The final stop on the 2021 WPCA Pro Tour presented by GMC will take place this weekend in Ponoka, Alberta with the World Championship and a $25,000.00 Dash for Cash on the line.
The WPCA drivers and equine athletes will wrap up the 2021 World Professional Chuckwagon Association race season in Ponoka, Alberta starting Thursday night. Just 3 months ago it appeared another race season was on the edge of falling victim to Covid-19 restrictions and race cancellations, however, WPCA competitors, committees, fans, sponsors and volunteers rallied together to create a season that was filled with high energy, sell out crowds, added prize money and championship races that made fans rise to their feet to cheer on a 4 wagon finish. Despite what chuckwagon racing looked like in May, the season has turned out to be nothing short of remarkable, and now with a world title on the line and a $25,000.00 Dash for Cash, another year of chuckwagon racing history is about to come to a close.
Defending world champion Kurt Bensmiller enters Ponoka sitting 2nd in the world standings with 555 points just 6.5 points behind Hoadley Alberta's Obrey Motowylo and 20.5 points ahead of Helkirk, Alberta's Layne MacGillivray. Bensmiller, Motowylo and MacGillivray will line up the first 3 nights in heat 9. While this is not a Dash for Cash heat, the World Champion will come out of this heat. The World Champion is the driver with the most points at the end of the season. Kris Molle, in just his first year with the WPCA sits in 4th spot in the world standings with 460 points. Molle will complete the foursome in heat 9 and although a world title is out of reach, his performance in 2021 should build some positive momentum going into 2022.
With 4 world titles to his credit and multiple show championships, Kurt Bensmiller has to be considered one of the favorites any time he hooks four horses and rolls on to the track. Bensmiller along with a number of other drivers have been racing 2 outfits nightly to help fill heats and put on an exciting show for fans.
Layne MacGillivray won the $25,000.00 Dash for Cash in Dewberry, Alberta and was on top of the World Standings a good part of the year. MacGillivray, Molle and Motowylo were the 3 drivers competing in the Dewberry dash and the trio stayed among the top for the balance of the year.
Obrey Motowylo has been consistent all year and is now in a position to capture his first world title. Motowylo won the Dawson Creek Dash for Cash with a penalty free run that also turned out to be the top time of the night. Motowylo came back on night 1 in Rocky Mountain House to record the top time.
Along with a world championship, all eyes will be on the $25,000.00 Dash for Cash in what has been titled the Wild West Chuckwagon Championships. The top 4 drivers after the first 3 nights will compete in the $25,000.00 Championship Heat Sunday afternoon.
While Obrey Motowylo, Kurt Bensmiller, Layne MacGillivray and Kris Molle are the top 4 in the WPCA standings, it is wide open when it comes to who can win the last dash of the year. Chanse Vigen has one of, if not the best barreling outfit in 2021, evident by his multiple rail stealing runs off the number 4 barrel including a run that won him the Battle of the Foothills in High River.
2019 Reserve World Champion Vern Nolin won the Ponoka Stampede in 2018 and recently captured the Battle of the Rockies in Rocky Mountain House. Nolin will start night 1 on the number 4 barrel in heat 7 as he lines up against Chanse Vigen, Dustin Gorst and 2021 WPCA rookie driver Chance Thomson who has been impressive in his first year on the tour.
The Dash for Cash Champion could also be one of the four drivers racing in heat 8 the first 3 nights. Chance Bensmiller, Jordie Fike and the Salmond brothers, Evan and Wade, are set to do battle. Bensmiller sits 5th in the World Standings just 3.5 points ahead of 6th place Evan Salmond. 3.5 points behind Evan is Jordie Fike in 7th with Wade Salmond rounding out the top 8.
Kirk Sutherland returns to the track after missing Rocky Mountain House and has to be considered another driver who can win the seasons final dash. Sutherland won the Calgary Stampede in 2016, the Ponoka Stampede in 2015 and the World Championship in 2014 along with many of chuckwagon racings most prestigious events.
36 wagons will line up Thursday in Ponoka for night 1 of the Wild West Chuckwagon Championships. 4 wagons will emerge as the Dash for Cash finalists with one of them crowned champion. 3 drivers have a shot at winning the World Title. One of them has accomplished the feat 4 times while the other 2 are looking to win it for the first time.
Regardless of the end result, the Wild West Chuckwagon Championships will be nothing short of energy filled excitement and a great way to end the 2021 race season that once appeared on the edge of extinction.
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