Buoyed by a Runner-Up Finish in April, Canada’s Van Wieringen Ready ‘For More’ Blizzard Conditionsadmin
By Chuck Corder
Canadian by birth, American by wheels.
Dominique Van Wieringen was born and raised in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada — a town about an hour south of Detroit — to a motocross-loving father and a mother who loved the sport of racing even more.
While the birth certificate officially, and correctly, reads Canada as Van Wieringen’s country of birth, her and younger brother Tristan “spent half our lives traveling throughout the states,” the 19 year old likes to joke.
Van Wieringen certainly earned an open invite to Pensacola anytime her heart desires after dazzling the loyal fans of Five Flags Speedway with her runner-up finish in the Mt. Dew Kickstart 100 last month.
“I’m hungry for more,” she said.
She’ll get all she can handle of the famed half-mile asphalt oval Friday. Van Wieringen and late model’s elite drivers return to Pensacola for the Rubber & Specialties 100, the second of four Deep South Crane Rentals Blizzard Series races.
In her first season driving for NEMCO Motorsports — a team co-owned by NASCAR fan favorite Joe Nemechek — Van Wieringen has made quite the splash.
She is ninth in the Southern Super Series standings going into Friday, which marks the fifth race of the season, and trails leader Casey Smith by 168 points.
“It’s a different breed of racing down in the south,” said Van Wieringen, who finished a respectable 14th aboard her family-owned Pro Late Model at last December’s Snowflake 100, her first-ever glimpse at Five Flags.
“They definitely have the best of the best there,” she continued. “It’s why I like being down here.”
Pro Trucks, Sportsmen and Bombers round out what promises to be a pyrotechnical Friday night at Five Flags.
The gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. Qualifying for the SLMs begins at 7 p.m. with pre-race festivities penciled in for 8 p.m.
Fans, drivers and crews, alike, will get to “oooh and ahhh” at Five Flags’ annual fireworks show.
Admission is as follows: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids under 6.
These days, Van Wieringen calls Charlotte, N.C., home. Growing up in Ontario, Van Wieringen followed in her father’s footsteps of road racing bikes when she dove headfirst into motocross at the tender age of 5.
She was a natural. Murray and Janine Van Wieringen, Dominique’s parents, met at the racetrack, after all. Janine Van Wieringen gobbled up the behind-the-walls intricacies and had a knack for coordinating events for races.
“I come from a pure racing family,” Dominique Van Wieringen said. “Sometimes people say my mom is more into racing than my dad because she’s so passionate about it.”
With a daughter destroying the Canadian competition, it didn’t take long for the Van Wieringens to regularly start crossing the border to attend races around Michigan’s peninsula and a little bit farther south.
“You can be No. 1 Canada, but you come to the states, and you’re mid-pack,” she said. “I wanted to run against people better than me because that’s when you can learn more.”
After five years in motocross, Van Wieringen left the sport after watching Tristan sustained a near-fatal neck injury.
Her competitive spirit, though, still ran deep.
It’s what brought her to Charlotte two years ago following high school graduation. With an eye on a future in NASCAR, Van Wieringen dug in her roots in the sport’s backyard.
She’s majoring in mechanical engineering at UNC-Charlotte with a focus on motorsports.
“It’s exciting to learn things I never knew before,” Van Wieringen said.
There have been a lot of firsts for Van Wieringen in recent years.
She became the first female to win a JEGS All-Stars Tour event in 2013 when she dismantled the field, lapping all but seven cars, during the Fall Brawl at Lucas Oil Raceway.
The year before, Van Wieringen was the first woman to win an Outlaw Super Late Model championship, a series that competes in the Midwest.
Her rapid success in a late model, naturally, has led some to compare Van Wieringen to Johanna Long.
Long, the Pensacola native, parlayed a Snowball Derby crown in 2010 to a meteoric rise from short-tracks to NASCAR.
“Johanna has beat me to a lot of firsts,” Van Wieringen teased.
But in her first SLM start at Five Flags, Van Wieringen pulled off daring moves against formidable drivers, such as Bubba Pollard and Daniel Hemric, that most rookies would’ve blushed at.
Van Wieringen routinely tested the high side of the racetrack, traditionally thought to be a slower groove, ultimately rewarding herself with a coveted podium spot.
Of course, she has already recalculated her goals for Friday, beginning with finishing one spot better than the April race. Van Wieringen’s other goal might take a little more time.
“We wanna to out-qualify Bubba because I know he qualifies so well there,” she said. “That’d be fun. But we’ll take a win at Pensacola. That’s what we ultimately want.”
Winning translates easily in any language.