In their thoughts

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

BEAUSEJOUR -- It's been a rough few weeks for Brian Bewcyk.

The 42-year-old Winnipeg construction worker watched his friend and teammate, Chris Hortness, carried off a race track in Quebec on a stretcher two weeks ago and eventually undergo back surgery.

Bewcyk then had a scare of his own yesterday on the opening day of the 45th annual Canadian Power Toboggan Championships.

"We ran really quick until it stopped on me today," Bewcyk said inside his trailer at the CPTC Raceplex, rubbing his head with grease-stained fingers. "It stopped and locked up the track and spit me sideways."

SOUPED-UP SLED

Then there's the issue of today's feature. Despite guiding his souped-up sled at 170 km/h for the past 13 years, Bewcyk has never been fast enough when it mattered most on the ice-covered oval -- in the Pro Champ 440.

The winner of this afternoon's 440 will be called the Canadian champion for the next 365 days. It sounds like Bewcyk would give his eyeteeth to be that man.

"The big one is what I've been chasing for 13 years," he said. "To win the Sunday feature ... I've never won a Sunday feature, period, in 440 champ."

Bewcyk will be racing for himself today, but also for Hortness, his MPH Racing teammate from Bienfait, Sask., who remains in a Quebec hospital after having surgery to fuse five vertebrae.

Hortness, 33, broke two of the vertebrae and another one burst in the mishap at the Grand Prix of Valcourt two weeks ago. The good news is he suffered no paralysis.

"He's moving everything. Everything seems to be good," Bewcyk said. "They say he's in a lot of pain, but I guess they say pain is good at this point."

Adding to the stress, however, is the fact Hortness' wife is at home in Saskatchewan with their new baby, born a week before her husband left for Quebec.

Since Hortness will be off work for awhile, this weekend's CPTC is doing all it can to raise money for the family.

The "Chris Hortness We Hope You Get Better And Here Is Some Money To Help Out Committee" was formed and is conducting a silent auction this weekend and a special mechanics race today.

Hortness is in everyone's thoughts this weekend, but Bewcyk would love nothing more than to call his friend with great news after today's Pro Champ 440 race.

"We'd definitely be hoisting the trophy over our heads for him and then the team," Bewcyk said. "But he'd be the first person I'd be thinking of."

Bewcyk's main competition today will be Matt Schulz of Wausau, Wis., Gary Moyle of Houghton, Mich., and Dustin Wahl of Greenbush, Minn.

The action begins today at 11 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.


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