Ken MacIsaac continues his ‘KenZone’ series with a profile of Sydney, NS’s Shawn Waterfield. In this exclusive interview, Ken and Shawn discuss Shawn’s  racing career from his start all the way through his 2016 NAPA Sportsman Series championship season, concluding with a great Shawn Waterfield photo gallery…

KM – Most drivers are influenced by a family member, usually a father when they get involved in racing.  What about you?  How did you get interested?

SW – My very first memory was when my aunt would come home from Ontario.  She knew how much I loved cars, so she would take me to Buds Speedway when I was a kid.  A few of my friends back then were either related to the Dicks family or just friends with them.   Stan Dicks owned the speedway at that time.  My friends were getting (building) Thunder cars so I wanted to have one too.

KM – I can barely remember your first car.

SW – I only ran a few races with it that year.  It sat more than it raced.  It was an old 4 door Buick Regal.  Stan Dicks helped out by providing the pipe I needed, and his shop installed the cage.  As a kid, I was a big fan of the Dukes Of Hazard and the General Lee, so I put # 01 on that car  That was back in 1996, and it was a lot of fun.

KM – So that was your first time competing?

SW – Yes.  But in 1995,  I remember my friend JJ Cusack saying ” Hey man, wanna come help sweep the track? You get in free and they give you a box of fries and pop too”.  Haha.    One time in ’96,  I couldn’t get the car running on race day, so I would sweep the track to save the entrance fee.  lol

KM – Your next car was in 1997.  Tell me about that one?

SW – That was actually the street stock that Joey Macdonald had with Tim Hortons on the hood. I bought that for a few hounded dollars and put an engine in it. I was still very green to the sport. My family was all hockey and baseball on one side and boxing on the other, so I was the first family member to get involved in racing.   One day I was in the line up to get on the track when Vance MacDonald and Dave Dyer approached me.  They said, “for a few bucks they could help me out”.  So they took the car to their garage and put a basic setup in it and got it running better.  That next week I went out and won my very first race haha.   I still have that trophy actually.  They say you won’t forget your first win,  and I’ll never throw that trophy away.

KM – You ran that car for a few years, then you switched to Street Stock?

SW – I did.  I sold it for a couple hundred dollars, but I have no idea where it went.  After that, I built a Pontiac LeMans.  I wanted something new for my first year in the street stock division.  Leonard Harris had it and I bought it from him.  That car was in amazing shape.  Vance and I built the car at  Jerry Hayes’ diesel shop.  Jerry helped us a lot with it.  I bought a cage from Stan Dicks. It came out of one of his old Sportsman cars.

KM – In 2001 you had a sharp Monte Carlo street stock.  Different car?

SW – Actually, that was the LeMans with a new body (haha).  Dave Dyer and I cut the old body off it, and we found all the body parts I needed.  I bought the nose and tail cone to change it over to the Monte SS.  I loved that car too, even though it was the same car haha.  I turned out awesome.

KM – One of my favorite shots of you from your street stock days, is you winning a heat race, with a crazy amount of smoke coming from your car.  Do you remember that?

SW – Haha.  I do.  That’s called ‘Win… no matter what.’   I believe the motor or tranny was overheating but it wasn’t affecting the car at that point.  So it was going for the win versus preserve the car. Haha.

KM – Is that the same car you ran up all along?

SW – Up until 2007.  Then, I sold that car and bought the # 15 street stock of Shawn Cole Sr.  It’s the same car his son races now actually.  Dave and I completely did the car over from front to rear. No bolt left untouched.  It was painted blue and yellow.  I brought it out for the first time in July of ’07, but it didn’t go so well.   In practice,  it was running fairly decent but the throttle stuck coming down the back stretch and I buried it into the turn 3 wall.  That was a hard hit. It was all our fault.  We used a ready rod for throttle,  and it hung up on the firewall opening.  So it was a huge lesson learned.

KM – You got it repaired, though?

SW – Yep.  We put a frame section in that car and got it all back together.  We finished that year with a couple wins which we need after such a bad start.   It took 6 weeks to get back to the track.  That fall, I asked Vance (MacDonald) if he would come help us at the Atlantic Championships in Shediac (Centre For Speed).    It was my first time racing at another track.   It didn’t go too well lol.  I got in a wreck on the backstretch.  It was quite the experience, though.

KM – You went back to Shediac a couple of years later?

