Edmonton International Raceway’s Garry Bushnell reflects on first championship at the track his dad helped build
More than 50 years ago, Garry Bushnell’s father helped build a dirt track in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada.
That track is now named Edmonton International Raceway, a quarter-mile paved oval that is Alberta’s only NASCAR-sanctioned track. And six decades after his dad helped build the raceway, Bushnell is a track champion.
Bushnell won Edmonton’s NASCAR Pure Stocks division title in 2022. Despite never winning a feature, he was on the podium six out of 10 races. He never finished worse than seventh.
“Just consistency, I guess, was the thing,” Bushnell said. “It was good. It was a lot of fun this year.”
The title was the first for Bushnell, which came “at my young age of 56,” he said with a laugh.
The driver has been around Edmonton since he was a kid, and his dad Scotty was a driver. Garry Bushnell raced some in the 1990s when Edmonton was still a dirt track, but he got out of the sport to raise a family.
A couple years ago, Bushnell’s son Mitchell and a friend wanted to get into racing, and they bought a car. Bushnell was always in the pits helping out for the first year.
“He said, ‘Well, why don’t we just get another car, and you might as well run with me since you’re here every weekend anyhow and you used to do this,'” Bushnell said.
The two ran in the same class for a couple years until Mitchell moved up to Edmonton’s Thunder Cars division.
“It was a lot of fun getting to run with him a couple years. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs,” Garry Bushnell said. “Then this past year he moved up, so I sold my car and then I took his car and ran it, and ran it to the championship, so it was good.
“We’ve had a lot of fun these last four years, for sure, at the track… I enjoyed racing with him. We had a ton of fun. We’re both very competitive, but when you get to race with your son out on the track… it’s a whole different world, and you can make that a lot of fun, and we did. We enjoyed it.”
Even though Bushnell misses racing against his son, being in separate classes is easier for both, because they can help the other during races.
The two also get help from Ron Elder Jr., Les Wray and Mike Larson, as well as others throughout the Edmonton racing community.
“We have that big family community, and we do have a lot of good people at the track that help each other out all the time, so that always comes in handy, for sure,” he said.
After winning a championship, Bushnell has to move up a class, but he’ll actually be taking this year off to help his son, who has had issues with his car that the family wants to try to solve and perfect.
Mitchell has also never won a championship at Edmonton, so the Bushnells are going to work hard to get a title for a third member of the family.
“Two years ago he was knocking on the door, and he finished second by two points,” Bushnell said. “I think the rate he’s going, it’s not easy, but I think he may have hopefully something in the future that we can say all three of us have won a championship out there. I think that would be a really neat accomplishment.”
Even though he won’t be racing full-time, Bushnell will still spend plenty of time around the track this summer, and he may even race a time or two if someone needs a driver.
For now, though, he’ll continue celebrating 2022 and everything that came with it.
“It’s nice. Every year there’s a new championship, so I guess just the bragging rights for the year saying you are… I guess it’s just nice to have that on the wall saying you did actually win a championship for whichever class you were in.
“It’s just nice to know that some hard work paid off and you do get some recognition for it… To be able to say I was able to do the same as what my dad did 50-something years ago is kind of really neat. It was the last three or four years he’s been out at the track with us, too, watching, so having the three generations there at the track and stuff like that is really neat and nice for us all to share together. That’s one thing for sure.”
Edmonton will open the 2023 season on June 3.