From the editor: Ken MacIsaac’s popular ‘KenZone’ series continues with Greg Sewart, one of the most accomplished stock car racers in Maritime Canadian racing history. Among Sewart’s career accomplishments are five MASCAR Tour championships and a second-place finish in the 1994 Oxford 250. Sewart is a member of the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame. Many thanks to Ken MacIsaac for this story and all that great photos that accompany it as we profile Greg Sewart. So grab a coffee – it’s a long one- but worth every minute to read and realize what an amazing career Greg had…

Ken – A lot of guys got interested in racing because of a family member, usually their dad.  But in your case it was your big brother Jimmy who got you involved.

Greg – When I was a kid, Jimmy used to drag me everywhere with him.  He took me to all the races back then.  That’s how I got hooked.   Junior Hanley used to light up his stock car over on Herring Cove Road back then.   We could hear it from our house, and of course, we had to go up and see it.    And I remember when Jimmy got his first stock car.  It was a ’57 Chev nicknamed “The Orange Crate”.  Jimmy and Gary MacDonnell had it together.   Jim did most of the driving.  It wasn’t much of a car, but they were just starting out and didn’t really know what they were doing back then.  But I was with Jim all the time back then.

Ken – Jim was very successful at Atlantic Speedway in the 70’s driving the green Chevelle that you started out with?

Greg-  He sure was.  His experience helped me so much starting out.

Ken – So in 1976, you started racing yourself?

Greg – I bought the green ’67 Chevelle from Jim.  Fina sponsored me my first year, so I painted the car white.  The white showed up the Fina logo better. I had a pretty good first year,I won the points championship along with Rookie Of The Year.

Ken–  ClydeHemeon built the car originally.  Did he help you when you started?

Greg – We were doing it on our own, but Clyde was always around when we needed to pick his brain on set-ups, or engine questions.

Ken – I want to talk about your dad for a minute. First of all, you have a funny story about him practicing your car.

Greg-  Dad would go to the races back then to cheer on Jimmy and me, but he wasn’t into it like we were. Anyway, one week he wanted to try the car in practice.  He got strapped in, and went out and made a few laps but he was in 2nd gear the whole time.   The track was a ½ mile, and the car was just screaming.  We were trying to get his attention from the pits to shift, but he never did see us.   That was the last time he tried the car.

Ken – And it was in your rookie year when you lost him?

Greg – Both Jimmy and I were racing that night.   They red flagged the race we were in. We didn’t know what was going on.   I think Jimmy got out of his car to see if he could find out something.  Jerry Lawrence was announcing that night, and he was crying and trying to talk to Jimmy.   That’s when we found out that it was Dad. He had a heart attack in the grandstands.

Ken – I don’t know how you guys kept going. How you kept racing after such a tragedy like that.

Greg – It was tough.  It still is.   But we did.

Ken-  The next year, 1977,  was a very good year for you.  You won a bunch of races and captured the Sportsman Points Championship at Atlantic Speedway.

Greg – Everything fell into place that year.  We were trying other tracks, and gaining experience.

Ken – In 1977, Riverside had their very first 250.  The support class was the Sportsman cars, and you ran that race.

Greg – A few of us from Atlantic came down to run it.  Back then, I wanted to run anywhere I could, just to get experience on a different size track.   It was a good opportunity to learn how to set up the cars with the proper tire stagger and we played with the gearing of the rear end along with transmission ratios.  We were trying to get the maximum RPM’s from the engine.   Riverside was a good place to learn.  We made a few trips during the year back then.  We’d change the rear end, carburetor, manifolds to run Riverside, and we did it all in the yard. We didn’t even have a garage back then.

Ken – You also traveled down to Sydney in ’77, and ran the Maritime Late Model Championships at Bud’s Speedway?

Greg–  We did well there.  Two days of racing and the championship was determined by your average finish.   Frank Fraser won it, and we finished third overall.   Enjoyed racing there.   But after the races were over, we were going to stick around for a bit and party a little.   There were a few picnic tables around the edges of the parking lot,  and you could camp in those spots.  So the crew and the gang that followed us anywhere we raced, were there camping.  Everyone was sitting around the table and having a few pops after the race,  so I went over with the truck and trailer and started to back up where they were.   It was dark as heck and no one came out to guide me back.  The next thing I know,  I crashed into a tree with the back of the race car.  Hit it dead centre in the back of the car.  Wrecked the rear bumper and the rear of the car.I raced a 100 laps that weekend and never put a scratch on it and that happens. We all had a laugh over that and a few pops for sure. Still, to this day we still get a few laughs from that story.

Ken–In 1978, you bought the Roach Bros. Camaro.

Greg – I needed another race car.  The Chevelle’s rear frame section was bent. We were racing at Riverside one night and Jimmy turned me coming off turn 4.  I went into the big tractor tires that separated the pits from the track. I took it back to Clyde’s after we got home that night,  and worked on it all night straightening it the best we could. We also changed the springs from leaf to coil because we couldn’t get it perfectly straight.  We worked hard that night because we were racing at AtlanticSpeedway on Sunday night. But the car never worked that great after that.  But that’s another story we laugh about now,  but not back then. Lol.By the way, the kinks in the frame are still in both frame rails on the restored car.

Ken – Wasn’t Atlantic Speedway phasing out the Sportsman class at that time?

Greg-  Sort of.  Jim Corbett (Atlantic) made us run a  ‘Modified B class’ that year at Atlantic.  It was faster than the Sportsman, but not quite as fast as the Modifieds.  I also ran that Roach Brothers Camaro at Onslow as a Sportsman and won 11 out of 12 features, and I finished 2nd in the 12th race.   I spent all that spring drilling holes and grinding on that frame and cage to lighten it up. We ran an old 307 motor and it would blow a piston in it by the end of the feature each week.  So we ended up replacing it every week.  We used to do our own motors back then.  It was a lot of fun.  We used the basement of the house as a garage.

Ken – Was it was around this time that Jim hung up his driving helmet?

Greg-  Jim was very successful in the Sportsman cars, but found it tougher driving the Late Models. They were faster, cost more money, plus he had a family and kids.

Ken – Jim still had his own car in ’79, didn’t he?

Greg – Jimmy bought Chisholm’s Camaro in ’79, and I drove it as a Modified. I still had the Roache car that year too.

Ken–In 1980, you ran a newer car?

Greg–Jim and I became partners that year. He’s helped me from the start, but that year we operated more like a partnership.   We combined our money and sponsors and bought a new chassis from Blair Crooks.   Mike MacKenzie was working for Blair at the time, and he built most of that new car.  Mike was also our crew chief back then.

Ken–You ran Onslow full time in 1980, and finished 6th in points.  But you also ran fulltime at Atlantic Speedway and won the Modified Championship.

Greg – That Crooks car worked very good. We had learned a lot too.

Ken – Riverglade Speedway was another good track for you.  You won the International race 3 times, ’83, ’84 and ’87.

Greg-  When we first started going there, we wrecked a lot.  It took about a year and a half to catch on to it.  It took a lot of sweat and money repairing the car after hitting the wall just about every time up there.  But we never gave up and caught on to it. I liked it there because it was a great challenge to conquer it and once I did we did really well up there. It made you feel good about running there and especially winning there. Really liked running the International.  It was a big race and I won it twice in a row, then again a few years later.  I remember in 1983, the International was broke up into Twin 100’s. I won the first 100 lapper but broke an axle in the second one on lap 98.  I still finished third in the race and was the overall top car.

Ken – In 1982, you won the Points Championship at Onslow.  Another great year for you.   You finished third to Biederman in a big 100 lapper that year at Onslow. Any Biederman stories?

Greg – Not really.  We used his shop one time when we were in Ontario.  But just the crazy things he would do.   I remember he would start a race at Cayuga,  take the green and pull off.  He’d load and head out on the first caution to go to another race.  He would collect last-place money and go win at another track. The next time he tried that they let him pull off and load and wouldn’t open the gate long enough so he couldn’t make the next track he was going to.  Needless to say, he didn’t pull that one anymore.   Just to hear him tell the stories was really funny.   Another time he got pulled over for speeding, go figure.  The cop came out of nowhere to pull him over.  So he got out and grabbed the tire pyrometer and checked the temperature on the cop car. Whoever was with him couldn’t stop laughing. Great stories for sure.

Ken – In the fall of ’82, you went to Ontario to race?

