Kunka douses Tri-City competition

Original Post Source

That smoke show Saturday night at PGARA Speedway had nothing to do with cars burning rubber on the track.
Arnie Kunka knows all too well where it came from. The 49-year-old Williams Lake driver has been on wildfire duty the past month trying to keep his hometown from getting annihilated by flames that refuse to die.
That hasn’t left him much time for his favourite hobby, stock car racing, but with the Tri-City Racing Series coming to Prince George Saturday for the second stop in the series, Kunka made the trek north to try his luck on the three-eighths mile PGARA oval.
The 2005 Wescar late-model series champion has a long history of success in Prince George and came into town leading the Tri-City Series standings, having won the main event and heat race after posting the second quickest qualifying time in the series-opener July 1 at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Williams Lake.
Kunka picked up where he left off, capturing his heat race and racking up his second feature race win of the series, a 75-lap affair that went from green to checkered without a caution flag or stoppage. Winning the heat gave him a spot near the back of the field and Kunka started in the fifth row of a 14-car field in the main. About 30 laps in he started making his move in his ’66 Chevelle to get to the front, passing his son Don as he closed the gap on the lead car driven by Billy Beasley of Surrey.
“I was actually sitting back waiting and thought for awhile I’d waited too long but I was watching the other guys use up their tires pretty bad and I was saving mine,” said Kunka. “I was running super-low air pressure in my tires and I was waiting for the air pressure to come up (as the tires heated up) and while I was doing that guys were starting to run away.
“We had a couple of gremlins (in qualifying) but we fought through and I have a good crew and it all came together in the main.”
John Ashley grabbed second spot on the podium, while Beasley was third.
The smoke made it difficult for spectators to figure out who was in what position on the track during the race but Ashley had no trouble keeping Kunka in his sights.
“It was probably easier driving in the smoke than it is standing in it,” said the 46-year-old Ashley. “I live in Kamloops and it’s been pretty thick there for the last month-and-a-half. It burns your eyes a bit but once you’re moving out on the track your mind is on other things, so it’s all good.
“That’s my best finish in the series so far. Nobody drove rough, they gave you the line if you had it. Everybody did what they were supposed to do and I had a lot of fun.  
“Prince George is always fun for me because my dad (Greg Ashley) used to race here 30-plus years ago. He ran super stock and jalopies when they had the track on Ferry Avenue, so every time I come back to Prince George it feels like the old days, which is just a blast.”
Ashley works as a mechanic in Kamloops and says he wears a respirator on the job to help him deal with the persistent wildfire smoke.
Kunka hauls logs for a living, but most of the logging activity in the bush was interrupted the second week of July when a series of dry lightning strikes touched off the fires that are still burning vast tracts of Interior forest. He says he felt obligated to return to his old job fighting fires.
“I worked 28 days straight fighting fires down there and 28 days is nothing compared to what a lot of the boys – and girls – have been doing,” said Kunka. “The fire just keeps jumping the guard and there’s a fire out west (of Williams Lake) that’s so fast and so big, they’re not even trying anymore  to put a guard in front of it, they’re just chasing down both sides.
“The town is a lot safer now than July 10 when it started. The flames were 200 feet (high) on either side of the valley and now there’s none of that, the fires are a little bit further back. But we still have  (a fire at) one end of that valley closer to the west end of the lake and if it comes over there, we’re done for.”
Nathan Linfitt won the 25-lap Chieftain Auto Parts mini stock main event Saturday, while Spencer Forseth captured the 16-lap Tri-Par R.V. Rentals hornet class main.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *