Kalika posts best career NASCAR Pinty’s Series finish at Sunset Speedway

Photo Courtesy of Shantel Kalika Shantel Kalika poses next to the 98 Curb Records and Darkhorse Trailers sponsored Chevrolet for Jim Bray Motorsports, which she piloted to 13th and 11th place results during the season-opening events for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series on Aug. 1 at the Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ont.

In her own words, Prince Albert’s Shantel Kalika went from nothing to something when it came to her 2021 NASCAR Pinty’s Series schedule.

A last-minute opportunity resulted in a chance to compete in a pair of 125-lap races at the Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ont. on Aug. 1 in her first races on the tour since the fall of 2019.

“Our plan last year was to race on the Western Swing for the series in July after the birth of my son (Carter) a couple of months earlier,” Kalika said. “But when COVID-19 happened, that pretty much shut down everything and the Pinty’s Series didn’t come out West, so the only race we ran was a sportsman show at Wyant Group Raceway (in Saskatoon) during the summer.

“This opportunity to run the season opener for Jim Bray Motorsports came together really quickly after a few conversations over the phone. I got my NASCAR medical done on the 23rd and then flew out to Ontario on the 30th to get ready for the races.”

Kalika turned in two strong showings in the number 98 Chevrolet, which was sponsored by Curb Records and Darkhorse Trailers.

She worked her way from 17th to 13th in the Frontline Workers 125 and followed that up with a run from 18th to 11th in the General Tire 125, with the latter proving to be her best finish in a NASCAR Pinty’s Series event to date.

“Our game plan going into that first race was to get comfortable with the car and take the positions as we get them, but to also make sure that our car was still in good shape for the second race,” Kalika said. “When you have back-to-back races like they did at Sunset, you don’t want to damage the car too badly during that first race, otherwise you are done for the night.

“There was a really stout field in both races. Raphael Lessard (who has spent the last two seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) swept the doubleheader, but you also had D.J. Kennington, Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger running as well. For us to run like we did in those two races and for Jim Bray Motorsports to trust me with their car was a huge honour.”

While Kalika was able to improve on her previous career best finish of 12th, which she accomplished at the Jukasa Motor Speedway in June 2019, there were a few challenges that she had to work through along the way prior to the start of the events at the 1/3 mile oval.

“Everyone’s geared up and ready to go for that first race of the season, but there’s always bugs that need to be worked out,” Kalika explained. “We were battling radio issues at the start of practice and then we had an issue with the throttle sticking, so we had a limited amount of time on the track and we didn’t know what we had before going to qualify.

“There was also rain in the area that held us from racing for a bit and then when we finally got going, we got seven laps in before it just poured on us. There was a four-hour delay until we got going again, but we got both races in and the fans stuck around, which was great to see.”

There was some familiarity for Kalika during the races as her father Ben Busch traveled down to Sunset and was her spotter during the events.

“To have someone I know as the voice in my ear and my eyes in the sky while I’m out there really helped a lot,” Kalika said. “We were able to avoid the crashes in both races and brought the car back clean, which we were super happy about.”

At the moment, Kalika’s 2021 schedule will include a couple of races at her home track in Saskatoon in the sportsman division.

However, she’s keeping the door open for other events on the NASCAR Pinty’s Series tour, which is only running in Quebec and Ontario this year.

“Any seat time you can get in that series is a huge advantage, especially with being out West as they only come through twice a year during a normal season,” Kalika said.