Greg-  We met Alan Turner at Riverglade that year.  He raced up around Barrie Speedway, and he was down here for the International.  We got along well, and he invited us up to race and hang around for the week.   We raced at Flamboro,  Sauble Beach, Delaware, and Barrie. We spent the whole week up there, and that took in both weekends. Flamboro we finished the race, but not sure where.  We made the mistake of buying used tires.  That was wrong.  Sauble Speedway we blew up.  So we went back to Bob Clements’ shop.  Frank Fraser was driving for him at the time.  We worked all night and replaced the motor and went to Delaware the next day.  I remember we were in the lineup for the pits that day. We were looking around at all the good runners in line.  Hanley, Biederman, Zardo were all there. Mike (MacKenzie) looked at Jim said: “what the hell are we doing here?”. (LoL) That’s Mike. Anyway, we had new tires and we qualified well so we got in the feature.   We were going to the front on the outside.  The car was hooked up. Started in the ninth row and we were way underpowered but I could almost flat foot it in the corners.  I was going by guys like Hanley and Zardo.  Got up to 5th and the car died.  We had a distributor give up on us. So the next week we went to Barrie and had a great race there and finished 7th. The hood pin came off halfway through the feature.  The pin on the front of the hood, right in front of me.  I had to watch the edge of the race track to find where to let off for about 4 or 5 laps and then it flew off thank goodness.

Ken  – When MASCAR started in ’83, you were running full time at Onslow Speedway, as well as the tour.  You were the points champion at Onslow that year, as well as MASCAR.

Greg–  We were racing twice on weekends back then.  It was tough when we had to run up in Miramichi, N.B.,  and then back to Onslow. I remember we used to come off the 104 to the 102 at Truro, and instead of going to the next exit, the odd time we would make the ‘u-turn’ at the end of the ramp.  If we’d rainout on Saturday and were racing on Sunday night at Onslow, we’d race all the way back and we were just going to make the first race if we made that u-turn.  One time, Jim was driving, and he made that u-turn, but the police pulled us over.  The cop didn’t like that move, and Jim got the ticket and we missed the heat races.We started the feature at the back which wasn’t a surprise, and we ended up winning it.  So it didn’t turn out too bad.  Other times when we raced Saturday night in New Brunswick, we would come all the way back to the Truro Mall parking lot.  We’d take the car off the trailer and check it all over on Sunday before the race.

Ken – Petty Raceway opened in late ’83, and you finished second in their first race.  Did you enjoy running there?

Greg – It was a great place to race and I really liked it.  One time, the steering wheel came off in my hand and I hit the wall pretty hard.  I told Jim on the radio that the wheel came off.  His reply was “I don’t see any wheel on the race track”.   My reply was “the f—ing steering wheel you a—hole”.   They bought the steering wheel, the quick connect and the pad at the big race car flea market in Thompson, Connecticut.   They put the bolts in hand tight and put the cushion over it to say it was “one piece”.  They did all that for when they were crossing the border so it would save on any duty fees.  How well did that work? Not.  They forgot all about it and went racing.  We laugh about those stories now.

Ken – In 1984, you changed the body style on your car?

Greg- Wheelspin News named me the Top Late Model driver in the Maritimes for ’83.   In getting that award, they gave me a new Mor-Flex Racing Fiberglass body.

Ken – In 1986, you won your first Riverside 250.  Do you remember much about that race?

Greg–Honestly, I don’t. There’s a lot of races that stand out for me.  I can’t remember much about that win.   Everything had to be on our side that night.

Ken – 1987 was quite a year for you.  You won 9 of 17 MASCAR races en route to the points championship.   You won the season opener at Riverglade, lapping all but second place.  It was the same scenario for race #2 at Riverside.  You won 4 of the first 6 races in ’87. And then you won the CocaCola 100 at Rivergladeby lapping the whole field.  No cautions.  An incredible season.

Greg – I remember that first race in Riverglade.  We unloaded and went out for the first practice.  The car was hooked up so we parked it for the rest of the day.  Junior Kelly came over and said, “now that’s the way to go to the race track.”  He knew we had a good car for that day.   I remember we had a great car that year along with a very dedicated crew   If we talked more about some of those races I would probably remember a few of them.

Ken–  There’s a YouTube video of a MASCAR race at Petty Raceway from 1988.  In the feature, you end up in the turn 4 wall, and a fight starts.

Greg – I saw that too.  If you watch the heat race,  Glen Brown spun off turn two at the end of it.   I was beside him I think,  but I didn’t touch him.  He thought I did, that’s why he wrecked me in the feature.   I got suspended for a week after that.   All part of racing.  Tempers flare once in a while.

Ken – In the late 80’s,  you went to Oxford a few times for their ‘Open’ races.   They were known for giving the Camaro type cars a hard time. Was it the same for you?

