‘Growing pains’ aren’t hurting Kristy Dulaj
“Growing pains” aren’t leaving Kristy Dulaj spinning her wheels at the back of the pack in her first year racing cars at Merrittville Speedway.
Heading into Week 7 of the season, the 27-year-old Welland woman sits fifth in points race in the open-wheel class at the Thorold track. With 200 points, she trails the division leader Jeffrey May of Mount Hope, Ont., by 54 points and has a 14-point lead over Rob Misener of Welland.
While she has yet to take the checkered flag in the feature, or finish in the top three, the former motorcycle racer is “about where” she wants to be at this point in the year after making the switch to four from two wheels.
Dulaj, whose Saturday nights during the summer used to be spent at Welland County Speedway, hasn’t regretted leaving her flat-track motorcycle parked for the 2014 season.
“It’s way more exciting to be doing this. After so many years doing the same thing at the motorcycle track, it was no longer exciting,” said Dulaj, who spent 12 years competing at the dirt track in Welland formerly known as Niagara Motorcycle Raceway.
It took her some time getting used to cornering a car, rather than a motorcycle, through a turn.
“At first I kept trying to drive the car the same way,” she admitted with a laugh.
She is finding braking a “lot easier” and has been picking up speed as her time behind the wheel — “seat time,” in racing parlance — increases.
“I would like to go faster, but that will come with time.”
Bob Davidson, the team leader of Davidson Racing of St. Catharines and the owner of the No. 60 car Dulaj, has no complaints with how rookie driver is adjusting to racing cars at Merrittville.
“I think she’s doing excellent. She’s learning a lot, and she’s having fun,” said Davidson, whose son Dylan is fourth in the standings with 226 points.
The team leader is impressed with how Dulaj is handling the rear-engine race cars in the modified lites division.
“There are always going to be growing pains, but she’s passing cars. She’s right there, doing what she has to do.”
The modified lites is one of five classes on a Saturday racing program that is being sponsored by Ball Hockey International in support of the Canadian National Autism Foundation. Highlighting the KIDS RACE Event is Round 2 of the Duel on the Dirt Home Track Series in the Hoosier stocks class and an autograph night that will have drivers displaying their cars along the front stretch.
“KIDS RACE is all about having family fun for a great cause. It s all about family for me and accepting our loved ones with autism, Canadian National Autism Foundation president Tina Fougere said.
“We are quite honoured to assist the Canadian National Autism Foundation for another year,” Merrittville Speedway general manager Eric Bicknell-Jones said.
Port Colborne’s Jason Fontaine won the first race in the Duel of the Dirt Home Track Series, an annual competition that pits Merrittville against drivers from the eight-cylinder, full-fendered division at Brighton Speedway near Trenton.
The grandstand opens at 5:30 p.m. with the first race set for 7 p.m.
BACK IN PORT
Sunday night’s lineup at New Humberstone Speedway is being presented by Zanchin Truck and Trailer and features the second visit of the season by the Southern Ontario Sprints.
Mikey Kruchka beat Glen Styres and Paige Polyak when the winged warriors made their 2014 debut at the track on Hwy. 3, east of Port Colborne.
Also eager to resume racing after last weekend’s rainout are drivers in Humberstone’s sportsman, late model, street stocks, mini stocks and pro 4 truck classes.
Gates and pits both open at 4 p.m. Racing begins at 6 p.m.
ALL CLASSES ON TRACK
A full lineup of flat-track and speedway motorcycle races gets underway Saturday at 6 p.m. at Welland County Speedway.
Practice starts at 5 p.m. and qualifying heats in the youth classes begin an hour later. The main event gets underway at 7 p.m.
Welland County Speedway is located on Netherby Rd. east of Hwy. 140 in Welland.