In the annals of Western Speedway history, no other driver has logged as many laps around it’s oval than Jim Steen. Jim’s lifelong interest and participation in Island auto racing began in the late 1940’s when he and his cousin Billy Foster indulged their mutual racing interest by regularly attending the Saturday night “Big Car” races at Langford Speedway.
From there, Billy began driving Stockcar at age 15 at Shearing Speedway (north of Duncan) in 1953 with both he and Jim competing at newly-built Western Speedway the following year. His rookie year as a driver almost became Jim’s last when, during a lone practice session, his car got out of shape and rolled over with the seatbelt breaking and his ending up on the racetrack with the car landing on top of him. Track owner Andy Cottyn quickly came to his aid and summoned help. At the time, he was not expected to live more than an hour after the crash and his parents were rushed from up-Island with a police escort. But Jim proved everyone wrong and made a full recovery.
Completing the 1954 season, he built and drove cars for the next several years which included trying out Western’s new Jalopy class in 1958. In 1961 he became a crew member for Jalopy driver Jim Gallaugher and again in ’62 when Gallaugher moved up to the Stockcar class. He stayed with the car after it was sold it to Gordy Alberg and also drove it on occasion. Gordy moved up to the new “B-Modified” class in 1964 and Jim took over driving the car for most of that season following Gordy being hospitalized with severe burns following a burst radiator. He continued as a crew member and occasional driver in different racers until 1966 when he crewed for newcomer Randy Ouellette and also drove his own ’49 Ford Jalopy. He ran the same car in ’67.
In 1968, Jim was one of 5 local drivers who started Western’s first Super Stock class, building a 1956 Ford which he ran for the next two years. In 1972, Jim’s 1961 Comet was involved in a backstretch accident in which it flipped 9 times, but he was back the following weekend in a new car. To mark his 20th season of competition in 1973, Jim was honoured with a celebration which included numerous gifts plus a standing ovation of the assembled crowd as he circled the track in the back of a new Ford Ranchero.
Jim’s son Kerry joined his Dad on the track in 1976 at the wheel of a Hobby Stock with Jim in a ’64 Comet Super Stock. The father and son team ran for a number of years.
Jim continued on as a driver in various classes into the new millennium and was still behind the wheel before the COVID pandemic brought racing to a standstill in 2020.