Greg – Yeah.  They didn’t like those bodies and made us add lots of weight.  We had to jack the bodies out of proportion to meet the heights. I don’t think we did that great there in those early trips.   I remember going there one time in the fall and we got snowed out.  Forget the year.

Ken – You also went to Beech Ridge for an ACT race in ’88?

Greg–  I remember when we landed there.  Fred and I were embarrassed to take the cover off the car.  It looked so bad with the body alterations we did.  In the heat race,  I started on the outside of row 3 or 4 and I was stuck on the outside for a few laps.  They were going by me on the inside so I said to myself ‘I’m getting down to the bottom’.  I tried a couple of times and didn’t make it.  So the next time I had I chance I said ‘I ’m doing it’ and the guy who was there said ‘no you’re not’ and I got wrecked. LoL.   That was the end of our day.

Ken – 1989 was another good year for you.  You won the season opener at Scotia, then won the Halifax 300  that summer.  It was quite a big deal winning that 300?

Greg – The track owners were offering a trip to the Nashville 400 for the car that got the most points at Scotia that season.   They were supplying the car and trailer to race at the All American 400.   We didn’t use our own car.  The guys drove to Ed Howe‘s shop in Michigan to pick it up.  When they got there, the car wasn’t even finished.   It was supposed to be ‘turn-key’.    The plan was for them to get the car, and drive down to Nashville.   I was working part-time with the Dept. Of Transportation and I couldn’t take much time off.  The track owners flew me down to Nashville just before the race.  Anyway, when the guys got to Howe’s race shop, Don Biederman was there.  They walked in and there was 1 fender on the car. The right front suspension was bolted on, but other than that, it was just a cage and frame.  They practically had to build the car there.  By the time they finished putting the car together, they were late making it to the track in Nashville.  But, we still didn’t have a motor to run.   Biederman borrowed a V6 from Mike Eddy.   I don’t think we had any practice.  The car didn’t even have power steering in it.   So I ran my heat race and didn’t qualify.   I wanted to turn the motor up to get more RPM’s, but Don didn’t want to.  He was afraid I’d blow it up or damage it because he borrowed it.  I ran the Last Chance race and got close to qualifying.  I think it was Tom Harrington who hit me coming off a corner and I hit the wall.   We would have been better off if we geared our own car up to take there.   I loved the experience we got out of it. I just wish I would have done better.  I know we would’ve too if we had our own equipment. That bugs me to this day because I know we would have qualified and run well.   It made me look like I couldn’t run with those guys.  And I know I could.

Ken – When the A.C.T. tour came up here in the early 90’s, how did you do against those guys?

Greg–It was the same deal.  They didn’t like the body.  So we had to add weight and jack the body up to make them look ugly….lol.   The car would be fast at the start for a few laps and would fall off after awhile.  All because of the extra weight.  We would wear the tires quicker.  I ran well against those guys, but it just seemed like I had something bad always happen, like a flat tire or someone wrecked us, something like that.   I remember we got rain delayed at the A.C.T. race in Riverglade.  Fred and I crawled under the car and took out about 100 or so pounds.  I started the feature and made it up to 3rd and was still catching the leaders.  I said to myself “I better back off”,  and I finished 5th.   I knew they weren’t going to weigh 5th place, plus it was Sunday afternoon, and those guys weren’t going to hang around, because they were heading out.   Even with that 100 lbs. off, we still weighed more than their cars.

Ken – You won the Mascar portion of the Moosehead Grand Prix a few times. Tell me about that race?

Greg – I won it in 91 , 92 , and 94.  It was a blast. We got a lot of information from Dave Smith the first year we ran it.   He was a road racing expert.  We just improved on that for the rest of the races.   We changed springs, weight, shocks, and transmission.  We even hooked up a water jug to squirt on the brakes to keep them cool.  I really liked racing the road course, especially through the streets.  It was a new challenge.

Ken – In  1991, you went up to Spud Speedway in Caribou, Maine.  They had a 100 lap open race, and you won it.

