckly. “I think we’ve earned our success there, but it’s probably more circumstance than anything. I doubt we have something figured out there that no one else does.”
Secrets or not, it will be a long shot for anyone to make a sizeable dent in Steckly’s points lead before the series heads to Saskatoon, Sask., for a Wednesday date at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway for its second event in a five-day span.
Qualifying goes at 5:30 p.m. followed by an autograph session at 6:30 and racing at 8. The race will be shown on TSN Saturday, July 30 at 11 a.m. (Pacific).