SW –  Yes.  That was 2009.  Ronnie MacKay, Dave and I got together that year and we were pretty fast in that street stock.  We started winning more at the Sydney track and decide to make the long haul to Shediac for their Summer Championship race.  We blew up the rear end in practice the day before, so we had to get the rear end apart and back together.  We took the car on the trailer to an empty Chinese restaurant parking lot and got the rear end fixed.  That poor parking lot never smelt the same since lol.  We actually had Lynden MacDougall help us that weekend.  We got back to the track and had an amazing race with Remi Gaudet and Rick Cashol.  I got by them with only two laps to go for the win.  It was a great experience. Inside Track magazine actually gave us a full page mention for that race.

KM –  It’s no surprise that you wanted to go back to Shediac in the fall?

SW –  No. Couldn’t wait to go back.  I had won the ‘Maritime Driver Of The Year’ in 2009.  Bruce Langille put it on every year.  It was an honour to win it.  So we had a great car that day too, but a spark plug wire came off during the race. And when I came off the track in turn 1, there is a bump there.  Once I hit that bump, the sway bar got jammed up lol.  Just a bad luck run lol.  Comes with racing I guess.

KM – In 2010, you moved up to the Sportsman class.   Island Speedway in Sydney closed half way through that season. Is that why you moved up to Sportsman?

SW – No.  We actually planned on moving to Sportsman anyway, so the timing just turned out to be better at that point.  It was Rick Ackles car.  It was a great starting point because  I already had the crate engine and all the drive train.  We took it to Dave Dyer’s garage and Ronnie, Dave and I stripped it down and went over that car from top to bottom.

KM – You ran Riverside for the first time 2010.  How was that?

SW – We did OK, but we had a lot to learn.

KM – In the fall of 2010, you went back to Shediac.

SW – We were hoping to use some of the knowledge we gained by running the street stock there.  I learned very quick that you can only use a small percentage of that.  The Sportsman was a different animal altogether.  We had an OK car for the first try in a Sportsman there.  But I had a few on track incidents that kept us around the 8-10 spot in the feature.  I slipped back to around 13th-15th.  I started to gain some ground and was coming down the backstretch when 5 to 7 cars in front of me started crashing and spinning.  I almost had them clear but got tangled up.  Once I hit the grass there was no brake of course.   I slid into the concrete wall in turn 3 and 4.   That was the end of that car.  It was bent pretty bad.  Even the centre section was bent.

KM – Did you get hurt in that wreck?

SW – Hurt my foot and arm, but nothing serious.  Maybe my feelings too… haha.

KM – So that car was just too bad to repair. And you decided to build a new one?

SW –  Yes. The car was just too bad to repair.  We found a frame local , and ordered a cage kit.  We got two rails to make a jig and the new build began.  Other then the seat, motor, transmission and  fuel cell, the car was totally new.  That was a busy and expensive winter to say the least.

KM – Seemed like you were running much more competitively with the new car?

SW – The new car felt great.  Granted I was still green as well.  Shaking out the ‘street stock’ driver and trying to turn myself into the ‘sportsman’ driver started with Ronnie’s coaching.  I started to transition a little bit every time I got in the car.

KM – Riverside could be hard on front suspension parts.  You had a failure or two early on.

SW – Yeah, that was a product of using non stock car products.  Riverside can be hard on gear.  We only ran stock style rotors at that time and we learned really quick that you need the hub and rotor system.  The good thing about that weekend was, we got rained out and resumed racing on Sunday. A friend back in Sydney had a brand new hub kit, so we got them and changed it over and got to run Sunday.

KM – In 2012, you made your first trip to Petty Raceway.  Tell me about that?

SW – It was our very first time there and it started out great.  We won our heat and started on the pole.  But, some lack of experience on a restart towards the later laps would end the night before the checkered flag.

KM – In 2013 you went back to Petty, but got into a wreck on the backstretch?

SW –  Yeah.  Petty has always been my Eleanor so to speak, haha.  So being competitive by nature, we keep wanting to go back and do better each time.  During a heat race coming out of turn 2, heading down the backstretch,  Brady Creamer got Hughie Richard out of shape.  He was heading to the infield which was great from where I was sitting.  But at the last second he caught grip and corrected it again, that sent him across the track.  We hit wheel to wheel and it launched my car. I thought for sure I was rolling it when I saw nothing but the blue sky.  When the car came down it landed on those old tractor tires they use to have and that really tore the car up.  Car was too damaged to fix and get back on the track.

KM – In 2014,  Island Speedway (CBMMS) reopened. It must’ve been a pleasure to run in your backyard?

SW – That was such great news at the time.   You always enjoy racing at home.  Not just the savings on travel costs, but you get to showcase the sponsors that have been there for you.  And you get to race for the local fans especially the kids.  When I was a kid, I remember what it meant to me to go to the race track with the family.  You never forget that.

