At 25, Ricky Weiss has logged millions of laps around the race track — first in his father’s Super Truck and then in his No. 7 Bloomquist Super Late Model car.
The Headingley resident saw his first checkered flag at a young age as his father Derrick, sponsored St. Francois Xavier racer Mike McCaughan. After buying a Super Truck from the U.S., Derrick introduced that racing class to Red River Co-op Speedway south of Winnipeg near St. Adolphe, which he and wife Bev owned for about seven years.
He joined older brother Ryan on the track when he was 15, racing their father’s truck. He switched to racing a car in the modified stock car class about seven years ago when local racer Dave Turk was injured and needed to find a driver for the season.
Weiss then changed again to racing a super late model car, the highest class in stock car racing, about four years ago. His No. 7 consists of a Bloomquist tubular frame built in Tennessee and a 700-horsepower engine which runs on methanol. The car’s sheet metal sides are emblazoned with his sponsors’ logos. With Weiss inside, the car must weigh a minimum of 2,300 pounds and weights are used to reach this level.
He has hauled his car inside a customized two-decker trailer as far as Florida where the race car season lasts throughout the year.
"They race every day in Florida," he said, adding that he was exhausted after racing 13 days out of a two-week period earlier this year.
The competition in late model racing is intense, with up to 80 cars starting and 24 advancing to the final. The draw for racers is the chance to win more money than the purses paid at tracks in the northern U.S. and Canada.
Weiss is aiming for top spot in this year’s WISSOTA series, which includes 35 races at tracks in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Ranking is based on points racers accumulate during the season.
"If we get three more wins, we’ll be looking good," he said. He won first place in the series in 2011 and 2012.
Weiss said his car’s top speed is 120 miles per hour so racing in late model events is more a competition based on racers’ knowledge and skills in terms of how they prepare their cars and handle track conditions.
"One night you could look like a hero, and the next night you could look like a zero," he said. "The biggest thing is experience."
After walking the track, Weiss and his crew adjust the car’s tires, gears, springs and steering. He prefers driving on a 3/8 mile track like the one at Red River Co-op Speedway. Races at the Speedway usually have 10 laps per heat, then 15 in the final.
The number of laps varies at different races and Weiss said he plans to enter a 92-lap race in Grand Forks that is being held in memory of a local racer who competed under #92. With this extremely long distance, he will have to watch for tire wear.
Weiss said racing late model cars is relatively safe. He’s rolled his car twice without serious injury.
"As far as breaking bones – never," he said.
In the relatively short time Weiss has been racing in the late model class, he’s seen the competition increase at Red River Co-op Speedway, with up to 15 cars in some races.
"Which is pretty good considering this is only the third or fourth year (for this class)," he said.
While he can make more money if he wins at tracks in the States, he enjoys racing at Red River Co-op Speedway, and having the chance to show local people how much fun car racing can be.
"You just have to get them out there," he said.
After the races, young fans can stop by for a photo with Weiss and the other drivers and pick up cards with photos and information about each racer and their car.
Weiss is planning to head south after the season ends in Canada and try his luck on the Florida tracks again. There’s a chance a wealthy race car owner might decide to put Weiss behind the wheel of one of his or her cars. Working as a hired driver, he said, would be a dream come true.
Weiss’ race results are available at http://www.weissracing7.com/