|Hugh Sinclair, left, and Mike Vigen fight their way to the finish line in Rangeland Derby action on Friday. (MIKE DREW/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - Hugh Sinclair set the bar high. Too high for anyone else to reach.
The four-time Rangeland Derby champion scorched around the track in 1:17.51 in Heat 1 on opening night of chuckwagon racing at the Stampede Grounds.
After the dust settled, Sinclair was still at the top of charts.
“I didn’t know (where I’d end up),” Sinclair said. “I was just hoping for a reasonably good time. But that’s a pretty good outfit when they’re working well.”
Sinclair (Layfield Environmental Systems) finds himself in a more enviable spot than a year ago when he was 17th after the first night of racing.
He ended up in ninth place after eight nights of qualifying, just 24 one-hundredths of a second out of the all-important top eight who qualify for the semifinals.
“When you get off to a slow start, you’re rushing and trying to catch up,” the Grande Prairie reinsman said. “Last year was a tough one.
“I had a couple of good runs at the end, but I just didn’t have enough.”
If Night 1 is any indication, he won’t end up in the crying hole again in 2012.
AROUND THE BARRELS
Grande Prairie’s Rick Fraser (Direct Horizontal Drilling) was second-quickest on the night with a 1:18.04 followed by Troy Dorchester (Fireside of Cochrane) at 1:18.25. Gary Gorst (BD&P Put the Boots to Hunger/Poynt Corporation; 1:18.28), and Colt Cosgrave (Tsuu T’ina Nation; 1:18.31) rounded out the top five.
The battle for the Orville Strandquist Award as the Rangeland Derby’s top rookie driver is a three-horse race.
Codey McCurrach (ATB Financial), John Walters (Heninger Toyota Scion/Chickwagon!) and BJ Carey (CSI Canada Safety) are gunning for freshman honours, based on money won.
The fastest wagon every night picks up a $6,000 cheque. The second- and third-quickest wagons take home $5,200 and $4,600 respectively. The bottom 10 outfits get $1,900 apiece.
The top eight drivers after eight nights of qualifying will compete in next Saturday’s semifinal heats. The four drivers with the fastest times next Saturday advance to Sunday’s championship dash.
The judges handed out 30 seconds in penalties, nearly identical to opening night last year (31).
ON THE AIR
Catch all the action live nightly on AM1060.