Butler successful in trucks
You can only keep truckin' once you start.
Darren Butler did exactly that this year, and successfully, too.
The Oakville racer, competing with Team Insanity Racing, made five finals at Gimli Speedway this summer, winning three of them.
Butler began driving a 2001 Chevrolet S-10 extended cab this season after regularly competing with a 1968 Chevrolet El Camino in previous years. He also competed with a Chevrolet Chevelle SS last year.
Butler was just looking for a change when he got into truck racing, and he got it, adding over 50 miles an hour to his top speed this year.
"It's a totally different style of racing," said Butler. "It's a lot faster. It's exactly double the horsepower I was used to, so it was a pretty steep learning curve."
Butler said the speed came as a shock when he first tried out the truck.
"When the truck takes off, it pulls a little over 2.4 G's," said Butler. "It kind of glues you to the back of the seat, so you're busy hanging on for dear life while this thing's hauling down the track.
"I don't scare easily, but that thing made me nervous.
"Once I got used to that — believe it or not, you can get used to it — then it was time to concentrate on driving, and that seemed to make a bit of difference."
Butler said the truck was first for sale two years ago from a competitor from Thunder Bay who began to have some health problems. The two discussed a deal at that point, but didn't complete it until late last year.
"I wasn't ready to commit and I don't think he was really ready to sell at that point," said Butler. "Then, last fall, something clicked in my head, and I thought 'If he'll take my offer, I'll try it'."
Butler credited crew chief Brad Poole and crew member Wes Griffiths for helping get the truck ready to race this year. Sean Hutmacher rounded out the crew serving the team this year.
Butler told Poole he would need his help to get the truck ready. Poole was all in for the project, so the purchase was completed soon after.
"Brad's been instrumental in making that thing go down the track," said Butler. "He did all the research and planning as far as what we did for changes to the truck to make it work as well as it did this year."
Another highlight for Butler was seeing his two children, Melissa and Cole, compete in their second season of racing. Melissa just turned 16, but was 15 during racing season, and Cole is 11. Both drive a 2005 half-scale Junior dragster.
As well, wife Kristi takes to the track in a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.
Butler said the kids are all-in for racing, noting he proposed a hypothetical question to Cole this year, asking whether they should keep the dragster or the family boat. Without hesitation, the dragster was to stay.
"There's no lack of commitment," said Butler. "The kids have jobs to do in the morning on the car. We never get any complaints. They just do what has to be done, be it checking air in the tires, or draining oil out of the motor, all those sorts of things."
Melissa and Darren both competed at the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton in July, though the results weren't what the pair had hoped for as both were still working out kinks in their respective vehicles.
Cole, meanwhile, made two finals during the season, finishing third during the final weekend.
Butler said the dragster did have some issues during the season, as it was difficult to get it below the prescribed speed. Racers try to get as close to the maximum without going over in their races.
"It's very sensitive to air changes, and very sensitive to the wind because it's so light," said Butler. "I had a hard time trying to get the car dialed in so they could run the car without breaking out or not being able to catch the time that we put on the window.
"I thought I had it. I said 'Go out there and run it. It should do what it's supposed to do'. It didn't — it went faster. It was a bit of a learning curve with that thing, but I think we've got it figured out."