The crew at Edmonton International Raceway wasn’t sure if they would be able to even host races last year, until it was late in the summer.
When the track announced they would begin their race season in August, defending track champion Erica Thiering only had about three weeks to get her car ready.
“I honestly didn’t expect to race at all last year,” Thiering said. “Not that we weren’t prepared, but we sure didn’t put a lot of of time and effort into getting things ready prior.”
Thankfully for Thiering, her championship winning car was still in good shape from the previous year. It came down to the final race, but a win on championship night gave Thiering another track title to add to her extensive collection.
Thiering has been racing at Edmonton – a NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series sanctioned quarter-mile asphalt oval track in Western Canada – for 14 years, and has 12 championships in the track’s super stocks division, the top division at EIR.
She has also won the Alberta championship for NASCAR in 11 of the 14 years its been crowned.
The veteran had four wins in six starts, and never finished outside of the top-5 last season.
While the 2020 season was much shorter than is typical, Thiering said winning a title still wasn’t easy. They were able to do “preventative maintenance” on the car, and not too much had changed from the year before.
Edmonton had a host of new drivers in the super stocks division, though, and she had to work to learn the best way to compete against them.
“It made the guesswork a lot. You race against the same people for so many years you kind of know what to expect,” Thiering said. “Then when you get out there with new people it’s a whole different ballgame.
“We were pretty good. Our car is getting older in areas, it could probably use a little bit more TLC, get some new parts, but for the most part it’s been a pretty decent car. Other than the odd, occasional thing that wants to break.”
Thiering had to win on championship to lock up the title by eight points over Terry Dowler.
“It was actually a lot harder because he’s a very seasoned driver,” she said of Dowler. “He’s raced the NASCAR Pinty Series and he’s a really seasoned driver so I definitely had a hell of a time trying to beat him.”
Learning how to adapt to new competition has been the toughest part of Thiering’s championship streak. She’s learned to not get too used to any group of competitors.
“It’s just adapting to the new people,” she said. “For so many years racing with the same people, you start to get to know them and people kind of start cycling through a little bit. You’ve just got to learn people again. Because I know the race track. I’ve raced there for 14 years now. It’s just a thing to know the people you’re racing against and keeping up with the competition.”
While Thiering has a dozen championships at her home track, she isn’t stressing about getting lucky No. 13. When she first started racing at 16 years old, she put pressure on herself to win races and titles.
But as she’s gotten older, her mentality towards the sport has changed.
“Back in the day I used to put that pressure on myself. I really wanted to win championships,” she said. “Not that I’m getting old, by any means, but now that I am getting a little bit older I just want to go out there, I want to have fun, and I don’t really care if I win anymore. I’m just enjoying myself. I’m not into like, ‘I have to win, I have to win.’ I’m just racing for fun. If I do win, great. If I don’t, I’m totally fine.”
She’s also not putting pressure on herself to be at Edmonton every week this summer.
“It was up until three seasons ago I ran every weekend and then I just wanted to take a half season, and it was the most fun season I’ve ever done,” Thiering said. “I would happily do that. It’s just no more pressure and you’re just enjoying the sport. I find that there’s a lot of times when people get so intense into it, which is good, but you just want to enjoy it. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day you want to enjoy what you’re doing, right?”
Thiering won’t be giving up on racing completely, though. She said there’s still quite a few things she loves about the sport and keeps her wanting to come back to the track week after week.
It’s the people, her crew, and her “little race track family,” that make going for No. 13 worth it.
“They make it fun every weekend. They’re ready to come out, and that gets me excited, of course,” she said. “I’ve been out there 14 years. I like the adrenaline of the actual racing. It kind of takes away the frustrations of regular life.”