The Calgary Stampede is introducing a new qualification process that is changing the way we select chuckwagon drivers for the GMC Rangeland Derby. Under the new format, drivers are now being invited to compete in 2016 based upon rankings of safety, competitiveness and professionalism.

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Race rankings have traditionally been the primary consideration for qualification, with the top 16 drivers selected from the previous Stampede’s aggregate standings, the top 12 from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association’s standings and top eight from the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association’s standings.

“Following the 2015 GMC Rangeland Derby we began a thorough review of our driver selection process, with a continued focus on safety improvements,” says Paul Rosenberg, the Calgary Stampede’s chief operating officer. “We are excited about what we’ve developed to ensure the best of the best are racing at the 2016 Calgary Stampede, regardless of their association.”

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Competitiveness is still important to cracking the Stampede lineup, but under our new invitation format a strong safety record is now equally important. Similar to the selection process used for Calgary Stampede Rodeo contestants, attention is also being paid to a driver’s professionalism with fellow competitors, fans, sponsors, and media.

This change is the result of an ongoing review process at the Stampede, which constantly looks to improve all aspects of safety and animal care.  It means we are more confident than ever in the skills and strengths of the drivers that compete on our track.

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“We’re proud to make ongoing enhancements in the GMC Rangeland Derby and keep the family tradition of chuckwagon racing strong and vibrant in Calgary and Western Canada,” adds Rosenberg. “We know that the tens of thousands of fans who watch the races live and on television can’t wait to see and hear the thunder of the wagons next July.”

And there’s no doubt 2016 will be an exciting year.  After celebrating back-to-back Championship wins, Kurt Bensmiller will be hitching his horses in hopes of driving to a third straight Calgary Stampede victory.  But with 35 other elite drivers looking to unseat him, it won’t be easy.

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