Sports

Victoria auto racing hall of fame welcomes new members

Former international karting star and 2017 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum inductee Johnny Sutton of Langford spent two decades driving these open wheel cars. He got a shot at driving an Indy Lights car later in his career, but he achieved his greatest successes in karting. The 2017 HOF induction ceremony happens this Saturday (April 8) at 2 p.m. at Western Speedway. - Photo courtesy Johnny Sutton
Former international karting star and 2017 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum inductee Johnny Sutton of Langford spent two decades driving these open wheel cars. He got a shot at driving an Indy Lights car later in his career, but he achieved his greatest successes in karting. The 2017 HOF induction ceremony happens this Saturday (April 8) at 2 p.m. at Western Speedway.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Johnny Sutton

This year’s inductee class for the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum is a varied one that includes championship drivers and builders in the sport.

Cowichan Valley-based drivers Scott Aumen and Darren Yates, fierce and successful competitors on the sprint car and modified circuits; Jim McKay, who owned the mini stock class in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and former international karting star Johnny Sutton will be inducted this Saturday (April 8) in a public ceremony, starting at 2 p.m. at Western Speedway in Langford.

As well, Pioneer Award recipient Ken Osman is being recognized for his work providing pace cars and overseeing the trophy presentations for more than 20 years, while fellow Pioneer recipient Wally Lum is best known for enjoying success racing B modifieds in the 1960s.

Aumen got his start racing a stock car he built in 1992, competing on the dirt track at Cassidy in Nanaimo around 1992 after crewing for Gord Smith’s stocker as a teenager. When a friend offered him a chance to drive his winged sprint car, Aumen jumped at the opportunity and says he was immediately hooked on the speed.

“I had three buddies who had been there before talk me into (pursuing sprint car racing),” he says. Through his driving career, which mostly wound up in 2016, he amassed just about every honour and trophy that a guy could, including six Daffodil Cup wins, four Wilroc points championships, multiple Northwest Sprint Racing Association main event wins and track lap records at Western Speedway, Saratoga Speedway in Black Creek and Motorplex Speedway in Vernon.

Yates, a self-described “truck guy” and fabricator who grew up working on trucks and debuted as a demolition driver in 1991, discovered modified racing in the late 90’s.

“Modifieds were interesting because they were a completely fabricated machine.” As his skills developed he began to give thought to switching gears again. “I watched (sprint car drivers) Dave Emmerson and Dave Conway racing and thought that was what I wanted to do,” Yates recalls. He captured Billy Foster Memorial titles in 2004 and 2005, as well as other titles through the 2000s and won the “last” Wilroc sprint car championship in 2011.

Jim McKay got his start in the early 1980s racing an old Datsun 510 in the mini stock class, a car he “beat the crap out of,” but, he says, “that got me hooked on the oval track racing.”

He honed his chops and went on win six mini stock points championships in seven years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. From there, he moved up to the faster Pro 4 series, a class he enjoyed for its lack of rules other than the weight to engine size ratio. And like Aumen and Yates, when the sprint car door opened in the mid-2000s, he walked through it to test his skills further and achieved a most improved driver award in 2005.

Johnny Sutton of Langford won every big race on Vancouver Island, captured four consecutive Pacific Northwest Gold Cup championships and won multiple West Coast and Canadian titles during a 22-year karting career. He was inducted into the International Kart Federation Hall of Fame in 2010 – not bad for a guy who literally got into the sport by accident.

As a pre-teen Sutton stood at the edge of the go-kart track at the old Fun City facility in Saanich, someone thought it’d be funny to push him into traffic. He was seriously injured by falling into a kart that was zooming by. His dad, John, a friend of storied Western Speedway drivers Gary Kershaw and Roy Haslam, felt the best way to have his son not scared off racing was to build his own kart with him.

While his first custom-built kart manufactured by Sutton and his father, John Sr. didn’t pass inspection at the Capital City Kart Club, subsequent ones did and young John “got hooked,” ultimately driving his No. 22 kart around the Island and across the continent. “It was the best father-son thing you could ever do,” he said. “I gave my body to that sport.”

One fond memory Sutton has of his days driving and touring on the karting circuit was he and his family’s connections with that of fellow Canadian driver Greg Moore, who went on to drive Indy Cars and died in a crash at age 24. The teams hung out a lot and the young drivers grew close, even developing “a special handshake” at the track, Sutton said. “I cherish those moments.”

That connection got Sutton a tryout driving an Indy Lights open-wheel car in the Players Development Program.

For more information on the hall of fame, visit victoriaautoracinghalloffameandmuseum.com or stop in to Western Speedway during race days.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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