This year’s Ponoka Stampede $50,000 Dash for Cash was a little more exciting and controversial than most, as the first driver the cross the finish line was not crowned victor.
Kirk Sutherland finished the final heat of the Stampede with the fastest time, but due to an outrider penalty and the fact the his “stove” had never been loaded, added time put him behind second place driver Kurt Bensmiller, who was crowned champion.
“We started off to kind of a slow start but we made a decent barrel turn,” said Bensmiller.
However, he saw Sutherland take the lead and tried to pick a lane to catch up, “Follow and try to come running on him coming home.”
“I really closed ground coming down the lane and around the third and fourth turn. I was happy with it,” Bensmiller said.
“The end felt great when I finally found out I won the show,” he added. “Not as good as when I went in front of the crowd because then they all stood up and cheered. It was a better feeling than it was actually winning it.”
This was Bensmiller’a first time winning the Dash for Cash. “It sent chills down my spine,” he said.
As a driver of 15 years, Bensmiller knows the importance of having a superb team running with him. The left leader was a horse he bought from his father and right leader he’s owned for many years, so he knows how the animals perform. “And the wheel teams kind of new,” he said.
With such stiff competition Bensmiller knew he would have to go into the arena with the game plan to go fast as no barrel position would give advantage over another. “It was Kirk’s outfit really rocking and rolling this week, you knew you’d have to make any of them work.”
Bensmiller did not know Sutherland had troubles at the beginning of the heat and it was not until they were coming back through the arena that he could present himself as the champion.