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Best of 2012: Under the stars at Ohsweken Speedway

Profile of track guru Glenn Styres a labour of love

Published December 25, 2012

I’ve relived the thrill of driving the Scion FR-S many times. It’s a wonderful memory, to be surprised by a car.

The FR-S — youthful, raw, direct — makes you feel like a teenager again. You can fall in love with a car, and try to capture it in a review, but while cars may have soul, they don’t have a heartbeat, that’s why profiling Glenn Styres, a guy with a big heart, is my favourite memory this year.

A summer night in the bleachers at Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont.: I was there to learn more about Glenn Styres, track owner and sprint car racer. Every aspect of the rags-to-riches story of Styres was fascinating: the kid who lived a hardscrabble life on the reserve, the uncle who introduced him to car racing, the brother who told him to dream big.

Styres, with an “aw shucks” sort of charm, pieced it all together, assembled the land for the track with help from his mother, put together a race team, and attracted the stars of sprint car racing to display their devilish talent on that special Six Nations clay track.

I met with Styres several times for the story. What’s indelible is a Friday night during the Summer Nationals, sitting in the stands on the pit side of the track.

Between races some of the young drivers would bound up the steps to sit with their girlfriends, or their dads. The talk was convivial. There were little kids happy to be up late, and fanatic fans with stats and stories about drivers in each division. I listened to sunburned farmers, discussing over the sawing of 600-horsepower engines, the wonders of GPS on their John Deere and International Harvester tractors.

We were comrades on a summer night, watching the sprint cars whirl in circles, kicking up enough dust to mute the Milky Way.

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