With a little time to spare between Superbike events, 14-time Canadian Superbike Champion Jordan Szoke seems to have found a new hobby. After taking part in a practice day the week before, Szoke showed up at Welland County Speedway on August 28th and signed up in both the VET and Expert 450 classes. Despite having 78 career Superbike victories to his credit, Szoke would take on rookie status for this event as this would be his maiden voyage in the flat track world. With stifling temperatures on race night, the rapid schedule had the possibility of becoming physically draining but Szoke assured onlookers that this would not be a problem as he is ‘super fit’.
Up first for Szoke was his 450 Expert heat race and he lined up second from the outside on his machine borrowed from Doug Beattie. As the field blasted from the line, Szoke found himself in fourth position as he hit turn one for the first time. He soon found himself shuffled back to fifth position but was involved in a four way battle for third. Although Szoke was at the tail end of that four way battle, the four riders were all within striking distance of third place and the last coveted front row starting position in the main. When the dust had settled, Szoke found himself finishing fifth out of seven riders but he had officially got his feet wet in the flat track world.
VET class heat race action was next for Szoke and he found himself lined up on the outside for the start. When the lights flashed green, Szoke got a great start and found himself in a side by side battle for the lead as the group went through turns one and two for the first time. One lap later Szoke would make the pass for the lead on the exit of turn two and started putting some distance between him and the rest of the pack. Looking more confident with every lap, Szoke would win the race to the checkers with about a ten bike length gap back to the second place rider.
Hitting the track for the 450 Expert final, Szoke was struck with some beginners luck as a timing and scoring mix up had him starting on the front row instead of the starting position he had earned on row two. When the riders left the line at the start, Szoke got a less than perfect start and found himself in 10th position as he dove into turn one for the first time. Mixing it up in the pack of talented riders, Szoke did his best to deal with changing track conditions but at the finish he had slipped back to 12th.
With only one race between the 450 Expert race and the upcoming VET final, Szoke regrouped quickly as he prepared for his next race. Redeeming himself after a bad start in the 450 race, Szoke had a perfect launch and took the lead into turn one for the first time. Szoke would hold the lead until lap three when crafty veteran and eventual race winner Bentley Thistlethwaite made his way past. Szoke spent the rest of the race fighting hard to hold on to second place as Brent Thompson made a couple of attempts at taking over the position. At the line Szoke would barely hold off Thompson for the second position, completing his first night of flat track racing.
Catching up with Szoke after the race he was all smiles as he talked about his time on the track. “It was super fun out there. I had a great time. It looks like I will be building a bike for myself this winter. There was some kind of mix up in the 450 race and I ended up on the front row but I spun the rear tire off the line. The track got a bit tricky and I have a big weekend coming up in a few weeks so I didn’t want to take too many chances. I wish the water truck had got out one more time but yeah it was a lot of fun. In the VET class I got a good holeshot but then Bentley got past me. I was trying to get him back but man he was so smooth. He was just keeping his wheels in line but my back end was stepping out a bit. It was a lot of fun. I’ll be building a bike for sure.”
The Open Expert race on this night was an absolute barn burner resulting in perhaps the closest margin of victory in Welland County Speedway history. Former Canadian Champion Doug Lawrence took the victory over young upstart Hunter Bauer by about an inch according to observers at the track. In a classy move Lawrence had Bauer join him on his victory lap and even pulled a couple of wheelies for good measure.