KM – From 2014 to 2016, you ran both Sydney and Riverside.  Is there much to change on the car to run each track?

SW – There are a few things to change.  Anything from gears to springs and shocks.

KM –  You won the NAPA Sportsman championship in 2016, but you also had strong seasons in 2014 and 2015?

SW – We started strong in points in 2015 and if it wasn’t for some rear end problems, we might have won the championship.  But we were all happy that Kyle Reid got to pull it off and win the championship.  He had some bad luck too that year, we aren’t a stranger to that so it was well deserved.

KM – You only have a small team, but you I know you and Ronnie (crew chief) have good communication?

SW – Chris Reid always told me….”make sure you communicate and give Ronnie what he needs”.  I always thought I did but paying closer attention to details is the key.   One thing I have learned about racing is …. “you can always learn more.  Don’t think you know it all because there is always something else there to work on.”   There’s been lots of trial and error.  More error at times, which I can take the blame for…haha.

KM – In July of last year, the Sydney track had a wonderful night of racing.  Great crowd, great racing. It was just a festive atmosphere. You were involved in that deal?

SW – Ronnie and I were sitting around in the shop last year,  and the topic of a big race came up. So I told Bill & Lynne Vasil the idea we came up with and they loved it.  They were on board, as long as I could do it.  Knowing I couldn’t do it alone, I contacted Shawn Cole to help with it.  We chose to use the race as a fundraiser for the Cancer Center.  It was an easy decision, simply because we all have a loved one or friend with  the disease.  So we created the Cape Breton Cancer Centre 100 for the NAPA Sportsman cars.  The Street Stocks had the Gerald ‘Poogie’ Hache 52 to honor his memory.  Poogie raced for several years at the track  and just loved racing.  The Mini race was the Autism Awareness 75 lapper, to benefit the Autism Society.  We sold laps and had donations for the event, and collected $2300 for the Cancer Centre.  With  Drew MacEachern’s help, they raise over $2000 for the Autism Society as well.  It was such a great day of racing and the fan count was up too.  I remember Bill Vasil walking by me when we had the autograph session  and he said ” this is awesome , look at the people here today”.   We had so many people on board to help that day.  And of course we had businesses help with the fireworks that night.  We had lots of donations and Jeff Gilmet designed all the logos.  It was just a great day with everyone coming together and showing what our island can do when we love racing and want to help out two great causes.

KM – Tell me about your championship season?

SW – We all do this for the love of the sport obviously.  It’s most certainly not a money making sport to any stretch of the imagination haha.  If we were to tell people the amount of time and hours that Ronnie MacKay, Dave Dyer and myself put into this little team from Sydney, they would shake their heads in disbelief.  Every single day after our regular work hours, we are all in the race shop working on the car.  Whether it was for setups or repairing damage, you never stop from one race to the next. Ronnie and Dave never gave up on me, thank god.  Granted there were days they probably wanted to tape me to the front of the trailer on the way home from some races hahaha.

KM – We know you have a great crew. Now tell me about your sponsors?

SW – Our sponsors are a huge part of this team.  Number one would have to be Amigos Car Clinic where I work.  Other than with parts,  they also accommodate my race schedule every summer.  Other sponsors are Mi’Kmaq Gas and Convenience,  Landrys Vacuum Service,  Perry’s Gym and Fitness Centre , Saf-Way Auto Parts,  Mark Forrest Auto Body, Target Hydraulics,  Island Well Drilling, Robby’s Towing, Simple Signs and Torque Speed Shop.  I also have to mention Lynden MacDougall.  Before he got his own car,  he would always come and give us a hand.  Even now, we are always there for each other helping in one way or another.  I have to mention my wife Crystal for supporting me in this sport all these years.   Also the help we get on race day from Craig MacKay (Ronnie’s son) and my daughter (Madison) can’t be ignored either.  My nephew J.C. , who’s in the military, helps out on the crew whenever he can.   And I can’t forget Ronnie’s wife Carol.  She’s such a supporter of our racing. . Everyone plays an important part to this little team and we finally won the Championship due to that.  And of course having Lady Luck on our side.. haha.

KM – So what are your plans for 2017?

SW – We are going to open up with Scotia Speedworld in May.  We’ve never raced there and decided to add that to our schedule this year.  We’re going to do the big Sportsman race on the Atlantic Cat 250 weekend too, so we’ll use the opener to learn and build off of.  We have 6 races in total that we’re going to run.  The 4 at Riverside, and Scotia’s 2.   As far as other tracks, we’ll have to play it by ear.  Money and vacation time have to line up right, to allow for more.

Photo Gallery – click photo to enlarge or view slideshow