Greg-  I do remember that one.  We got rained out on Saturday and had a great night back at the hotel.  We barbecued steak and potatoes that night.  Freddie went into a nearby field and dug up the potatoes earlier in the day.  And they were awesome.   So we went back to the track on Sunday to race.   We got the heats in and it started to rain again.  But this time it poured.  They thought about canceling it, but we talked them out of it, only because we wouldn’t make it back to race it.   So they waited it out.   They had to get pumps out in turn two to pump the small lake off the track.   But we had an awesome car there.  On the restarts, I could pull them a couple of car lengths and I just went on to the win.  I remember these guys came over after the race and thought we had a trick transmission and they wanted to buy it.  Little did they know it was an old 3 speed out of a truck that we ran all season.lol. I was starting in 2nd gear each time and it gave me a launch. We laughed all the way home and said we should have sold it to them for big bucks. Lol.  It was an awesome weekend for sure.

Ken – 1992 was another good year for you.  You won the points championship and was voted most popular driver.  I remember the MASCAR race in Sydney that August.  There was a big wreck on the first lap.

Greg–  I do remember that.   Forget how it started, but we had to replace the left side suspension without losing a lap.   I broke a caliper, spindle, bent a shock and tie rod.   The crew changed all that under caution and I didn’t lose a lap.  I had a great crew.   During the red flag, the crew looked it all over and gathered what we needed.  They had it all laid out, along with the tools.  When they threw the caution, they went to work.   There were a few restarts near the end of the race, and that gave us more time to repair the car, and we didn’t lose any laps.  I took the lead on lap 69 and held on.  It was a great win.

Ken – In 1993, you won your 2nd Riverside 250, along with the Points Championship.That 250 was an excellent race.  You and Scott Fraser raced so close in the last part of the race.  Then Scott wins but gets disqualified.

Greg – That was a great race.   We were back and forth for the lead.  It was great racing back then because they started the faster cars in the rear.  I can’t remember what the issue was with the car that got him disqualified.   I like winning,  but not that way.  It’s not the same as beating him on the track.

Ken–So in 1994, you replaced your Crook’s chassis with a brand new Howe car?

Greg– The boys went to Ed Howe’s shop in Michigan and picked it up in the middle of the winter.  It was quite the trip.  They took our truck and borrowed Steve Henderson’s trailer.  When they got to Quebec, the roads were a sheet of ice.  They stayed in Windsor, Ontario and the temperature dropped to -40 that night.  The next morning the truck wouldn’t turn over.   We had 20w50 oil in the engine.  They had to drain that heavy oil out and put lighter oil in it.  But they needed the generator to hook up a heater to warm the oil in the pan. And that wouldn’t start either.  The boys had to carry it in the room and put it in the bathtub.  They ran hot water over it enough to get it going.  They got the heater hooked up to it, and heated up the oil pan on the truck just enough to get it going.  They went to the nearest service station and got the oil changed.  We were rookies with that type of cold.   Jimmy told me they had to scrape the inside of the windows as they were driving just to see.   They almost froze to death on that trip.  Anyway, Mike Eddy was down south testing a new cross member.  He had a similar new Howe car.  Ed Howe sent up an updated crossmember, and we installed that just before the season started.  We just cut the old cross member out and installed the new one.  But that car was fast right out of the trailer.

Ken – Didn’t you wreck in practice before the season opener that year?

Greg – I do remember that for sure.   We worked all night.  We took the rear body off the show car and put it on the main car.  We replaced the rear frame section. Once we had that all done, we had to go to our shop and scale it.  They told me to leave and head back to Antigonish,  but I didn’t have a car to take down.  So Stephen said to take his.  But it wasn’t even his car.  Anyway, I jumped in it and went.  Louise my wife was staying in the motorhome near the track.   I made it back to Riverside in an hour and a half.  I got stopped by the police between New Glasgow and Riverside doing 140.    It was about 4 or so in the morning.  I remember the cop came up to the car and asked me for the papers.   I said I don’t know if I can find them.   I told him I don’t know who’s car I was driving.  He looked at me with a strange look while I was tearing the glove box apart.   So I found the papers and looked to see who’s car I had.  It was  Clayton White’s Honda Accord. I said to him “I know Clayton”  and he took them and went back to his car to confirm it.   He came back and wrote me up, gave me a ticket.  He said, “slow down, I saw some deer down the road”.   I said “well if you hit them doing 100 or 140  it’s not going to make much of a difference”,  and then I took off.   Funny I can remember that perfectly,  but can’t remember some races.  Anyway, we ended up winning the season opener at Riverside.

Ken  – I want to talk about the 1994 Oxford 250.  You finished 2nd in that race.  Tell me all about that weekend?

