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May 15, 2024

Defending Thunder Cars champion Mitchell Bushnell is adding to his family’s legacy at Edmonton International Raceway


Mitchel Bushnell
Mitchell Bushnell races in the outside groove at Edmonton International Raceway. (Photo courtesy of Edmonton International Raceway)

Mitchell Bushnell’s grandfather Scottie helped build Edmonton International Raceway back in 1969 and went on to win championships at the track. Bushnell’s father Garry also raced on the Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada track and won his first title in 2022.

Last year, the youngest Bushnell was able to add to his family’s racing legacy.

In his sixth season racing, and his second in Edmonton’s NASCAR Thunder Cars division, Bushnell finished with 517 points on his way to winning his first track championship.

“It was really awesome. It kind of felt like it had to happen,” Bushnell said of the title. “My grandpa raced at Sunset Speedway, which is the old name for Edmonton International, and he had won a championship there. With my dad winning, it kind of felt like I just needed to make it happen and get a championship and keep the family name going.”

Garry Bushnell celebrates his 2022 Edmonton International Raceway track championship. (Photo courtesy of Edmonton International Raceway)

Despite finishing the season with just three wins — one in a feature and two in heat races — Bushnell was able to secure the track title by being consistent the entire season. After breaking down in the first race, he finished every other contest and came home in the top three almost every night.

“It definitely really helped we were always near the front,” he said. “Which made it a really fun and good year just to not worry about any issues.”

He credited the car staying together to work done in the shop by his dad and crew member Ron Elder Jr., who is also a sponsor. Elder and the older Bushnells also helped keep him mentally prepared to race every week.

“Probably definitely my grandpa, he’s a little bit competitive,” Bushnell said. “In between races… he’s always giving me little tips, and he’s probably been the one to push me the hardest to make sure I am consistent. That’s one of the biggest things he always talks about.

“Ron Elder Jr. as well as my dad would be probably the two others who really pushed me. They’re always trying to give me tips from videos or pushing me out there to have more consistent laps and that stuff.”

Having a close-knit group of family and longtime friends friends made the championship even sweeter, too.

“It makes it a little bit more special being us in one big group,” Bushnell said. “We always can joke that racing is an individual sport because it’s just you and the car; it’s still a big, huge team sport, so winning a championship was kind of nice. We all celebrated it together… We were all able to celebrate getting this championship as one big group because we were all involved in it.”

Bushnell will be back in Edmonton’s Thunder Cars division this season, and he may have some familiar faces racing beside him. Garry will return to race in Edmonton’s Pure Stocks division, and there’s a possibility he may also have a car in Thunder Cars. If so, this would be the second time Bushnell has raced against his dad. The two went toe-to-toe in Pure Stocks back in 2021.

“Some of probably the most run races I ever had was racing against my dad,” Bushnell said. “We ran 25 laps door-to-door in a feature race. We never bumped, never touched, nothing, but knowing the respect that he was going to give me to not be slamming me or anything, and just the fun of the competition between the two of us, we didn’t want the other one to win. We were always pushing each other a little more.”

(Photo courtesy of Edmonton International Raceway)

Racing against family is a fun challenge Bushnell is ready to tackle again.

“I didn’t want dad to get in front of me, he didn’t want me to get in front of him. It was a lot of fun,” he added. “The respect level was totally different because I respect him so much… So it’s a big challenge, because he knows every move I’m going to try to pull, I know every move he’s going to try to pull… It makes it a lot more challenging when you’re racing against him.

“It’s just a different level. It’s hard to explain because of the love we both have for the sport. We don’t want to lose too easily but we don’t want to wreck each other, either.”

Edmonton will open the season on June 1 for Sunset Speedway and Fan Appreciation Night.

(Photo: Amber Bee Photography / Edmonton International Raceway)

Unlike last year when he admits the team waited until about a month before the season began to get to work, Bushnell said his car is already pretty much ready to go. The team tore everything down, re-did all the bodywork and motor, and took the car to the World of Wheels car show in Calgary in early April.

“We wanted to show it off for all our sponsors and open the eyes to our racing and try to get more people involved with it,” Bushnell said. “We already got the car ready to go; now it’s just a couple last few tune-ups and getting the tires ready and stuff like that, and we’re pretty much ready to go for the season.”

Bushnell goes into this season in a new position as defending champion. Thankfully, he has family who have been there before, and they can continue to help him adjust.

“I’ve got a little bit of target on my back. We know that,” he said. “I think with any champion you know that… Everyone wants to beat you, everyone wants to say they’re better than you, faster than you. It’s going to drive me a little more this year trying to keep the car consistent and trying to keep myself consistent in the car.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge I haven’t experienced yet. I’m excited for it.”

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