Race Notebook: Dartmouth Dodge 200
What a way to close out the 2012 season!
Let’s start with the point battle. Entering the event, John Flemming knew what he had to do to capture his fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour title. Even on the Race Time Radio show on Saturday morning, he admitted it was a slim shot, but he would be going for the win that evening. With 27 points to make up, Flemming went out and won the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials to put him on the pole, led the most laps in the feature and put himself in position at the end of the race to pass Mike MacKenzie with six to go to take the win. In front of many representatives from Dartmouth Dodge, Flemming drove the #97 Dartmouth Dodge Charger to an impressive victory and though the championship didn’t head to Halifax in 2012, the team should be impressed with what they accomplished - including wins in two of the season’s biggest events, the Dartmouth Dodge 200 and IWK 250.
Shawn Turple on the other hand had to start ninth after missing the dash cut off in Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials and had to qualify for the Dartmouth Dodge 200 by winning his heat race. Turple began moving to the front of the field quickly, picking off a handful of positions in the early laps before settling into the top five for a majority of the laps in the ‘200. While he may have been racing with that championship in mind, he did some paint swapping with a few drivers in the top five. One slip of a fender could have put Turple out of the top spot in points, but as I said on Sirius on Saturday night, these guys and teams on this Tour have a lot of respect for each other on and off the track, and that’s one of the reason why we see so much tight racing in this series. We’ll talk more about Turple’s (or shall we call him Mr. August?) championship later this month in this column.
Outside the point battle on Saturday, there were many storylines throughout the field in the Dartmouth Dodge 200. Let’s start with Mike MacKenzie. For fans that have been following the series for a long time, I’m sure they can agree when I say that it was refreshing to see MacKenzie’s #02 Bruce Sutherland Associates/HTP Hot Water Systems Chevrolet up front and leading that race. MacKenzie hasn’t been to victory lane since 2007 and it looked like that was going to change in the late laps on Saturday. After relinquishing the lead to Flemming with six to go, MacKenzie and Jonathan Hicken went at it for the second spot, swapping paint and crossing the line slideways for the spot. Both drivers got out of their cars after that second place tilt and both echoed the same sentiments - that is what short track racing is all about. The fans enjoyed the show for second and both MacKenzie and Hicken should be proud of that battle to close off the season.
It’s not a short track Saturday night without a rivalry brewing, eh? Greg Proude wasn’t pleased with Mike Stevens when we talked to him during the halfway break, but while we saw the two run numerous laps together in the second half of the race, nothing in the way of contact came between the two in the closing half of the race. Stevens rallied to finish sixth on the night while Proude came home in 14th.
Three drivers made their first ever Pro Stock start at their home track on Saturday night. Colby Smith, who ran the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 100 at Speedway 660, faired the best of the three by finishing on the lead lap in 15th after running well within the top ten earlier in the race. Dylan Blenkhorn made his first career Pro Stock start and while he flirted with the top ten in the early laps, he brought the #67 home in 20th. Mike Alexander brought the iconic #15 Ford home in 22nd place in his first Pro Stock affair at Scotia Speedworld. These three will be threats on the Tour for many years to come, and they’ll be able to trace their roots back to this Dartmouth Dodge 200.
Steve Halpin locked up the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year award this season with a 10th place run at Scotia Speedworld. While Halpin and his team finished with the most points of our other full time rookie teams, all of them should be proud of their accomplishments. Dylan Gosbee, Terry Dougay, Brad Eddy, Steve Ross and their teams have plenty to celebrate in their first season on the Tour and will look to improve next year, job well done guys!
In the next couple months leading to the Banquet, we will look back on the season and take a look at the season that was for 2012 champion Shawn Turple. Our season may be over on the track - but the bench racing season has just begun!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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