Home is where the heart is and for pro race car driver Sarah Cornett-Ching that home truly is the Penticton Speedway.

“The Speedway was where I started when I was just 12-years old and before that I was helping my dad on this very track and it’s very cool to be back,” she said following her first heat victory at the Gordy Mannes 500 Memorial Invitational. 

“Since COVID and everything, it’s been a few years since I’ve been home so it’s amazing to be with family and this is just icing on the cake to race and win, it’s great.”

Two months ago, the 31-year-old announced a partnership with the Penticton company Simpson Racing Solutions that includes five races at the Penticton track.

It was seven years ago she moved to North Carolina to pursue her dream of competing professionally and she’s enjoyed great results.

A concussion in 2016 slowed things up a bit, keeping her out of the driver’s seat for about a year, but back in Penticton this weekend she showed no signs of slowing down.

Her bright white, number 99 late-model Chevrolet with a Monte Carlo body and McGunegil-built engine crossed the finish line well in front of her nearest competitor in the first heat.

The weekend also proved to be a family affair with her father Joe Cornett-Ching collecting the top spot the night before and was working in her pit Saturday and Sunday.

Joe and Gail Garnett-Ching own ANJ Automotive.

“I’ve missed the family aspect of it, which is what drew me to (racing) in the first place,” Sarah told the Herald earlier this year.

Now living near Wilmington, N.C. she is scheduled to compete two more times in Penticton this season, in September and October.

Someone who is particularly happy to see her back racing locally is Ingo Seibert, one of the speedway’s new co-owners.

“It’s a big bonus to have Sarah here and last night watching her dad win the street stock race in a super-competitive field was really exciting,” said Seibert.

“Joe’s been a big supporter here since we started so it was great.”

Avion Developments, led by cousins Ingo and Trevor Seibert, purchased the Speedway just over a year ago from long-time owner Johnny Aantjes.

Since then, they have invested thousands of dollars in every aspect of the facility from track improvement to fan accommodation. 

“Big changes,” said Ingo. “We’ve done a lot of work on it and we’re still working on it.”

And it’s paying off.

“It attracts better drivers, it attracts more drivers, it’s much better to race on, there’s a lot less incidents because there’s more room to race so there’s a lot of door-to-door racing which the drivers like. 

“So it’s a big factor in attracting drivers,” he said.

Next scheduled event at the Speedway is the Avion Sprints and Winged Sprints Friday and Saturday described as, “Some of the fastest cars to touch the pavement at the Penticton Speedway.”

— This story was originally published by the Penticton Herald.