TOP 10 to watch in Rangeland Derby

SCOTT FISHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

There's more than $1 million up for grabs as the chucks roll into town for the richest show in the sport's history.

And that's not counting the $4 million the 36 drivers brought in at April's tarp auction.

The winner of next Sunday's final heat will take home $100,000.

Here's a look at who should be in contention for the 2007 Rangeland Derby title.

1. HUGH SINCLAIR

The 40-year-old driver is back to defend his Rangeland Derby title.

Sinclair has qualified for the dash three times in Calgary and has won every one of them (2000, '04 and '06). If he stays out of the penalty box over the first nine nights, Sinclair will be a force to be reckoned with on the final Sunday.

2. KELLY SUTHERLAND

The King is courting his own spot in the record book. Another Rangeland championship would give him 11, which would put him in top spot on the all-time list. He's raced for all the marbles 16 times, another record, including the last two years. And he's tuned up for his favourite show by holding down first place in the WPCA world standings the entire season.

3. LUKE TOURNIER

One of the most consistent drivers in the sport, Tournier has been to the winner's circle before. The 20-year veteran completely dominated the 2005 Stampede, winning the Richard Cosgrave Memorial Award as the top aggregate driver over the first nine nights and the big race on the final evening.

He's in second place in the WPCA world standings coming into Calgary.

4. NEAL WALGENBACH

Could this finally be the year The Redheaded Stranger wins the big one?

Walgenbach has qualified for the dash in each of the past three years and has finished in the top 10 at the last seven Rangeland Derbys. The 50-year-old has the highest sudden-death heat winning percentage (8-for-16) among all active WPCA drivers and currently sits sixth on the world charts.

5. BUDDY BENSMILLER

Avoiding penalties is the best way to get to the top of the 36-driver field and no one does it better than The Dewberry Rocket. Bensmiller has gone penalty free the past two years in Calgary and has been hit with just six seconds over the past four years. Making his 29th consecutive appearance at the Rangeland Derby, Bensmiller is looking for his fourth title. He last won it all in 2003.

6. JERRY BREMNER

It's been 14 years since Bremner won it all at the Rangeland Derby. But he has to be considered one of the favourites coming into this year's event.

The 47-year-old has won half of the stops on the WPCA's Dodge Pro Tour, winning dashes in Grande Prairie and Ponoka. Bremner, who sits third in the world standings, has qualified for the Stampede's final dash six times, including last year.

7. JASON GLASS

This 36-year-old reinsman has been knocking on the door for a number of years. Glass missed the big race in 2005 by just .10 of a second. Last year, two seconds in penalties knocked the High River driver from second to seventh. The High River product has been in the big race three times and won the aggregate award in 2001. He sits fourth in the world standings.

8. MARK SUTHERLAND

Son of Kelly, Mark has learned from the best. Last year, he went penalty free through nine nights of qualifying and finished in fifth spot, less than 1.5 seconds out of the dash. He had a tough time last week in Ponoka and slipped from third in the world standings down to 10th but has a strong barn and could be a factor in Calgary.

9. RAY MITSUING

Making his 24th consecutive appearance at the Calgary Stampede, Mitsuing always saves a little extra for the Rangeland Derby. He finished seventh two years ago before an accident knocked him out of contention last year. The 53-year-old veteran is leading the CPCA standings coming into Calgary.

10. REG JOHNSTONE

The 2005 WPCA world champion is widely considered one of the greatest barrel skinners in the history of the sport. The Bashaw Flash last qualified for the big race in 2003 and penalties are usually to blame. If not for the half-dozen seconds he was assessed last year, he would have had the No. 1 wagon. He has soared from 19th to 12th on the world charts over the past 10 days.


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