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Tim's CornerISSUe 102

Race Notebook: CARQUEST 100 at Scotia Speedworld

Quick and to the point.

That describes the pace set at the season opening CARQUEST 100. The race was fast and furious with the 100-lap event being run in just 23 minutes and change. That didn’t mean there was a shortage of action. In fact, if you ask some fans, that was the most action packed 100-lap races we’ve had in years. Everywhere you looked around Scotia Speedworld, there was someone battling for a spot. Whether it was eventual winner Craig Slaunwhite and Greg Proude for the lead, or a battle at mid pack, almost every moment of that race featured some great side by side racing. That’s my definition of a race, where there’s at least one battle on the track that keeps you on the edge of your seat from flag-to-flag. We got that at Scotia Speedworld.

The story of the race was Slaunwhite and Proude. The two drivers who led a majority of the Dartmouth Dodge 200 were back up front again dueling it out for the win in this one as well. Proude, who has established himself as one of the best qualifiers on the East Coast, set the pace for the first 51 laps of the race but was chased to the halfway point by Slaunwhite. Slaunwhite capitalized as the two worked through lapped traffic to take the lead from the #29 Atlantic Dodge Dealers Dodge Charger and never looked back for the win. “This thing has been on jackstands since the 200 (Dartmouth Dodge Season Finale) and I guess that’s where it’s going after this,” said Slaunwhite in victory lane. “We fixed the nose, that’s the only change we made on the car since September.”

With the Linde Most Laps Led Award and the points that go along with it, Proude will enter the Lucas Oil 100 at Petty with the point lead. The driver of the “Red Rocket” wound up third in the CARQUEST 100, which was his first top three finish on the Tour since winning the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 100 in June 2010. After the struggles the team went through last season, it’s great to see the #29 car back up front and obtaining a finish indicative of where the car is on the speed chart week in and week out!

Finishing second on Sunday was Cassius Clark. Clark was subbing for Rollie MacDonald, who was involved in an accident prior to the racing season. “We were picking our way through the field before the motor started laying down in the late laps,” said Clark after finishing second. I’m not sure about the motor laying down showed as much as Clark though it was as that #13 King Freight Lines Ford was catching the leader at the end, but a runner up finish after starting outside the top five is pretty impressive in a caution free race with the talent we have. Clark, the 2010 Atlantic CAT 250 champ, hopes to make more appearances on the Pro Stock Tour as his schedule allows. Clark is chasing his first PASS North championship this season.

A driver that really impressed during the 100 lap race was Mike Stevens. The former Tour race winner at Scotia Speedworld charged to the front after winning his Dartmouth Dodge Heat Race and as the run went on, the #4 became better. Yes, #4. If you weren’t with us last week, Stevens and team went with a number change this season in hopes to reverse his recent luck on Tour and it looks like so far it has worked. Stevens will look to build off his top five finish at Scotia with a strong run in his backyard at Petty International Raceway during the Lucas Oil 100.

It was an up and down day for our rookies in the CARQUEST 100. The buzz word for the day was “seat time.” Many of the teams were looking to get seat time for their drivers in the first race of the season and while some got more than others, the experience of just attempting to qualify for the event is something they can all take into the next race of the season.

The top finishing Exide Batteries Rookie was Frankie Fraser with a 12th place finish in the CARQUEST 100. The team was chasing a handling problem all day and had it diagnosed prior to heading out for the feature. “The car progressively got worse until we couldn’t get a jack under it after qualifying,” Scott Alexander told me following the 100. “It ended up being a bad shock, which we got fixed before the feature and Frankie drove it up to a 12th place finish.” The team, who is primarily sponsored by R&R Kinsman Auto Salvage, is looking for sponsors to compete on the full Tour this season. “We have a few great sponsors, but we’re still looking for some new partners to come on board,” Alexander explained. “We have a great team here and I think this combination we have is going to win many races in the next few years.”

While Fraser leads the Rookie standings after one event, he should be on high alert of his competition. Steve Halpin won a Dartmouth Dodge Heat Race in his first appearance at the Speedworld and looked comfortable in the feature en route to a 17th place finish, second amongst rookies on the day. Terry Dougay and Steve Ross finished 21st and 22nd respectively on the sheet at the end of the CARQUEST 100 and Dylan Gosbee’s day ended early with mechanical problems on Lap 55.

You have to feel for Brad Eddy. Eddy and his #72 Samuel Metals started on the outside pole of his Dartmouth Dodge Heat Race but it was short lived after a Lap One crash on the front straight. “I hit one of the bumps on the high side when I powered up and it hooked,” said Eddy at driver intros for the feature. “It’s pretty bent in the front end. It’ll likely require a new clip.” Eddy completed one lap in the feature to pick up valuable championship points - points that could be very pivotal when we come down to crowning an Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year champion at the Dartmouth Dodge 200.

One of Eddy’s mentors had a great run in the opening event of the season. Mike MacKenzie came home a solid fourth place in the CARQUEST 100. Another veteran in Shawn Tucker came home with sixth place while he was followed by another former Tour champion in Shawn Turple. Donald Chisholm finished in eighth with Islanders Darren MacKinnon and Jonathan Hicken each starting out 2012 with top ten runs. Next up is the Lucas Oil 100 at Petty International Raceway. Chances are we won’t go caution free, at least that’s what the brief history of the races there shows. The high banks provide for tight racing in the corner and we could quickly wad up some race cars if something happens. Stay tuned to Tim’s Corner for my preview on who to watch at Petty!

Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!