Going in Toronto, Mark Dilley is looking for the season to turn around as so far the best finish for the No. 9 Rheem/PartSource Dodge team is a fifth place finish at Circuit ICAR.
The bad luck this season that has the hurt Dilley sees him sitting 10th in points, almost 200 points behind points leader Scott Steckly.
“It hasn’t been very good for us,” he said of the season so far. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck, that’s for sure. But hopefully that’s all behind us and we just look forward to get going again and getting everything switched around here.”
Heading into the Honda Indy Weekend in Toronto this weekend, Dilley is looking turn things around with a strong run.
“It’s just a great event,” he said. “Anytime you can race through the streets of the biggest city in Canada, it’s pretty exciting. It’s a great event and we get to showcase ourselves from the NASCAR side in front of a lot of people who wouldn’t see us, if it wasn’t for that event. So pretty excited about it. We’ve always been pretty good there. Just need to have a good, strong run.”
Last year wasn’t that great for Dilley in Toronto as he finished 24th due to a rear-axle issue after qualifying ninth.
Unlike the top NASCAR levels, the Canadian Tire Series is split down the middle almost with ovals and road courses, as there are five road courses in the 12 race schedule. With that said, there are those who have brought up the discussion of which they’d perfer, in which Dilley points more towards ovals for him.
“I’m more of an oval racer,” he said. “I raced ovals all my life, but I just think that unfortunately, the biggest events in the country are the road course racing so we have to be at those, too. I can see both sides of the coin, but for me personally, I’m more of an oval racer.”
Though on the bright side of things, things have been good for Dilley once he’s outside of the racecar this year. The track in Innisfil, Ontario, in which he manages called Sunset Speedway has seen a very good season so far with lots of success. Its not the easiest job for Dilley to have, however he thanks his staff for their work they do in helping.
“It’s tough,” he said of trying to balance racing and managing the track. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes on at the same time; that’s the biggest thing. We do have good staff that work for us at Sunset that can take up a lot of slack, but there’s just a lot of things that happening on the same weekends. Like, this weekend for example, we have Toronto Indy Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we also have two events at Sunset on Saturday and Sunday, so I’m going to be back-and-forth and running around and that, but its been pretty good so far.”
He got into the ownership side of things back in the 1990s when he was the part-owner of Barrie Speedway.
“Well, I actually owned Barrie Speedway back in the early 1990s with a buddy of mine – Brad, who actually runs the Canadian Tire Series now, we owned Barrie before,” he said. “I’ve just always liked it. When we got involved in this, they put a team of owners together that had money to back it and really wanted to make a difference and they’ve done that by the investment they’ve made into the track, redoing the track. Just whatever they said they’d do, they’ve done and it’s been good to work with partners like that where they have the money to repave the track, redo it and a real fast and exciting place to be. So that was really what the biggest part of me was when they put the owners group together, they made a commitment that they’d put money in and they’ve stayed to their word 100%.”
So far this season, the competition level at Sunset Speedway has been great with the amount cars and differnet winners, however Dilley admits the crowds have been down.
“The crowds have been a bit light,” he said. “On the initial part, but its just weather, but now its getting better. But when it rains every weekend on Saturday, its hard to get people to come; nobody is going to sit around in the rain, that’s for sure.”
This summer marks an important time for Sunset Speedway as the Sunset will be one of the five tracks that are part of the Richard Petty Driving Experience Canadian Summer Tour.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to be able to get in a car, the same as what they see on Sundays with the Sprint Cup level. I think that its very exciting and I really believe that the pricing is right with it and I think it’ll be a huge success once it gets rolling. I just think that it’s an awesome opportunity and it’s really awesome of the Richard Petty Driving Experience to come to Canada and showcase what they have.”
Dilley got his start in racing through go-karts at the age of six after watching his grandpa race and has since been winning races, with his most memorable coming in Nova Scotia a couple years ago.
“It was pretty good for me,” he said of the win. “My mom had just passed a couple weeks before so it was kind of a big one.”