Veteran chucks driver hopes to hoist his version of the Stanley Cup

Colt Cosgrave, front, leads the way against Chanse Vigen, centre, and Chad Fike, to win heat one, day one, of the 2015 Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby's Chuckwagon Racing in Calgary, on July 3, 2015. CRYSTAL SCHICK / CALGARY HERALD


Rick Fraser has fond memories of 1982.

Back then he was an outrider for his stepdad Dave Lewis, who went on to win his first of three Rangeland Derby titles at the Calgary Stampede that summer.

“It was a special time,” recalled Fraser, whose mom Joan Lewis unfortunately passed away earlier that spring. “The first one was really special. It really brought us all together tight that year. It felt good. We kind of won it for her.”

Although he’s now competing in his 17th straight Rangeland Derby as a driver, Fraser can recall every detail of that championship ride as an outrider behind Lewis’ wagon 33 years ago.

“I can tell you exactly what the horse did that I was riding —where we rode, everything,” said the 55-year-old reinsman from Wetaskiwin, Alta.

Back in 1982, Fraser was one of four outriders for Lewis, while he now just needs to employ just two outriders as a driver these days.

“It was what we did at that time,” he said. “It may have looked like chaos to people from the grandstand, but when you’re out there, you talk to each other. You communicate all the time around the racetrack.”

Coming off Barrel 4 in the eighth heat of the opening night of racing on Friday, Fraser finished third behind Evan Salmond and John Walters aboard his Terra Core Rentals wagon in a time of 1:12.38 after being assessed a one-second penalty for moving a barrel when lining up at the start.

In Friday’s fourth heat, Jamie Laboucane raced to the night’s fastest time of 1:10.16 aboard his Radium Technologies wagon to win the top day money prize of $6,000. Obrey Motowylo (H&E Oilfield Services Ltd.) placed second in a time 1:10.39, Luke Tournier (Monarch Roofing and Siding Center) finished third in 1:10.40, while Codey McCurrach (Elegant Tribures & SportsNet) was fourth in 1:10.41.

While Lewis won in Calgary three times, Fraser’s grandpa Tom Dorchester also captured back-to-back titles in 1970-71. Fraser would like nothing more than to continue his family’s legacy by eventually winning his own Rangeland Derby championship trophy.

“There’s a lot of guys that have the same dream,” Fraser said. “It would mean a lot. It’s not just for me. I’m just another spoke in the wagon wheel on Team 23. It means so much to me to my wife and my kids and our barn help and friends that come out constantly and help. They get paid next to nothing and sometimes nothing, but they’re always there.”

Ranked sixth in the World Professional Chuckwagon Association standings with 661 points, Fraser can’t gain any ground on his competitors at the Stampede, but a good result would give him confidence heading into the Bonnyville Chuckwagon Championship from July 23-26 and the Strathmore Heritage Days Stampede, which is slated to run from July 31 to Aug. 3.

“We always look forward to going to the Calgary Stampede,” Fraser said. “This is our Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl, whatever you want to compare it too. This is our World Series. We all come there, 36 guys, with the dream of taking it home. Calgary’s obviously the greatest outdoor show on earth. That’s the place where you want to be and do well at.”