Race Preview: Lucas Oil 100
Get ready to pull them belts tight one more time, we’re headed back to Riverside International Speedway for the final time in 2012!
Lots of storylines coming into this one. Following the Atlantic CAT 250, we have a few drivers and teams who have been burning the midnight oil to get their cars ready for the final 100 lap event of the season. Some teams sustained too much damage to be ready for this event and are already preparing for the Irving Max1 150 on International weekend at Petty International Raceway. For the drivers who are in a dogfight for the championship on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, you can’t really afford to think that far ahead, but who says we can’t?!
Three drivers have made themselves a bit of a gap out in front of the point picture, but that doesn’t mean it will be one of them walking across the stage in Moncton in November as our champion. While Shawn Turple, Jonathan Hicken and John Flemming have to be considered the three favorites at this point, you cannot count out a guy like Shawn Tucker. Tucker was involved in “the Big One” at the CAT 250 and now sits 41 points out of the lead - it’s not impossible to make up, especially for a guy like Tucker, but he will have to be on his game over the next three events.
The intriguing thing about our top three battle for the title? They are all good at each of the remaining three venues on the schedule. Turple, Hicken and Flemming have all won at Scotia Speedworld, Turple and Flemming are both former winners at Riverside International while Hicken is the only winner in Pro Stock Tour competition at Petty International Raceway (Flemming has an Open Pro Stock win from last season at the track that wasn’t PST sanctioned). Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to who will win the title. When it comes to momentum, you have to think Hicken and Turple are favored in the hunt, after all, look at their last two races. When you look at the #97, mechanical problems and an ill handling race car have set the team back to third. If Flemming would have finished where he was running at Oyster Bed and would have locked down a top five run at Scotia, we may have been talking about Flemming with a 40 point lead with three races to go. Luck is a temperamental maiden though, and she hasn’t been on the side of the #97 in recent weeks. John heads back to the track where he won his biggest race just one month ago, which could slide the momentum back his way after the Lucas Oil 100.
If it wasn’t for a Lap 12 wreck in the Ron MacGillivray 100, we might have been talking about Hicken’s two podium runs at Riverside heading into Saturday. We all know that Hicken is really good on these high banked tracks, after all, look at when his two wins came this season at Oyster Bed and Petty International Raceway. If you want to call it a “triple crown of PST high banked tracks,” he is only missing one - and that is the win at Riverside. Watch for the #5 Castle Building Centres Impala to be near the front when it counts on Saturday night!
Shawn Turple has been in this situation before as the point leader on the Tour, but as he mentioned in victory lane on Saturday, it’s a fickle situation to be in this season. It seems like every time someone takes the point lead, they have bad luck at the next race. “We would have liked to been in position to take the lead at the last race, but we’ll take this and move on to Riverside,” Turple told me post CAT 250. Turple has won at Riverside before and will look to shake the “musical chairs” game the point leaders have been playing to hold on to the top spot.
As I said, I am not counting out drivers outside the top four of having a chance at the title, but they will need some help from Turple, Hicken, Flemming and Tucker in the way of bad luck for them to open the door. It’s hard banking on one driver the caliber of those four to break, but to bank on all of them having misfortune might be a bit of a stretch. The battle for the fifth place spot in the points is pretty entertaining though as former Lucas Oil 100 at Riverside winner Kent Vincent holds the spot by seven points over Craig Slaunwhite and 11 over the #13 car of Rollie MacDonald. It has been announced mid-week that PASS North regular and former Tour multi-time feature winner (including the 2009 CAT 250) Lonnie Sommerville will be subbing for Slaunwhite while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cassius Clark in the #13 car with that series having the week off down south. The driver that could capitalize big this weekend and put himself back in fifth though? Donald Chisholm. Chisholm runs eighth, 17 back of Vincent and heads into a track where he’s just looking for some luck. Bad breaks in the first two stops to his home track have plagued the #89 Keltic Ford Fusion and the team will look to find a four leaf clover to put them back in Riverside victory lane. Mike Stevens sits 33 points back of fifth place and will look to find some of that Ron MacGillivray 100 magic on Saturday night at Riverside.
They’ll be joined by many others looking to etch their names into the history books as winners at Riverside. If you’re looking off the board for possible winners on Saturday, how about Jerome Kehoe? Kehoe’s team was running well within the top ten at the CAT 250 before a tire went soft on them and were forced to pit. That’s coming off a hard charging 4th place run at Oyster Bed Speedway. I’d keep an eye on “The Pride of Cape Breton” this weekend as Kehoe looks to take his first Pro Stock Tour victory this weekend!
So what are you waiting for? Make tracks for Riverside this weekend as we make our final start of the season on the high banks for 2012. Ticket information is available at RiversideSpeedway.ca! I hope to see you out there.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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