Preview: Lucas Oil 100
FLEMMING FLIES THROUGH FIELD TO 3rd in PASS 200
When the racing bug hits our racers on the CARQUEST Maritime Pro Stock Tour, it hits hard. Some of those drivers took part in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model 200 lap event at Speedway 660 last Saturday during our off weekend. Former MPST series champs John Flemming (Halifax, NS) and Shawn Tucker (Fredericton, NB) took part in the event along with Lonnie Sommerville (Saint John, NB), Dave O'Blenis (Boundary Creek, NB) raced along with Speedway 660 locals Greg Fahey (St. Stephen, NB), Brent Wiggins (Hanwell, NB) and Matt Harris (Fredericton Jct., NB) to challenge New England's best in the Geary woods.
Sommerville, a winner last season at Speedway 660 on the CARQUEST Maritime Pro Stock Tour led a majority of the first 100-lap segment before cutting a right front tire after debris scattered the back straightaway following a multi-car wreck just past the halfway mark. The #23 AE MacKay Builders Impala spun after fading to mid-pack and was marching through the field without the aid of another yellow flag until the checkers fell on lap 200. Sommerville settled for seventh on the field, just a handful of spots behind the top finishing Canadian, John Flemming.
Flemming paced himself throughout the event, picking up positions rapidly in the second half of the event and closing in on second place driver Adam Bates (Warner, NH) the two weaved through lapped traffic attempting to catch eventual race winner Ben Rowe (Turner, ME). Flemming settled for third behind Bates and Rowe in a race which was scheduled to be the last before a mid-season break. "We were going to take a couple weeks off after this (PASS) race but we're going to sit down this week and evaluate for the next few Tour races." Flemming and his #97 The Roofing Connection Dodge team sit third in points, a mere two markers behind Sommerville and Shawn Turple (Enfield, NS), who are tied for the lead two races in.
FIVE DRIVERS TO WATCH ON THE ISLAND
Let's crunch some numbers, shall we? The top three from Riverside told us in Victory Lane that Raceway Park wasn't one of their strongest tracks. So that begs the question, who are the favorites when we look at the track in Oyster Bed Bridge? Here are five drivers over the last four races (two events in '08 and '07) that have showed they are a force at the Island track:
1 — Chris Hughes, Brackley Beach, PEI — #32 Pauley Equipment Toyota Camry
Average finish — 3.5, Best finish in last four events — 2nd (twice)
Notes: Chris leads all drivers in the last four races at his home track, nipping Wayne Smith by 0.25 of an average position. The Brackley Beach driver nearly swept both races last summer at the track but settled for second on both occasions. Chris also is working on a streak of consecutive top six finishes at the track dating back to the second race at the track in 2006, with finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th in the last five races at the track. Could that first win come this weekend?
2 — Wayne Smith, Timberlea, NS — #44 Jetco Contracting Chevrolet Impala
Average finish — 3.75, Best finish in last four events — 1st (twice)
Notes: A multi-time winner (including the last two August races) at the track, Wayne will look to put Riverside behind him from last week and put win #1 in 2009 on the board on Saturday. Wayne finished 11th in this event last year, an outlier when you look at his other three finishes in the last four races at the track — 1st, 1st and 2nd. With finishes like that, it is no surprise that the Oval Outlaw will be one of the favorites this Saturday night.
3 — Shawn Turple, Enfield, NS — #0 Dexter Construction/Municipal Group Chevrolet Impala
Average finish — 5.25, Best finish in last four events — 3rd
Notes: Wait a minute, didn't Shawn say that Raceway Park wasn't one of his best track two weeks ago at Riverside? When looking at his results in the past races at the track, you may think that is a stretch of the truth! The last four races, Shawn has posted finishes of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th and has finished all but one of the races he has ran at Raceway Park since he started in the tour back in '05. The co-point leader on the tour will look to take full rights to that title following 100-laps on the ¼-mile oval Saturday night with a good finish in the Lucas Oil 100.
4 — Kent Vincent, Crapaud, PEI — #8 Vector Aerospace Dodge Charger
Average finish — 7.75, Best finish in the last four events — 1st
Notes: If it wasn't for a 22nd place finish in this event in 2007, Mr. Vincent's average finish would be up there with that of Hughes and Smith. Other than the tough luck in the first PEI event in '07, Kent has put up finishes of 1st, 2nd and 6th and is the defending champ of this event. Vincent sits in a three way tie in points for 9th with Smith and fellow Island driver Robbie MacLean (Charlottetown), just a mere ten points removed from 5th. With a good finish this Saturday, expect car #8 to make a big move up in the points.
5 — Jonathan Hicken, Brudenell, PEI — #5 Castle Building Centres Chevrolet Impala
Average finish — 8.75, Best finish in last four events — 8th (twice)
A model of consistency at his home track will look to pick up his first victory Saturday in the Lucas Oil 100. The EIT Race Radio Rookie of the Year runner-up last season sits tied for 12th in points with New Glasgow's George Koszkulics and will look to bust into the top ten following Saturday's festivities on PEI with another solid finish at Raceway Park. In the last four events, car #5 has placed 8th, 8th, 9th and 10th and will look to put the Castle Building Centres colors into Victory Lane again on PEI, something that fellow Islander Dale Holmes did back in 2005!
POINTS TIGHT HEADING INTO EVENT #3
As anticipated after the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 100, the championship point standings in the Maritime Pro Stock Tour are tight after two races. In fact, with only nine races paying points for finishing position (the Triple Crown races pay points for running, not where you finish) and with the stiff competition that we have this season, one mistake on track could be fatal in a drivers championship hopes. With the top four in points separated by eight markers and 5th through 20th only being apart by thirty points, this event is bound to change the landscape of the standings.
This event is also the first of three consecutive weekends the tour is in action, the second longest stretch this summer (the tour will see four straight races in August, including the Atlantic CAT 250 at Scotia Speedworld). This segment of the season will take us to event #5 and will give us an idea of who will be battling for the championship title. From here, we head to Speedway 660 for the Parts for Trucks 100 on June 27th and then back to Scotia Speedworld for the Forbes Chevrolet 100 on July 4th.
It all gets underway on Saturday starting at 5:10pm for the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, followed by racing in the Dartmouth Dodge Dash for Cash at 6pm. The card will be completed by a full compliment of local cars racing in front of the big crowd at Raceway Park.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we'll see you Saturday at the track!
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