Greg – A bunch of tracks around New England and Canada had races which offered a guaranteed provisional into the 250 if you won it.   But you still had to run the heat races at Oxford to get your provisional in the feature.  Anyway, we won the qualifier race at Scotia Speedworld.   So at Oxford, I didn’t qualify in my heat. The car was way off.   We tried a few things to make it better, and I had to run the Last Chance race.   It started to come around, and I did finish high enough to get a starting position in the 250, so I didn’t have to fall back on the provisional.   The next day was the 250.    But we knew we weren’t going to run well.  The morning of the race, Dwight (Giddens) walked around the pits looking at other cars.  He noticed several cars had their weight in different spots than we had. So we figured, ‘why not, what do we have to lose?’.  So we moved the weight in our car up to the left front before the feature.   We started 32nd on the outside.  I stayed there for a bit, then I just started passing cars on the outside.  There was a long green flag stretch. I was just taking my time.  The car was handling really good.  They came on the radio and said: “Ralph Nason (the leader) is right behind you”.   Just as they said that the caution came out, and it was for Nason.  He blew his rear end just as he was about to lap me.   So we pitted for tires and fuel, and I started working my way back up again.  We were about to get lapped once again when the yellow flew.  Talk about luck in racing.  Anyway, I stayed on the outside. That’s what worked for me. I started passing cars and made it up to 2nd.

Ken – Jim and I talked about that race a few times. He attributed that great showing to a great driver and crew,  but also to Dwight (Giddens of R&D Performancenter) for snooping around the pits before the race.

Greg – Absolutely.   We ran at least 100 laps in practice, trying to get faster.   Dwight just decided to go for a walk to see what he could spy.  He came back and said ‘here is what we need to do’.   Just by moving the weight,  I could run the inside and outside very well.

Ken – It was such a proud and happy moment for me to witness.  I can’t even imagine how happy you guys were.

Greg – It was one of my racing highlights for sure. I’ll never forget it.

Ken – You guys went back to Oxford in the fall, and didn’t even qualify.  That was shocking.

Greg–The ACT tour changed their tires that race.  They went from Goodyears to McCreary’s.  We just couldn’t get the handle.  It was cold that day too. The temperature really messed us up.Going to Oxford twice in one year was a huge expense.  We couldn’t have done it without the help of Moe and Danny of Mighty Muffler and Vic of Provincial Electric.  Those guys funded those trips.   We wouldn’t have been there, except maybe to watch.

Ken–In June of ’95, you finished 2nd in the A.C.T. race at Scotia, but they disqualified you.  Tell me about that?

Greg – The officials said “the heads were machined”, and took away our finish.  They were grounded around the exhaust ports and they thought it was too much.  The heads were legal in our series, so why not there’s?   We appealed it and won. We were reinstated to run the next race they had.   They just didn’t like us beating their guys,  with our style cars.   But it was a good race too.   We almost won that race,  but a late caution let Scott Fraser cool off his brakes,  and he passed us and won.

Ken – At the 1995 Riverside 250, you lost a motor early in the race, and changed it and finished the race.  Seems almost unheard of.

Greg–  We were only 14 laps into the feature and the engine dropped a valve.  So we put it in the trailer and climbed up onto the top of the trailer to watch the rest of the race.  About 5 minutes later, Stephen and I looked at one another and said: “let’s change it”.  So we did.  It was a dry sump engine so it took a little longer because the tank and hoses had to be run and hooked up.  We got it done and made it back out.  But the smoke coming out the exhaust was unreal.  It was just built up around the exhaust.   The crew told me to pull off, but I told Jim on the radio to “tell them there’s oil on the track”.   They threw the yellow to check the track, and that gave me a few laps to burn off the oil in my exhaust.   We didn’t put any oil on the track,  they just thought it was us.  We finished 3 or 4 positions ahead of where we went out.  That gave us the points championship that year.  We won by only a few points over Scott Kelly.

Ken – At the end of the 1997 season, you lost your longtime sponsor Moe Nickerson.

Greg-  Moe was a good friend for sure, and still is.  It was a combination of a few things.  He didn’t get along with one of our guys, and he was slowly losing interest.  Moe had the Thruway and Might Muffler shops.  He still has them today, but he’s retired.  We see him at the odd Mooseheads game.

Ken – In 1998, you finished 2nd to Scott Fraser in the Riverside 250.  That was the year that the power went out for an hour or so.

