A two second outrider penalty on Friday night may well have cost Doug Irvine the 2015 Bonnyville Chuckwagon Championship.
Irvine, who lives on a farm just north of Bonnyville in La Corey, finished fourth at the 2015 World Professional Chuckwagon Association’s (WPCA) races this past weekend in town.
The local driver posted a four-day aggregate of 5:07.63, which was less than a second behind winner Luke Tournier’s 5:06.82.
“We had four great days,” said Irvine. “Every day we were in the top ten. We just had some penalty trouble one night and it cost us the show.”
Irvine posted a 1:16.37 on Day 2 of the four-day event but was assessed a two second penalty after an outrider knocked over a barrel on his way out of the infield. Had Irvine rode penalty-free he would have been crowned the Bonnyville champion. Instead Irvine finished fourth, behind Tournier, Darcy Flad and Jordie Fike.
“This was by far my best show of the year,” said Irvine. “I’ve had kind of a hit and miss season. To get a little bit of consistency is pretty nice. The horses really ran and they were great.”
Going into Championship Sunday at the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo and Chuckwagon Association (BPRCA) grounds southwest of town, Irvine sat in seventh place.
The three-day lead belonged to Tournier, who was trailed closely by Jason Glass, Mitch Sutherland and Jordie Fike.
“You just have to go run your race. You want to try and be clean but you want to be fast too,” said Tournier, on his thoughts going into Sunday.
Tournier had the advantage of racing in Heat 8, which meant he could watch to see how the drivers who trailed him did before he took to the track.
Heat 4 saw Mitch Sutherland post a respectable 1:18.47 and keep himself with an outside shot at the title.
A few races later, in Heat 7, both Fike and Glass went head-to-head.
Fike posted a 1:17.23 to keep the pressure on Tournier, while Glass suffered a crippling penalty. On his way around the first turn Glass cut the corner to sharp and annihilated the first barrel, dragging it under his wagon on his way out of the infield. The five-second penalty jumped his 1:18.09 up to a 1:23.09 and removed him from contention.
The following heat featured Tournier, who benefitted from hearing about Glass’ miscue before he got going.
“When I was doing the practice turn I heard (the announcer) say that Jason took a barrel out,” said Tournier, who noted that it relieved the pressure a tad.
Tournier ran to a 1:18.37 to post a four-day aggregate of 5:06.82, edging Darcy Flad’s 5:06.99 by a mere 0:00.17.
“It is always nice to win,” said Tournier, who was presented the George Normand Memorial Championship belt buckle. “He was a legend in this sport, so it’s cool. It is something I will enjoy over time.”
The victory, which is the third in Tournier’s career, was helped by a great run of 1:14.95 on Thursday night. That run went down as the fastest any driver would put up over the course of the weekend.
“I was happy,” said Tournier. “We had a brand new horse on for three runs here. I’d like to thank him. He looks like he is going to be a dandy.”
Residents in and around Bonnyville packed the grand stands all weekend to cheer on the WPCA Chuckwagon drivers for another year; a feat that didn’t go unnoticed.
“There was a beautiful, full crowd. It was great,” said Tournier. “It was a great weekend.”
Irvine also enjoyed the support he received from the locals at his hometown event.
“It was pretty exciting. We have a lot of fans here,” said Irvine. “Everybody here (in Bonnyville) are great Chuckwagon fans. It is nice to come home and hear all of the support. I love coming here.”