On May 13th, Sunset Speedway held an event in memory of Bill Zardo called the Big Z Memorial Hot Rods Race.
Zardo is a Canadian racing legend and a Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame member. He made his stock car debut in 1962 at Pinecrest Speedway and was a regular until the track closed down in the mid-70s. In 1981, Zardo won the inaugural CASCAR Super Late Model Series title, which was the predecessor of the Canadian NASCAR championship. His career also included stints in the Molson Series and American Canadian Tour.
He retired in 2001 but returned in 2022 at 80-years of age to compete in the OSCAAR Hot Rod series with a 1971 Plymouth Superbird. During the season, Zardo earned a very popular victory at Peterborough Speedway. Unfortunately, he passed away on December 13th while preparing to work on his race car.
The list of his family members that have participated at one time or another in stock car racing includes his son Billy, daughter Sharon, son-in-law Pete Shepherd Jr., and grandchildren Lane Zardo, Billy Zardo III, Pete Shepherd III and Scott Nagel.
This event also served as a warm-up to Sunset Speedway’s new Hot Rod class called the Let US Drive U Home Hot Rod series. The points season begins on the Victoria Day weekend and ends September 16th at the Fall Velocity.
The cars competing in the Let US Drive U Home championship are constructed to specifications and rules common to most stock car series. What makes the Hot Rod division unique are the makes and models that compete in the division. The cars must be North American, have a steel body and have been produced between 1949 and 1974. No pickup trucks, convertibles or front-wheel-drive vehicles can participate in this series. The Hot Rods must have a stock roof, grill, and tail, while the rest of the body panels can be fabricated from 22-gauge sheet steel but must retain a stock appearance. Many other rules governing this class are for safety and to keep the costs down.
The Big Z Memorial Hot Rods Race was a support event to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series season opener. The results from four heat races on the 0.333-mile asphalt oval would determine the starting order for the forty-six-lap feature event. Included in the payout was a $100 award for lap leaders in the finale.
|The pace lap for the Big Z Memorial Hot Rods Race at Sunset Speedway. The No. 47 1965 Rambler American driven by Dwayne Baker is on the pole. On the outside of the front row is Amanda Balson in the No. 16 London Recreational Racing 1974 Chevrolet Camaro. Behind the leaders are the No. 96 Gaunt Collision Centres 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II of John Gaunt and Tyler Hawn driving the No. 2 1966 Pontiac Beaumont.|
|It was fitting that Dwayne Baker won the inaugural Big Z Memorial Hot Rods Race, as he and Bill Zardo were close friends. Baker drove Tom Walters No. 47 1965 Rambler Ambassador and collected second and third-place finishes in his heat races. In the finale, Baker started on the pole and throughout the forty-six-lap contest, he battled with the No. 96 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II of John Gaunt but prevailed for the victory.|
|Former NASCAR Pinty’s Series competitor John Gaunt joined the Hot Rods ranks in 2022. Gaunt only participated in three events but scored a victory. Driving the No. 96 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II, Gaunt collected a runner-up result in heat race two and victory in the fourth. He started the finale in the third spot but jumped into second at the beginning of the contest. Despite several attempts to pass Dwayne Baker, Gaunt finished second.|
|Billy Alderson, Jr. has been a Hot Rod competitor since 2018. In his first season, he finished second in the final standings. He drove the No. 18 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle at the Big Z Memorial. Alderson finished fourth in his heats and was gridded seventh for the final contest. At the start of the race, he fell to eighth but crossed the finish line in fourth-place. However, Alderson inherited third when Amanda Balson was disqualified.|
|The fastest qualifier was Herb Walters driving the No. 88 1974 Dodge Dart. His Hot Rod resume included a single event in 2021. He demonstrated his speed in the heats, collecting a win and runner-up finish. After the grid was inverted, Walters started the feature in fifth. His race was filled with drama. Walters had contact with Tyler Hawn and got a flat tire while dueling with Billy Alderson. He would finish twelfth.|
|Tyler Hawn has the most Hot Rod feature victories at twelve and won the 2017 and 2018 OSCAAR titles. All his success has been behind the wheel of the No. 2 1966 Pontiac Beaumont. Hawn won Saturday’s first heat and was fourth in his second. Hawn battled with Herb Walters, Rob Bromley and Billy Alderson during the final contest. He received the checkered flag in fifth-place but was awarded four after Amanda Balson was disqualified.|
|Another driver that benefitted from the disqualification of Amanda Balson was Travis Hallyburton. Hallyburton piloted the No. 6H 1962 Ford Thunderbird and the Big Z Memorial would be his first Hot Rod event. He collected third and sixth-place finishes in his heats and was gridded sixth for Saturday’s final contest. After moving up and down the lap chart, Hallyburton was classified with a fifth-place result.|
|The first three drivers to cross the finish line for the Big Z Memorial Hot Rods Race at Sunset Speedway. The track owners, Brian and Sandra Todish, are on either side of the competitors. In the center is the winner, Dwayne Baker. On the right side is the runner-up, John Gaunt. Amanda Balson stands in the spot reserved for the third-place finisher. Unfortunately, she was disqualified when her Camaro failed post-race tech.|
|1||2||Dwayne Baker||1965 Rambler Ambassador||46||-|
|2||3||John Gaunt||1966 Chevrolet Chevy II||46||-|
|3||7||Billy Alderson Jr||1966 Chevrolet Chevelle||46||-|
|4||4||Tyler Hawn||1966 Pontiac Beaumont||46||-|
|5||6||Travis Hallyburton||1962 Ford Thunderbird||46||-|
|6||8||Rob Wark||1962 Ford Falcon||46||-|
|7||12||Brian Wilson Sr||1970 Chevrolet Camaro||46||-|
|8||10||Donny Beatty||1974 Chevrolet Camaro||46||-|
|9||13||Luke Gignac||1964 Dodge Polara||45||-|
|10||11||Rob Bromley||1972 AMC Javelin||30||-|
|11||17||Steve Adams||1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass||30||-|
|12||5||Herb Walters||1974 Dodge Dart||21||-|
|14||13||Thomas Dunn||1964 Ford Galaxie 500||19||Did Not Finish|
|15||15||Paul Bogensberer Sr||1969 Chevrolet Chevelle||10||Did Not Finish|
|16||9||Matt Spry||1969 Chevrolet Chevelle||2||Did Not Finish|
|17||16||Keenan Belzile||1957 Ford Fairlane||0||Did Not Finish|
|DQ||2||Amanda Balson||1974 Chevrolet Camaro||46||Disqualified|
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