Greg – I remember sitting on the track waiting for the power to come back on.  It was funny, I think they had a couple of portable lights on the track, didn’t they?   It was a hot night if I remember correctly.  It was a good race with a pit stop and all.   Was glad to finish it.  It was a long night.

Ken–2000 was a difficult year for you.   You lost your good friend and crewmember Fred Eisenhauer to cancer.

Greg – Really miss Fred.  He started with me on the old Chevelle back in ’77.   He was just hanging around the first year I had it.  He’d come to the races to watch us run.   That’s how long he was with us.  He was a great friend and a great guy.  So in 2000,  I won the feature at Petty in June.  We lapped all but the second place car, and it happened to be Bobby White.  I  just about got him and the caution came out.  He asked his crew if he was in the lead and his crew guy said: “You ’re just about lapped by the 99”.   Bobby came on his radio and said “Really?”. It was funny.   We got Fred out on a weekend pass for that one.  It was his last race.  The July race at Petty was the hardest race I had to run because we lost Freddie that Saturday morning, and we got rained out that day.  They ran it on Sunday    Never forget that one.I took the feature that day and dedicated the win to Freddie.

Ken – Also that year, you had a devasting wreck in PEI.

Greg – The wreck in PEI was the beginning of the end for our racing.  We had partners in the team that Jimmy and I had to buy out.  We lost Fred, and then the wreck.

Ken – How did the wreck happen?

Greg – On Saturday, we were qualifying for the feature on Sunday. In the heat race, I think Dave Potter was leaking something. Anyway, I was in 6th,  only running half throttle. The car was fast and I was just waiting.  Coming off turn 4, Shawn Tucker was on the inside and he rode up a bit, causing me to hit the wall before the flag stand.  I went up and over his wheels and hit the flag stand at the bottom of starter’s stand. I almost hit Pat Lawrence who was flagging that day.    The car was destroyed.  There was too much damage to fix, and we missed the race.   We actually missed the next 4 races but made the finale at Scotia.

Pat Lawrence –  It was coming up to halfway and Greg had moved to the outside of Shawn Tucker coming off of 4.   Shawn moved up and their wheels touched which launched Greg towards the wall.   Once he got into the wall it all happened very quickly.  I saw him launching towards the starter’s stand, and it happened so quick that my first reaction was to reach for the red flag and turn the red light on.  Both of which were not there anymore after the stand was hit.   My other concern was for the drivers.  After checking on Greg and Tucker, the assessment of the stand took place with track management.   They secured the stand with adding plywood to strengthen/rebuild the stand.  I’m thinking racing resumed a couple of hours later.  Watching the accident now makes me realize how lucky we all were.

Ken – So it took the team several weeks to fix the car?

Greg-  We had to repair the car after that wreck because we had it sold.  A guy from Miramichi I believe wanted to buy the whole thing.  The car, truck, and trailer.  So after the wreck, we rebuilt at Mike MacKenzie’s shop.   It cost us a lot.   But the guy still bought it.    When it was all over, we were able to walk away with a bit left in our pockets after the bills were paid.

Ken – Also in 2000, you drove Dan Eddy’s car in an IPSC race at Scotia?

Greg-  Dan was away for the race so he asked me if I would drive his car.  It was a good car and if I had a couple more races in it, I could have run a little better. It was a fun week getting it fitted for me at Dan’s shop in Dartmouth. It was a good race but we needed to work on the suspension, then we could have gone faster. I think I finished 5th or thereabouts.  I wish we could have done more races with them guys.

Ken – And then in 2001, you drove Mike MacKenzie’s car at Scotia.

Greg- Mike had asked me if I wanted to drive his spare car. I remember it was very hot that day, and I wanted to put a cool box in the car. I wanted Mike to put a larger battery in the car so it could run the cool box.   Mike said it would be ok, and the smaller battery would be better for weight.  But the battery died because of it, and I didn’t get to finish the feature.

Ken – I believe 2002 was your last year behind the wheel.   You drove Bob Riley’s car at Scotia.

