Race Notebook: Lucas Oil 100 @ Riverside Speedway
It just goes to show that hard work really does pay off.
Mike Stevens and his #4 R. Stevens Mechanical team, along with the folks at Jeff Taylor’s/Distance Chassis, burned the midnight oil to get their car ready for Saturday night, following a hard wreck at the Atlantic CAT 250. All those late nights in the shop paid off in a big way this weekend with Stevens taking a convincing win in a caution free Lucas Oil 100. Stevens’s pace was relentless, getting all the Impala had in it for 100 laps and finished nearly a straightaway up on second place. The biggest indication of how strong Stevens was may have been the fact he lapped all but six cars on Saturday night in 100-laps, including names like Chisholm, Koszkulics, Hicken, Vincent, MacKinnon and Sommerville. That right there folks is impressive and shows how deep Stevens was digging to take the win at Riverside.
While there was battles throughout the race, the longest and most exciting battle may have been between the #0 and #66 cars. Daryl Mahar was hungry for a top three finish while Shawn Turple was eager to take his third straight podium finish in order to maintain his point lead. Mahar kept Turple honest, flashing the nose of the #66 Inglis Jewelers/K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Chevrolet under the #0 Dexter Construction/Municipal Group Impala a few times over the second half of the 100 lap feature. While they battled amongst themselves and weaved through lapped traffic, they were catching the #97 of John Flemming. Flemming was seeing the battle ahead of him as some of the lapped cars battled
for position and it looked like he backed off a bit, possibly anticipating a caution flag. At the end of the race, Flemming had company in Turple and Mahar but the two ran out of time to make a charge on the #97 Dartmouth Dodge Charger, who debuted the new Dodge crate motor in his car on Saturday. The game plan may have changed if it was, let’s say, a 125 lap race when dealing with lapped cars, but that’s what made things interesting in the Lucas Oil 100.
Donald Chisholm and the #89 looked strong in qualifying but fell back in the caution free event to finish in the 9th place spot. “We tried a couple of things that we thought we would improve the car tonight,” explained Chisholm after the event. “All day in practice and even in the Dash we thought we were going to be good, but 30 laps into the race we got so loose. Loose in the corner, loose through the middle of the corner. It was a tough night, we just missed it by a little bit, but we know not to try that package again.” Chisholm will look to rebound this weekend at a track he has some success at in Petty International Raceway.
Albeit I’m sure they wanted to be battling for a better position in the running order, Lonnie Sommerville and Steve Halpin put on an impressive battle deep in the pack. Early in the race, the two Saint John drivers were side by side for a majority of the opening stages and even as the leaders passed the two, they kept their battle up with not one of them wanting to give an inch. In the end, it was the rookie getting the best of Sommerville, who was pinch hitting for Craig Slaunwhite in the #99 car. Speaking of relief drivers, it was great to see Darren MacKinnon back at the track at the wheel of the #13 car. Though I’m sure the result of 11th was less than desired, MacKinnon kept the fenders on the King Freight Lines Chevy and brought it home in one piece.
Greg Proude completed the top five on Saturday and kept the Red Rocket in one piece over 100 laps. The team has struggled at times with the new car but has made gains the last couple of weeks, taking two top five finishes at our last two high banked races. Our final one of the season comes up on Saturday at Petty Raceway, and you best believe that team will look to better that fifth place finish earned at Riverside.
One driver that was quick in practice but didn’t get to show it in the Main Feature was “the King of the Road” Roger Miller. The Kennetcook driver debuted his Ford during the Atlantic CAT 250 and was quick in the practices last Saturday but burnt up the clutch in the main feature. “Man, this new car is fast but it’s hard on the transmission and clutches,” Miller told me after the race. The team is looking to run full time in 2013 and is excited to be working the bugs out in the Eric Noble Trucking/Innovative Drilling Ford before that full time campaign starts next May!
We’ll close the Notebook this week by giving a tip of the cap to Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year contender Brad Eddy. Eddy placed eighth on Saturday night, his best career finish on the Tour, after qualifying into the Fast Eddie Racewear Dash for Cash and being fast all night long. Eddy has really come on in these last two races and is sure to be a contender in this series for years to come. Congrats to Eddy and his team.
Later in the week, we’ll look at the Irving Max1 150 at Petty International Raceway. After Riverside, this championship fight has become a three way battle between Turple, Flemming and Hicken - all three of whom are good at Petty Raceway, including the #5 car, who went to victory lane there the last time we visited River Glade. Be sure to stop back on Friday for that.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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