Kirk Sutherland driving for Ghostpine Environmental was the $100,000 winner in the GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races at the Stampede Rodeo on Sunday, July 17, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA
Published on: July 17, 2016 | Last Updated: July 17, 2016 10:25 PM MDT
Kirk Sutherland driving for Ghostpine Environmental was the $100,000 winner in the GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races at the Stampede Rodeo on Sunday, July 17, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA
The 25th time, apparently, is the charm.
Kirk Sutherland has been chasing a Rangeland Derby crown for more than a quarter of a century.
Which made Sunday’s victory taste even sweeter.
“It’s been a lot longer than 25 (years), believe me,” said Sutherland, who began racing in 1976 and capped off his 25th Calgary Stampede with a dominant performance.
“We started paying attention about 12 or 14 years ago.
“It’s very rewarding.”
Sutherland (Ghostpine Environmental) came off the No. 1 barrel for the third straight night, held Jason Glass (Birchcliff Energy) off the rail and splashed his way to a muddy 1:16.74, the top time of the night.
Despite being completely covered in mud, the 59-year-old was all smiles as he crossed the finish line to lock up the $100,000 cheque and his first Rangeland Derby crown.
Sutherland’s biggest career win came at the expense of his 38-year-old son Mitch (Manteo Group of Companies Ltd.), who finished second in 1:17.80 and picked up a $25,000 cheque.
“It was a great experience for him,” Captain Kirk said of his kid, who was racing in his first dash at any professional show.
“I might not have felt the same if I wasn’t winning it.
“But I looked behind and I think it was his lead team so that makes it that much sweeter.”
Glass, 45, finished third and picked up a $15,000 cheque for his 1:18.78
It was a tough night for Vern Nolin (Dentons Canada LLP), who was making his second straight appearance in the big race.
The 43-year-old’s lead team jackknifed at the top barrel and he was forced to pull up in the infield with a no-time.
Outriders Chance Flad and Chanse Vigen helped keep Sutherland’s wagon penalty free once again and won championship buckles as well as a nice bonus from their driver.
Sutherland was one of 10 drivers to go penalty-free and won the Clean Drive Award in addition to the Richard Cosgrave Memorial Award as the aggregate champ.
About the only thing Sutherland didn’t win was the Stampede Dream Home.
It was the third straight trip off the No. 1 barrel for Sutherland.
When he’s wearing the white coat – well, it started out white, anyways – he’s all but unbeatable.
“Not if everything works,” the Grande Prairie driver said. “They’re a great outfit and it’s tough to beat anyone on (Barrel) One.
“The competitors know that. It’s just the way it worked out.”
Sutherland said he’s got a spot picked out for his new bronze.
“We’ve got a house that was empty three or four years ago,” he said.
“We’re starting to fill it up now.”
AROUND THE BARRELS
Mark Sutherland (Cowboys Casino Posse) posted the day-money run among the 32 drivers not competing in the dash with a 1:17.01 in Heat 8 … The outriders lined up in the infield to tip their hats to retiring driver Rae Croteau Jr. (Greywolf Golf Course) … Billy Melville popped up in almost every chuckwagon during the 10 days, doing TV interviews after each race, and he had some entertaining sayings. He said one driver “popped out of the infield like a scalded dog” and said another was “smilin’ like a horse eatin’ thistles.”
The all-star outfit, based on a points system through eight nights of qualifying, was announced prior to the races: Smokey (left leader, Jason Glass), Wild (right lead, Chad Harden), Boomer (left wheel, Mitch Sutherland) and Law (right wheel, Rick Fraser) as well as outriding horses Power (Vern Nolin) and Whitey (John Walters).