Spencer MacPherson has been driving race cars for 12 years, but he admits he still gets butterflies before a race.
The 19-year-old from Carleton Place started racing go-karts at age eight and has competed all over North America and Europe in a range of different classes. He's also been tagged by Capital City Speedway officials as the up-and-coming driver most likely to make it to the hallowed ranks of NASCAR.
Even though he has hundreds of races under his belt, the nerves still come back when his pit crew cinches down the five-point seatbelt in his No. 31 late-model stock car and the 350-hp V8 engine starts up with a deep-throated roar as it fires up. But the nerves don't last long.
"As soon as you come down for the green flag, it's all gone," he said.
The dominant emotion MacPherson has been feeling lately is frustration: He's been spending more time in the garage with his dad repairing crash damage than out on the race track.
"It seems like every time we get to the front, we get wrecked," he said. "It's been tons of work, we've been up late every night fixing the car."
Most recently, on July 9, he was running fourth in an American-Canadian Tour (ACT) series event in St-Felicien, Que., after making a charge from 10th place when two back markers ran into each other and took him out of the race.
MacPherson won't be back in action for another two weeks, when he races another ACT event in St.-Eustache, Que., and then he'll be back at the Capital City Speedway on July 30 and Aug. 9 ... if the rain gods co-operate.
Wet weather has cancelled, postponed or shortened racing at the Capital City Speedway four weeks out of the last six, and it's driving the venue's owner Arnie Malcolm nuts.
"It has been terrible," he said. "Typically, May is your iffy month, but June was just a total writeoff."
Despite the weather, the Speedway is having its best season in many years, with more cars and fans than ever.
"Our car count is out of this world," said Malcolm. "When the weather's good, our spectator count is out of this world."
The track's racing school is sold out, and the two-seat ride car that gives spectators rides around the track is booked solid, too.
"The growth is unbelievable," says Brian Goudge, who has been announcing the races at the track for 20 years and goes by the nickname Motormouth.
"I've been coming here since I was 12," said regular spectator Bill Pettes of Stittsville, who was at the track with his 12-year-old son, Brad.
ACCESS TO PITS
One thing that attracts fans is they can pay $15 to sit in the bleachers or $20 to get full access to the pits, where they are exposed to all of the sounds and smells of race-tuned engines.
The low-banked, \ -mile oval, in the middle of the woods just off Hwy. 7 between Kanata and Carleton Place, isn't fancy, but it has its own charm when the sun goes down and the racing heats up.
There are five different categories of cars, ranging from beat up old four-cyclinder compact cars with the glass removed to full-bore 350-hp late-model stock cars. Each category runs two heats and a main event, and each race has its share of passes, spins and minor collisions, followed by a frenzy of repairs and adjustments in the pits. It's common for competitors to help each other out generously with spare parts and tools -- but don't expect that kindness to extend to the race track.
"They're the greatest people in the world, until they put their helmets on," said Malcolm.
He has some big plans for the track, too, such as a NASCAR Canada event, which would require some track improvements to meet the series' standards.
"Our hope is to put in an infield pitlane," said Malcolm, who added the track is already discussing an advertising deal with the Lac Leamy Casino.
"There are phenomenal positive signs," he said.