Thanks to a deal that came together in rather short order, Shantel Kalika got to make her season debut in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series a month earlier than expected.
The Prince Albert racer made her first start of the 2019 campaign at the Jukasa Motor Speedway in Hagersville, Ont. this weekend, where she earned a 12th place finish in the APC 200.
“We were down in Southern Ontario earlier in the spring for a test session and TSN’s media day, and we were able to talk to some people down there to make some connections,” Kalika said.
“It all came together pretty quickly but it was huge for us to go down there and learn the track, especially for when we go back down there in September.”
The 5/8 mile oval, which is widely considered to be one of the best short tracks in the country, is a completely different animal than the other ovals Kalika has raced in the series.
During her three starts last season, she competed at the 1/3 mile Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon and the 1/4 mile Edmonton International Raceway in Wetaskiwin, Alta.
“Everyone we talked to told us that it’s a fast track, but you really don’t know what it means until you get on it,” Kalika said. “We were lucky enough to test at the (3/8 mile) Kawartha Speedway out in Ontario, but it doesn’t even come close to what it’s like at Jukasa.
“There’s a lot of speed when your rolling through the corners and the straightaways itself are massive. Our average speed was 114 miles per hour, which is dramatically different from what we run back home.”
In addition to getting used to a new track, Kalika also dealt with having to wait an extra day for the 200-lap affair to take place as the event was moved from Saturday to Sunday due to rain.
“We got our practice session and qualifying run in when it started to pour,” Kalika said. “That was a bummer because we’re all geared up and ready to go and then you have to wait an extra day.
“We all kind of wondered how we’d pump ourselves back up, but our team was ready to go and we had no problems in getting excited for the race.”
After starting the race in 15th, Kalika was able to work through a few challenges on her way to the 12th place result, as she was two laps back of race winner Andrew Ranger.
“We had a bit of a push situation early on and we ended up spinning out twice off of turn four as we were trying to find the edge of what we could do with the car, but that’s part of the learning experience,” Kalika said.
“We were still on the lead lap until we had an issue in the pits when our air gun ended up jamming and we couldn’t change the front tire. We also had our brakes lock up going into turn one on a late restart and I got into the other female in the race (Julia Landauer), which I felt bad about as her team (DJ Kennington Racing) has done a lot to help us out. It was just a racing situation and nothing intentional there.”
For the family-owned Busch Racing operation, the trip out to Ontario was huge for them and one that saw a number of other teams on the circuit.
“The caliber of racing on the circuit is second to none and it was a major boost for us to be able to lean on those guys when we needed help,” Kalika said.
“It’s not easy to travel down there and have everyone on the team wearing multiple hats, so for us to do what we did as a team based out of Prince Albert is huge.”
Kalika will be back in action in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series at the Wyant Group Raceway on July 24 and she will also be competing in the Pro Truck division in Saskatoon on June 15 and July 6.
“Our friend Kade Thompson drove the truck for us while were away and he had two seconds and a third, which puts us second in points and in a good spot to start the season,” Kalika said.