Johnny Aantjes believes the Penticton Speedway doesn’t exist without Andy Dunseith.
“They really dug in and I wasn’t around for it, but to know the economic times, there was a lot of other recreation type businesses that never survived that period,” said Aantjes, owner of the Penticton Speedway.
The Dunseith family invested into the Penticton Raceway at a time when the economy wasn’t strong in the early 1980s. Dunseith backs Aantjes, saying the racing venue has survived because of dedicated owners, including Aantjes.
“When we first took it over, we had some pretty lean years,” said Dunseith, who owned the track from 1982 to 1994. “We built and got a good set of rules, stuck by them. The last few years I was there I did good. We had lots of cars, lots of people in the grandstand.”
“You have to have a good show for them or they won’t be there,” he said talking about the spectators. “You have to cook a lot of fried onions so you keep the people in the grandstand happy.”
Dunseith loves race car driving and it was that passion that led to him purchasing the Penticton Raceway. Dunseith was at the track all the time, and when the venue was available for purchase, he put a bid on it. It was an exciting time for him and his family to get it.
“I have been involved in racing all my life,” said the 71-year-old Dunseith, who started racing at 16.
Dunseith ran the track, his wife Barb took care of the concessions and they made a living at it. He loved hosting big races, which attracted lots of cars.
Dunseith changed the name from Penticton Raceway to Speedway because he didn’t like Raceway.
“Speedway is speedway,” he laughs, “I just like Speedway better.”
Aantjes, who purchased the Speedway in 1998, came up with a way to recognize Dunseith and his family for what they did for Okanagan racing by creating a scholarship during his first two years of ownership. It’s also a way to give back.
The Andy Dunseith Family Scholarship Award is $500, which goes to a Pen High or Princess Margaret student intending to further their education. The award recognizes educational achievements, along with community involvement, financial need and involvement in sports with an emphasis on motorsports.
“He is a true racing enthusiast,” says Aantjes. “Andy is a very emotional guy. When he is at the race track, his arms are up in the air. He is invested in every race.”
Dunseith describes the Speedway as an excellent little track. He doesn’t drive anymore, but his son Mike did and was a good driver, according to Aantjes. For the last three years, Dunseith’s granddaughter Ellie, 18, has been racing. He is with her at the track and loves watching Ellie race his blue #31 1978 Camaro.
“We have lots of fun. She has some bad races and she has some good races,” he says.
Dunseith built the Camaro for Ellie and they work on it together. Ellie said it’s neat to work with her grandfather.
“We bond so well and he always, at the end of the day, says that was such a fun day,” said Ellie, who works at NAPA Auto Parts in Penticton. “I really enjoyed that. I’m learning so much. It’s a lot of fun out there. We have a lot of fun together working on the car.”
Ellie competes in the Street Stock class and grew up going to the track every weekend and looks up to race car drivers, especially Danica Patrick. Now that she is involved in the fun and entertainment, and has little kids looking up to her, she said, “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Carrying the family tradition also feels good, adding that is what is she most proud of and has fallen in love with racing.
“I’m happy to be carrying on the generation,” says Ellie. “The Dunseith family has been a name at the track for a long time. I’m glad I get to carry it on.”
Last year Ellie finished second overall in Street Stock points. The year before was her first season and she placed fifth. The highlight of her career is making the podium with childhood inspiration Mark Berriau.
On July 7 and 8, the Penticton Speedway hosts their Late Model Invitational races. The action gets underway at 7 p.m. both days