September 23rd, 2019

A wild ride to the finish: Hieb narrowly edges Fitzpatrick for rumblebee title

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on September 9, 2019.

NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN
Kevin Hieb stands receives his trophy from 10-year-old Karsen Negium after holding on to finish atop the Medicine Hat Speedway's rumblebee class standings on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com@MHNMcCracken

Kevin Hieb knew he had some big shoes to fill when he opted to climb behind the wheel of a rumblebee at the Medicine Hat Speedway this summer.

Hieb spent decades watching his father, Alf, make a name for himself on the local oval track and when a new V6 class opened up this season, he decided to forge his own future in the sport. Four months later, Hieb is king of the rumblebees.

“Words can’t even describe it,” said Hieb, who entered Saturday’s main event tied for points with 15-year-old Emma Fitzpatrick. “When we started the night I was four points back, then caught all of those points up in time trials so we were even Steven. Then it was so nerve-wracking. To be honest I got into the season strictly to go out and have fun and after the first four or five races I was in contention for the championship and it was like it turned on a dime. All of the sudden the nerves are flowing and it’s pretty dramatic out there.”

That drama took centre stage in Saturday’s main event, as Fitzpatrick held a significant early lead on Hieb only to have her hopes dashed by a collision out of Turn 2. Fitzpatrick’s car was taken for a spin, and Hieb even subsequently collided with her door in the chaos – forcing the young racer near the back of the pack with only a few laps to go.

“I just got double T-boned,” said Fitzpatrick. “I wasn’t too impressed, but I tried my hardest and I think I’ve got some bent stuff but I’ll fix it.”

While Fitzpatrick managed to put together a wild push, -climbing back to third place – she was unable to complete the late comeback on Hieb, settling for third in the race and second on the year.

“Nobody likes to see a race end like that, or even pass a car like that,” said Hieb, adding he has a great deal of respect for Fitzpatrick’s skills at the wheel. “She’s a fantastic driver and you can tell on the track. I was just trying to, not so much be like her but race like her. You know, clean. Try to pass the guys – don’t go through them, go around them. She’s a class act up and down.”

Fitzpatrick made a name for herself at the Speedway over the past few summers as an evolution cup car driver, but opted to step things up when the rumblebee class opened this summer.

“I had fun overall,” she said. “I got to try out a full size car which is completely different from a tiny little evolution cup.”

Fitzpatrick added she plans on climbing into an even faster vehicle when she returns to the Speedway in the modified class next summer, while Hieb says he’ll likely be back to defend his rumblebee crown.

“I had a flippin’ blast. Next year I would think probably 90 per cent of these guys are going to be back,” said Hieb. “These last few race days were super competitive, there was no clear winner. Next year is going to be twice as fun.”

Levi Sergeant went on to win Saturday’s rumblebee main event ahead of Hieb and Fitzpatrick.

James Dumont took Saturday’s hobby stock main event, clinching first in the standings in the process. Trevor Stratton finished second on the season, followed by Alysha Stratton – who also finished second in Saturday’s main event ahead of Rob Gale Jr.

Ross Statham held on to win the elite street stock class by taking the checkered flag in Saturday’s main event ahead of Mitch Stovka and Thomas Payne. Stovka finished third in the standings while Payne took second.

Curtis Bigelow edged out Jason Woicichowski by just three points to take the renegade truck crown. While Woicichowski won Saturday’s main event, Bigelow kept close behind in third to finish atop the standings. Al Patterson placed second Saturday and fourth in the standings behind Tony Lavigne.

Faith Luther’s second-place finish in the baby grands main event was enough to give her the season title. Robyn Abel settled for second in the standings, while Megan Preston finished third in both the main event and summer standings. Sarah-Jo Paquette won the main event.

Rylan Malone bested the pack in Saturday’s evolution cup car main event to clinch the season championship, while Noah Banman took second Saturday and third on the season. Ethan Skolarchuk finished second in the standings, while Connor Skolarchuk placed third in Saturday’s main event.

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