Vern Nolin claims victory in CPCA final

Brothers Shane (left) and Vern Nolin were neck-and-neck as they crossed the finish line at Sunday’s CPCA finals.

Brothers Shane (left) and Vern Nolin were neck-and-neck as they crossed the finish line at Sunday’s CPCA finals.

by Phil Ambroziak

The man once known as the Rapid View Rocket continues his ascent throughout the world of professional chuckwagon racing.

Vern Nolin, who now makes his home in Dewberry, AB, earned his third consecutive (and fourth overall) Canadian Championship on Sunday at the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) finals in Lloydminster.

“It feels good to win – every year this is what you’re gunning for when you start training,” Nolin said.

In the sudden death championship heat – which also included Nolin’s brother Shane, Loon Lake’s Ray Mitsuing and Rapid View’s Layne Bremner – Nolin secured a penalty-free run of 1:20.68 from barrel number three. Although Shane Nolin, who ran from barrel number one, actually crossed the finish line ahead of his brother with a time of 1:20.66, penalties for knocking over a barrel and for starting early resulted in six additional seconds being added to his time. This knocked him down to fourth place in the dash. A similar situation last season involving driver BJ Carey also led to a championship win for Vern Nolin. His other championships were gained in 2012 and 2009.

“My horses worked hard all year, but I was obviously disappointed with the result of the championship dash,” Shane Nolin said. “I’m happy for Vern, but at the same time we’re all in this to win ourselves.”

Vern Nolin also admitted it was a challenge to come out on top against the strong effort displayed by his brother all season.

“It’s always a good time when you have a chance to race with family,” he noted. “There are a lot of brothers, fathers and sons involved in this sport, which adds to the excitement for the fans.”

Meanwhile, second place in this year’s dash went to Mitsuing who, from barrel number four, had a penalty-free run of 1:22.88. Mitusing was also the Lloydminster aggregate winner after three days (the fourth day was cancelled because of poor weather conditions) with a time of 3:48.82.

Bremner, who ran from barrel number two, was third in the championship dash after a one-second penalty for having his wagon ahead of the barrel left him with a time of 1:23.41.

For his victory, Vern Nolin received a new GMC truck. Also considered a prize, however, could be the added drive the champ now has to accomplish even greater success in the future.

“Now that I’m a four-time champion, I find myself starting to look at guys like Ray (Mitsuing) and Brian (Laboucane) who have six Canadian titles each and working toward beating those records,” he said.

As for Shane Nolin, in spite of the unfortunate turn of events that cost him the Canadian title, he was recognized as the 2014 CPCA High Point Champion having recorded 648.5 points to top this year’s driver standings. Rounding out the top five were Bremner with 636, Vern Nolin with 630, Mitsuing with 624.5 and Chauvin, AB driver Kris Molle with 624.5.

“It’s great to win the High Point Driver award,” Shane Nolin said. “I was consistent right through from the start and this was, for sure, the best season I’ve had. Everyone on my crew, horses included, worked hard all year.”

Also recognized for his efforts this past Sunday was the CPCA’s 2014 High Point Champion Outrider Mick Nolin, also of Rapid View. He earned a total of 5,359 points this season, close to 200 points more than the runner-up.

Happy trails
Sunday’s races also marked the final time veteran driver Brian Laboucane of St. Walburg – a more than 40-year veteran – would be in the wagon box. Having met the CPCA’s mandatory retirement age of 65, Laboucane will not be back next year.

“It’s been great,” Laboucane said. “Racing at the finals here has always been fun – the excitement, the hype.”

In the final race of his career, Laboucane finished second behind Dewberry’s Dallas Dyck, but ahead of Kris Molle and Laboucane’s own son, Jamie Laboucane. Afterward, he was met with a standing ovation from drivers, outriders and fans alike as he and his wife, Brenda, waved to the crowd one last time.

“I have to thank my wife and all of the family for all the years of support,” he said. “I’d also like to thank all the help we’ve had over the years. We’ve had great barn help – without a good crew you can’t operate.”

Laboucane went on to thank the many sponsors he’s had throughout his career and assured fans the name Laboucane will live on throughout the sport of chuckwagon racing.

“The boys are all doing it – Jamie, BJ and Mick – and now the grandchildren are starting to talk about it,” he said. “My grandson, Mitchell, is talking about saving money to buy a wagon and he’s only 12. So, it’s going to continue.”

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