Canada, Feature Article, Open Wheels — July 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Shane Vaillant and Luke Didiuk (issue 102)

by

By Steve Heeb

At the family’s Kaitrin Stables, Shane Vaillant enjoys saddling up to ride on of their three thoroughbred horses. On Saturday nights, Shane belts up for a little more horsepower behind the wheel of the No. 8 sprint car.

Racing for Mike Melwicks this season, the 20-year-old out of Langley, BC, got the chance to follow in the footsteps of his father Darcy Vaillant, who ran Mini Sprints from 1985 to 1998 before racing sprints at Skagit Speedway.

“I’d been going to the track since I was 6 but I always fell asleep before the A-main,” Shane laughs. “It looked like fun and it’s something I always wanted to do.”

Luke Didiuk of Coquitlam, BC, also travels south of the border to race a sprint car with the Dyer 9a Motorsports team along with his father-in-law Steve Dyer.

“Steve’s been racing more than 40 years,” Luke says of the veteran sprinter who is still tearing up the track at age 67. “His motto is just go out there and have fun.”

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be racing,” says Steve, whose lengthy racing career of fun experiences includes treks south to California for the Trophy Cup races at Tulare, and Silver Cup races in Chico.

At 17, Luke kicked off his own racing career with a two-year stint racing Mini Stocks at Agassiz Speedway before taking up Sportsman and 360 Sprints during the last three seasons.

“It was quite a changeover with a huge learning curve,” Luke says of the transition. “Pavement and dirt are about total opposites. The set up is different. Fortunately I’ve had great help that has made it easier.”

Luke competed in the ASCS Northwest Region events last season and all of Speedweek.

“I improved a lot during that,” he says of the experience.

Shane came to sprint cars with a solid background in kart racing.

“It’s a whole different thing,” Shane says of driving the sprint car. “I wasn’t used to dirt getting flung at me.”

Shane recalls his first race in the sprint car.

“It was a little intimidating having so many of my friends and family around,” he explains. “I wanted to do well since my family had been in racing so long.”

Steve’s racing career dates back to 1968 in Hobby Stocks before fielding a Super Modified the following season. In 1971 he drove an Oswego-style car before trading pavement for dirt in 1973.

“I was racing at Sky Valley with drivers like Jan Opperman and Crocer,” Steve recalls with a smile. “I had found dirt and I never went back.”

Steve has been mentoring Luke and more recently Shane, and decided they had potential in the sprints.

“I saw they had skills,” he explains of the fresh drivers. “Both of them started at a good time because they didn’t have a lot of experience yet.”

Steve was glad Shane and Luke wouldn’t need to spend a lot of time un-learning bad habits before he could get to instilling good ones.

Luke works to stay consistent, and has noted improvement in Shane’s driving.

“He’s a good fast young kid,” Luke says of Shane. “He gets better and better each time out.”

“I’ve been working on trying to smooth out the corners,” Shane says of his relatively short time in the sprints. “I still saw on the wheel but hopefully I’ll get that all worked out.”

When he’s not gaining valuable seat time at Skagit Speedway Shane likes to help work on the No. 8 car when he can.

He credits grandmother Shirley Vaillant for her support this season, as well as sponsorship from Moto Transportation and Eclipse Construction.

Luke gets support from the family’s business Hymach Industries, as well as Aquabus Ferries and Kentch Brothers Racing.

Luke credits crew chief Danny Bullock and his wife Alicia for being a great help.

In 2008, Luke and Steve packed up the 40-foot Freightliner for a trek to the Knoxville Nationals.

“We ran the 360s and 410s,” Luke says of the annual open-wheel spectacle. “That was 11 races in 12 days.”

Extra drama came after an incident late in the schedule.

“The night before the big Saturday show Steve flipped the car and wrecked it,” Luke explains. “We worked all night and built our back-up chassis and got to race in the big show. It was an awesome experience. Just phenomenal.”

That thrill is what drives the whole team, motivating young drivers like Luke and Shane, as well as the seasoned veterans like Steve.

“We always go out and have fun,” Luke says. “We’re only doing this while it’s fun.”

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