Calgary – The most decorated driver in chuckwagon history is saying goodbye this week. But Friday, in opening-day action at the GMC Rangeland Derby, it was Kelly Sutherland’s son who stole the show. Mark Sutherland, racing in the fourth heat, posted a time of 1:12.31. None of the other 35 drivers could match it and he pocketed $6,000 in day money. His dad – a 12-time Calgary Stampede champion appearing in his 45th and final Calgary Stampede – registered a time of 1:13.76 one heat earlier.
Rounding out the top four and grabbing an early share of $1.15 million in prize money up for grabs, are Chanse Vigen (1:12.33), Chance Bensmiller (1:12.36), and Chad Harden (1:12.50). Defending champion Kirk Sutherland rattled home in 1:12.67. Making their Rangeland Derby debuts, Dustin Gorst clocked in at 1:13.69, while Cody Ridsdale finished in 1:14.25. Racing continues Saturday at 7:45 p.m. The Stampede concludes July 17 with the Dash for Cash, the championship heat worth $100,000 to the victor.
Rookie driver’s dreams come true on Calgary Stampede track
By Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Stampede
To his credit, the logs stayed on the truck, the truck stayed on the road. And he stayed somewhat coherent. But it wasn’t easy. After all, it’s not every day you get a call informing you that a life-long dream has been realized. But there was Dustin Gorst, going about his work day in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan last fall when his phone began to buzz. Sure, he’d been hoping. Sure, he’d had a hunch.
But he was itching for official word. This was it.
It was a call from the Calgary Stampede, providing the blockbuster bulletin, telling Gorst that he was one of 36 chuckwagon drivers invited to the 2017 GMC Rangeland Derby. For Gorst – and fellow newbie Cody Ridsdale – this is scrapbook territory.
“I was so excited I could hardly drive – I was sweating,” he says with a laugh. “I just thanked her. She started talking about barn stalls and stuff, and I said, ‘Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you park me in the river. I’m going. I’m happy.
“I’ve arrived – that’s the perfect word for it. I’ve been waiting for this week my whole life. I’m very excited.” A superb outrider – he was named the Stampede’s outstanding outrider for the second time in 2014 – Gorst nevertheless had a notion to get himself into the wagon box. Despite being the grandson of Art, the son of Gary, the younger brother of Logan – all of whom are drivers of note, all of whom have competed at the Stampede – he was determined to do it his way.
“I wanted to stand on my own two feet, you know what I mean?” says Gorst. “I didn’t want to have to go in my dad’s liner. I didn’t want to have to use my dad’s horses, use my dad’s wagon, use my dad’s one-ton. I wanted to own an acreage. I wanted to own all the horses myself.” Plan set, Gorst refused to rush.
He started by buying 40 acres 10 minutes south of Meadow Lake. He built corrals exactly the way he wanted them. Then – and only then – did he think about filling his barn.
“I’d say I’m very proud,” says Gorst, 31. “I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted it to be me. That’s why (I got) the late start, because I wanted to be in control.”
And, impressively, he earned his way to Calgary in smart fashion – after only three years of driving.
That said, Gorst did have to overcome skeptics, who, for whatever reason, were doubting him and doubting chuckwagons. But he has no time for negativity.
“There’s always the naysayers,” Gorst says, “but I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It frustrates me when people are down on the sport … (because) that’s the last thing on my mind. I love the sport. I get to call myself a chuckwagon driver. I’m getting paid to be here this week. I’m here to stay, personally.”
Gorst already knows that outriding here is an amazing experience. But it’s not the nightly hot seat that driving is. Taking hold of those reins piles up the pressure – and the potential for glory.
“A very different vibe, yeah,” says Gorst. “As a driver, you’re actually the event. As an outrider you’re part of it, but you’re always the side (attraction).
“But as a driver? You’re it. And it’s finally my name up there.” Wisely, though, Gorst shies away from bold predictions. “I’ve watched many rookies come into the Calgary Stampede and they were going to tear it apart and beat everybody,” he says, shaking his head. “I have a full understanding that I’m with the best 35 best wagon drivers there are and I am a rookie. I want to go have fun. I want to be competitive on a nightly basis.”
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned 10-day Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
See more at calgarystampede.com