Kris Molle, with a huge run on day two, has surged into top spot in the GMC Rangeland Derby aggregate standings. Molle blazed through Heat 8 in a time of 1:11.49 on Saturday night at the Calgary Stampede. That, combined with his team's solid work on opening night, vaulted him ahead of the 35 other chuckwagon drivers with a combined clocking of 2:23.12. Rounding out the aggregate leaders are defending champion Kurt Bensmiller, Ray Mitsuing, Vern Nolin and Rick Fraser.
Fraser, making his 20th straight appearance in Calgary, has announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the Stampede. So is there any wiggle room in that decision for the veteran driver?
"Yeah, there is, actually," replies Fraser, smirking. "If I find out Hell froze over, I'll consider reconsidering. That's the only way." In other words, say goodbye to one of the most decorated chuckwagon drivers of all time. After the final day, July 15, he won't again grace the wagon box. And if you're expecting tears to gush and lips to quiver when the man discusses the matter, well, you'd be surprised. Fraser, quite matter of factly, says it is simply time. But was it a hard decision?
"It wasn't," says Fraser, 58. "Not at all. It was coming. It would've been either this year or next year, for sure. No, it's not an emotional decision to make. I'm still competitive. I didn't want to hang on and just be one of them guys that stayed too long." So this past spring, shortly before heading for Grande Prairie for the first stop on the World Professional Chuckwagon Association circuit, Fraser began to contemplate the future. He and his wife Sue were sitting at home one day in Wetaskiwin and she brought it up.
"Sue said, 'We need to talk about what we doing here. Are we going to keep running?'" recalls Fraser. "I said, 'What do you think?' And she didn't really give me an answer. I said, 'OK, we'll have an auction in Calgary. And that's the end of it." The Rick Fraser resume is a mittful. A two-time world champion (2004, 2013). A four-time qualifier for the Championship Sunday Final Heat at the GMC Rangeland Derby. The Orville Strandquist Award as top rookie driver at the 1999 Stampede. The Guy Weadick Award in 2005. And, at the start of it all, a highly regarded outrider.
And of course, there is still a week of racing ahead at the Stampede.
"We want to run here, have some fun, see what happens," says Fraser. "Then we'll move on to the next chapter – whatever that is, because we have no idea."
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.
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