With his stock car driving days behind him, Gary MacCarthy had more time on his hands and took the hint when Bob Williams suggested he succeed him as president of the premier racing series in B.C.
"I think they just looked at me and said, 'You're the president now,'" laughed MacCarthy, from his office at the GM car dealership he owns in Terrace.
Now sanctioned by the American Speed Association, the six-race OK Tire Sportsman Series makes its annual Prince George stop this Saturday night -- the 100-lap Mr. Quick Lube/White Spruce Enterprises 100 at PGARA Speedway.
By ditching ARCA (Auto Racing Club of America) and joining the ASA, drivers in the series will have more opportunities to race. ASA also had a Lower Mainland series that now comes under the OK Tire Sportsman Series banner and there are several U.S.-based ASA regional series open to Canadian drivers.
"The series is going to grow," predicts MacCarthy. "It's probably the best roving series in all of Western Canada and the U.S. These cars can pretty well race anywhere once they fit under the ASA sanctioning and it opens us up to more cars that were sitting in B.C."
The first two races in Vernon and Williams Lake drew 23 and 19 cars respectively. MacCarthy anticipates an 18- or 20-car field on Saturday.
Cars in the series cost between $30,000 and $40,000 with most teams getting by on an annual racing budgets of $10,000-15,000. The series switched from deep-tread Goodyears to narrow-treaded Hoosier tires this year, which created new challenges for drivers trying to figure out the proper weight staggers. The Goodyear tire was more durable and most teams now go through two sets on each race day -- one set to practice and one to race.
"The treaded tires give a big advantage to the big-horsepower cars, and you have to have good tire management all night long because these cars will actually spin [rubber] coming out of most of these corners," said MacCarthy.
"You can break these cars loose at any time and if you do that the first 50 laps, you'll have nothing left for the second 50. It will take the season for the guys to get used to this tire."
As past-president, Williams can now focus all his attention on getting his No. 5 Monte Carlo on the podium. He just about made it there May 11 at the 125-lap Vernon race when he had the lead and was spun with just four laps left. He was running fourth in Williams Lake on May 25 when he got spun again.
"I'm pretty happy because the car is pretty fast, the guys are doing a good job with the car, so I'm pretty optimistic about this weekend," said Williams, who ranks ninth in points. "I think it'll be one of the best races we've ever had here. The series has really progressed. It's very fast cars now."