Greg – That deal happened through Steven Foster.  Bob had asked me if I’d drive his car for 2 races that year.  The second race at Scotia, there was a wreck in turn 1.  Three or four cars got crossed up. Marty Prevost was down low to avoid the wreck, but when he came back up, I was there.   I went up and over his wheels and came down hard.   It hurt.   I ended up breaking my back.   I had a compression fracture of 2 vertebrae, number 9 and 11.   I didn’t need surgery, because there’s a certain percentage of injuries that have to be to operate on.  Luckily,   mine wasn’t one of them.   My back still bothers me, on and off.   It was the worst pain I ever had.  When I got to the hospital, I still had my racing suit on.  They were wondering how they were going to get the suit off me.   So I said “cut it.  I won’t need it again”.  It was a thousand dollar race suit, but I knew I wouldn’t be driving again. So they come in and start to cut it.  Well, it was a triple layer so it was tough to cut,  and it took them a while.   The next day my aunt was on the same floor of the hospital as me.  She was in a car accident.  My sister was visiting her that morning.  The nurse that was looking after her could barely use her hands because she told them about this guy that they had to cut a race suit off of.  My sister told her it was me. Her hands and arms were really sore and blistered. Anyway, that was the end of my racing career.

Ken – In 2010, you were inducted into the Maritime Motorsports Hall Of Fame.

Greg-  That was a great honor for sure.  My dad died in the grandstands in 1976 watching me race at Atlantic, so when I got on the stage that night, it just felt like from the start of my racing career to when I finished, he was up there looking down on me and looking after me.  So I dedicated my whole racing career to him.

Ken – Another great honor came in 2011 when you were inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall Of Fame.

Greg – That was something else.  I got a call at home one day, and they left a message.  We were out at the time.  So when we got home, I played it back. But I didn’t quite understand it all.   Louise asked me who it was,  and I said it was the Maritime Hall Of Fame and Ernie (McLean) probably wants to know how the old car was coming along.   This was back when we first got the old car, and we were nowhere close to being finished with the old thing.  So, I didn’t really want to talk to him to tell him that. So the next evening, I got another phone call, and I was shocked to find out it was the Canadian (Motorsports) Hall Of Fame.   Anyway, I was beside myself for sure.  It was an awesome ceremony in Toronto.  We had a great time.

Ken – You’ve had such an amazing racing career.  When you look back on it, are there any races that you wish you had won?

Greg – I would have liked to have won a feature at Speedway 660.  It’s the only track in the Maritimes that I never won at.  I almost did one time, and I let John (Flemming) by me in the last few laps.  I kicked myself afterward, because I thought I had room to make it three wide, and I would ’ve won it if I did.  We came so close to winning the Oxford 250 in ’94.  If we had a couple of fresh tires at the end, we may have.   I would’ve loved to win one or two more  Riverside 250’s.  But all in all, I’m pretty pleased with what we accomplished.

Ken – You’ve had a pretty amazing crew over the years as well?

Greg – I really want to thank those guys. My brother Jimmy, Fred, Stephen, Randy, Pat, Rob, Dwight and all the other guys who helped along the way over the years.

Ken – Would that 2nd place finish in the Oxford 250 be one of your racing highlights?

Greg – No question.To finish 2nd in ’94, against all that top-notch competition was amazing.   Just saying it, is awesome.

Ken – The restoration of your old Chevelle must be almost overwhelming.  Pat Lawrence and his team did an amazing job.  And what a fine tribute to you it is.

Greg – It really is.  Last summer, it was cool to talk to the people who watched it race back then,  or guys who raced against it.  Remember talking to Ken Zwicker who held the pipes in place, while Clyde Hemeon tacked them on when he was building the car.  We met  people who knew something about every aspect of that car.  People who were involved with it in one way or another.A big thanks to everyone involved in the restoration of that car, especially Pat Lawrence.  He was the driving force behind that.

Ken – Pat, tell me how it all came about?

Pat Lawrence –  I had been looking for that car since my late teens.   Not many originals exist over the years, which is too bad.  It was too easy not to do it.  Greg was my first favorite driver as a 5 year old sitting in the tower with dad while he announced at Atlantic Speedway.   The reception has been overwhelming for Heart Of A Champ.  I think we are just tapping into the greater interest of the local racing community for projects like ours for preserving maritime racing history.   I’m sure Greg  has been enjoying being back in the spotlight with signing autographs and people asking questions about his career and the project.   We are in the midst of putting together the 2018 event schedule for the Chevelle, so stay tuned.

** I want to thank Greg for taking time to chat about his career.  Greg is a legend in maritime racing and one of my all time favorites.  Also thanks to Jim Sewartand Pat Lawrence for their stories and input. – Ken MacIsaac

 

(click image to enlarge photos)

Photos available from Ken MacIsaac (kensphotos@ns.sympatico.ca)