The recent decision to cancel chuckwagon races at this year’s Calgary Stampede could mean more horsepower for the first-ever North American Chuckwagon Championship.

The NACC, a new event announced for Lloydminster July 9-17, was originally booked as an alternative for drivers who were not invited to compete in Calgary. However, Calgary Stampede officials recently announced the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races have been cancelled for 2021 because of “pandemic-related impacts on the 2020 and 2021 chuckwagon racing season across western Canada.”

According to Canadian Professional Chuckwagon association driver DJ King, an organizer and proponent of the NACC, this could mean big things in terms of cementing the new July event as the premier chuckwagon event of the year.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t want Calgary to run,” King said. “If Calgary had gone ahead, it would have meant 27 drivers for that event in addition to the 36 for our show. Saying that, however, we have come to realize we can’t all rely on Calgary anymore.”

King went on to say, with the cancellation of the Calgary races this year, plans to build the NACC into an even bigger show over the next few years have amplified quickly.

“We’ll probably jump ahead a few years in the process just for the fact there will be no races at the Calgary Stampede, and all eyes will instead be on the NACC,” he said, adding there are 34 drivers confirmed for the NACC. “With Calgary now cancelled, we have more drivers phoning left, right and centre.”

King said organizers are working on a plan to accommodate as many of these drivers as possible.

“We want to take advantage of the situation,” he said. “It’s unfortunate Calgary is not going, but we are two steps forward with the NACC, so it’s not like we’re starting from Day 1 right now. We already had the ball rolling. It would be great to try to figure out a way to bring in some bigger names. We don’t know what the process will be yet, but with bigger names comes bigger dollars, and with bigger dollars comes more people in the stands. It will still be a growing process, but we will grow that much faster.”

Among those to express interest in competing at the NACC is Meadow Lake driver Dustin Gorst who was originally hoping to be on the track in Calgary this July.

“It’s very frustrating,” Gorst said with regard to the Calgary cancellation. “They led us on all spring – making sure we were spring training, getting our sponsor information in and telling us to get prepared. Then, to surprise us with this is no good. I’m still trying to sort things out as we speak.”

Gorst went on to say he applied to compete at the NACC, but is still waiting for a response.

“There are lots of us who want in now, and they had plenty of drivers to begin with so they’re also in a tough spot. What the Calgary Stampede did to the drivers dropping so many of them last year, well, that was garbage. And, it’s even worse what they did to us this year. That’s not how you treat a business partner or people in general. Hopefully this show in Lloyd (NACC) is good and we can just stick with it and help it grow.”

King, meanwhile, believes COVID restrictions should, for the most part, all be lifted by the time the NACC rolls around.

“It’s going to be the big show, so let’s hope everyone comes out and supports it,” he said.

by Phil Ambroziak