Shawn Tucker and his #52 Rockico Equipment Limited team are back in a familiar spot - in victory lane and on top of the point standings of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, but it wasn’t an easy journey in the first three races.
Tucker and his Fredericton based team struggled out of the box to get a handle on their race car for the 2012 campaign. “We tore it a part three times trying to find the problem,” Shawn told me as he rolled his car through tech on Sunday for the Lockhart Truck Center 100. “We’re not sure if it’ll be any faster than it has been the last few weeks, but we’ll soon find out.”
And find out they did - along with the other 26 cars who trailed him on Sunday at Scotia Speedworld. Tucker led 78 laps on Sunday en route to his first victory of the season and with that vaulted his team to the top of the point standings, much like Kent Vincent did following his second place run in the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 100 a week prior. On the flipside of that coin, Vincent, who started on the pole for Sunday’s race after qualifying was washed out, fell out of the lead and into a tie for third following a tenth place finish at Scotia Speedworld. He is tied with Darren MacKinnon, who he shared the front row with on Sunday and the two are just six points behind Tucker.
Coming into Sunday, most eyes were on the #0 and #99 cars as they had two different “streaks” they looked to extend at Scotia Speedworld. Shawn Turple had won both previous Lockhart 100 races while Craig Slaunwhite had won the last two races contested at the Speedworld with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. Both of those strings came to an end on Sunday with Turple finishing fourth in the #0 Dexter Construction Impala and Slaunwhite’s #99 Halifax Glass and Mirror Impala finished 16th. In Turple’s case, it moved him up to second in points, just five markers out of Tucker, while 41 points behind Tucker sits Slaunwhite’s #99 team.
The heartbreak of the afternoon has to go to Leonard Boutilier. Boutilier was running well within the top ten before “the big one” struck on a Lap 70 restart, taking out many top running cars, including Boutilier’s #45 and a returning Wayne Smith in the Jetco Contracting Impala. The #45 Streamline Auto Services Chevrolet was coming off a top ten run at Riverside one week prior and was easily on his way to duplicating that effort as he kept up with the leaders for most of the event until the wreck. As Boutilier continues to gain speed and momentum, watch for the #45 to be up in the top five in no time!
A quick tip of the cap to Marty Prevost and Jerome Kehoe, who came away with top ten finishes this past week. Prevost brought his #11 Mega Enterprises Impala home in seventh while Kehoe wheeled the #98 Ideal Concrete/Zutphen Contracting Impala to eight place. While Prevost isn’t running for the championship this year, it keeps Kehoe’s team well in contention for the title as he is currently in tenth place in the standings.
We’ve already covered half the top drivers in the standings, but let’s take a quick peek at our championship picture after four races. The top eleven in the standings are only separated by 41 points with two thirds of the season to go. The drop from 11th to 12th right now is an extra 21 points, making it 62 points back to Brad Mann and Boutilier. Not discounting them and the rest of the drivers outside the Top 11, but they’ll need to make a statement in these next two races in order to validate their credentials as championship contenders as by the time we leave Speedway 660 in two weeks, we will have crossed the halfway mark in the season.
With Tucker on top now, who has the best chance of topping the three time champ? Tucker has gone on record before that his team isn’t strong at Oyster Bed Speedway but keep in mind, in this race one year ago, he and Vincent were going for the lead before contact relegated Tucker to a ninth place run. If Tucker can overcome his Achilles heel on the schedule and come out of here with a good finish heading to his home track - the field might want to watch out for the #52 as he could be heading for a record setting fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour era (2001 to present) championship!
Three Island drivers sit in the flock behind Tucker in the championship picture heading back to the red dirt. As mentioned, Vincent and MacKinnon are tied for third in points while Petty winner Jonathan Hicken is still well in the hunt in 9th, just 30 points back from Tucker. John Flemming won the second 100-lap event in August at Oyster Bed Speedway and is coming off three top six finishes in the last three races and has sixth place in points in his back pocket. Donald Chisholm, Mike Stevens and Rollie MacDonald also find themselves in the Top 11 in points and are proven winners on the Tour that will look to pick up the glory on the Island this weekend.
While Dylan Gosbee (who was in the top five the last time we were on Prince Edward Island) scored the top Exide Batteries Rookie Honors at Scotia Speedworld, it is now Steve Halpin who has control of the rookie standings by 12 points over Frankie Fraser. Brad Eddy, Steve Ross, Gosbee and Terry Dougay will look to make something happen this week to inch themselves closer to the prestigious freshman title.
Be sure to also watch “the Daiquiri Dynamo” Greg Proude this weekend as the team tries to figure out the new race car they acquired. Greg is always fast at his home track and should be a factor by the time Lap 100 rolls around.
The action heats up on the Island at 5:10pm for the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials followed by racing at 6pm for the Lucas Oil 100 at Oyster Bed Speedway. Will we have our fifth different winner this season? Will Tucker hang on to the point lead heading into Speedway 660 or will the hot seat continue to produce us with a different leader in the standings? Find out the answers to these, and more questions this weekend!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
FAST FACTS: LUCAS OIL 100
The Track: Oyster Bed Speedway, high banked, ¼-mile oval located in Oyster Bed Bridge, Prince Edward Island.
Last Five Winners at Oyster Bed Speedway: John Flemming (July 31st, 2011), Darren MacKinnon (June 25th, 2011), Wayne Smith (July 31st, 2010), Jonathan Hicken (June 26th, 2010), Greg Proude (August1st, 2009*)
*Denotes extra distance event (Parts for Trucks/Lucas Oil 200).
Island Dominance in Spring: In the last seven spring Oyster Bed 100 lap races, six of those drivers hail from the home province. Bobby White (Kennetcook, NS) was the only driver to win a Spring race in the last eight years to not hail from the Island, winning the race in 2007.
Five Time?: John Flemming could set a record this weekend if he wins the Lucas Oil 100. Only two drivers have won four races in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour era history (2001 to present) on the Island, and with Wayne Smith semi-retired from the series as the only other four time feature winner at Oyster Bed Speedway, Flemming could become the only five time PST feature winner at the track if he wins this weekend. Greg Proude can tie Smith and Flemming if he wins at his home track with what would be his fourth feature victory.
SPRING OYSTER BED SPEEDWAY WINNERS:
2011 - Darren MacKinnon
2010 – Jonathan Hicken
2009 – Rained Out (Race was held as a 200-lap event, won by Greg Proude)
2008 – Kent Vincent
2007 – Bobby White
2006 – Greg Proude
2005 – Greg Proude
2004 – Kent Livingston
2003 – John Flemming
2002 – Wayne Smith
2001 – Shawn Tucker
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