#97 John Flemming
Continuing with interviews we started in 2011, we are talking with drivers from the 2011 season. We sat down with John Flemming to talk about his racing career, his team and what racing is like for them.
Look for other chats with drivers throughout the year. We hope you enjoy these talks as much as we did doing them.
MPST: 2011 was a good year for you in my opinion, finishing third; you were there right until the end.
Flemming: Yeah, we really were hoping to contend for a championship and we kind of fell off the mark early with engine troubles. We battled back really hard and made it interesting at the end. Weíre pretty satisfied; we led a bunch of laps and got our equipment going back in the right direction were we needed it to be.
MPST: I know you started in a demolition derby, but how did your interest in racing start?
Flemming: Before the demolition derby my friends and I used to buy $50 cars and take them on the back roads and drive each other into the woods racing. It was just a passion for cars. I went to Scotia Speedworld one day to watch the races and said I can do that. Built a racecar and took it to Onslow and got up to second or third before a gut blew an engine and I went off the end. That was the start of my racing.
MPST: What kind of car?
Flemming: It was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Street Stock with a 350 Rocket in it. It was quite an experience, that hooked me from day one.
MPST: Before you started racing, who did you watch and cheer for at the races?
Flemming: My dad took me to the races all the time when I was younger and he knew Junior Hanley really well and weíd go around and see him, Billy Jones and Johnny Howard. They are guys I remember when I was really small. Junior Hanley was the guy I kind of idolized growing up. Then when I started watching the Pro Stocks I liked the way Terry Clattenburg drove. I always wished I could get into one of those cars and never thought it was possible. I think Iíve been doing it for 18 years now.
MPST: What tracks would you have gone to watch races back then?
Flemming: Years ago when I first went with my Dad it was to Atlantic Speedway. When I started to follow the races I would go to Onslow, Scotia and Riverside. I never really traveled to New Brunswick to watch any races back then.
MPST: After the demolition car and Street Stock, what divisions did you race?
Flemming: That was it. I was in Street Stock and I think we won about 100 races I bet in Street Stock. Then there was a car in the Auto Trader for $6,000. It was called the Pizza Twice car and Derek Steeves owned it. I remember seeing the Auto Trader and drooling over it and Iím like jeez, I got to have it. I called him and he told me all about it and I scrounged enough money to buy the car. Didnít have any money for a motor, but went and made a deal to buy the car. I went and met Dwight Giddens and had him build me a motor, which he was good enough to let me pay for over time. By the end of my first year I slowly got the motor paid off. Fortunately I didnít blow it up. That was the start of it all and we just started to build our equipment and getting better every year.
MPST: Racing takes a lot of time and family support at home. Speak to the support you receive.
Flemming: My wife (Donna) knows itís my passion. Some days I kind of ďuse her upĒ Iíd say by putting so much time into racing and they miss out on some stuff. She loves me and supports me, but says Iíll have to give it up one of these days, but I donít know what to say about that. When things are going good itís not too bad, but when theyíre not going good, itís a big sacrifice. Itís real hard on the family.
MPST: You canít compete with just the driver. You need a crew, so whoís the crew on the 97 car?
Flemming: For 2011 Andrew Hicken was Crew Chief and maintained the car. Pat Ryder was the co-spotter and tire technician. Greg Yeomans and Tony Leonard were mechanics while Brandon Slaunwhite was the jack man. Greg Wadden was the hauler driver and jack-of-all-trades. And of course Rollie MacDonald.
MPST: What is a typical week in the shop like?
Flemming: The first thing done was clean the car and trailer. Look for leaks and if we bumped wheels weíd look the car over. Go through the whole car, wheel bearings, etc. Do a good visual inspection of everything. Bleed the brakes and check suspension looking for binds. Then move on to the set up for the following week, changing springs and shocks and rear end gears depending on the track. Minimum three days to five days each week. If you have bunch of guys it goes easier. If you only have few itís a big workload.
MPST: Every team needs sponsors. Who sponsored your car in 2011?
Flemming: The Roofing Connection, Dartmouth Dodge, Gossen Decking, Certain Teed Building Products and King Freight Lines. Without them I wouldnít be racing.
MPST: You mentioned you have been racing 18 years, what motivates you to continue racing?
Flemming: I feel we havenít had our best year yet. Never met my goals. I feel that if we can get our equipment prepared and get things to where they need to be, I think we can be a dominate team and Iíd like to see how successful we can be.
MPST: If I understand you correctly, you are saying you are racing and challenging your self?
Flemming: Yes, itís that and I really enjoy new technology. Different set ups and trying to figure something new out to make different things work. Trying to make us better is the challenge.
MPST: To you, what is the best thing about racing on the Parts For Pro Stock Tour?
Flemming: I think itís the camaraderie, sometimes not on the track, but before and after the race. You grow older with these people and you get to know them well. There are a lot of good people in racing and it becomes a life style and you enjoy their company. Itís a great sport and itís the best series in Canada to tell you the truth.
MPST: When you were coming up, what driver or team was there to offer you help?
Flemming: The guys that helped me the most were the Jollimoreís, Gary, Randy and Tony Jollimore. They were a tremendous help. They showed me how to scale a car, how to pack a wheel bearing. Iíd hang out there and they were racers to the core and they kind of showed me the way.
MPST: Current day on the Tour, who do you admire or respect?
Flemming: Iíve always respected Mike MacKenzie. Iíve always found him a gentleman on the racetrack. Heíll race you and wonít wreck you. Heís got a great crew Ė a great bunch of guys.
MPST: Which racetrack did you find the most difficult to figure out or adapt to?
Flemming: Most difficult track for me was I-95 in Bangor, ME. You have to drive your car on the edge of the outside lane. You donít have any cushion. Just to convince your self to let the car get up there was pretty tuff. Itís a driverís racetrack.
MPST: What do you do during the off-season?
Flemming: Clean the shop up a little bit. Play a little bit of hockey and follow my kids around in their hockey.
MPST: In the entire racing youíve done, what sticks in your mind as the best memory?
Flemming: The memory that jumps into my mind s when we won the Atlantic Cat 250. It was just an exciting race against the Americans. I lead for a long time or I think it was a long time, and I know I had Ben and Scott breathing down my neck. They had tires and I didnít have tires and I had a carburetor problem that day and Shawn loaned me one and at the end we though we were going to run out of gas. We debated on coming in for fuel but decided to stay out and go for it. We held them off and won the race. It was pretty exciting.
MPST: Thank you for your time and sharing this information.
Flemming: Your welcome. I hope I didnít babble on too much.
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