WIN WATCH - FIVE “FIRST TIME WINNERS” IN 2013
Nothing is more exciting for a driver winning for the first time at the upper levels of our sport. The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour is no different.
The 2013 season marks my fifth full year on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and I have been in victory lane for some pretty memorable moments. First wins for guys like Mike Stevens, Jonathan Hicken and Darren Mackinnon are near the top when I think of emotional winning interviews. I called Shawn Turple to his first (and second) Pro Stock Tour championships, and while we’ll talk championship on our next article, we’re going to talk about race wins here.
Nothing solidifies that you’ve made it in the Maritime stock car scene like a win on this Tour. It is the top level of racing in this region and you are racing the best drivers and teams in the sport today. With that said, those wins could be few and far between. It’s one of those moments when you hold that checkered flag to enjoy it, because you never know if or when it will happen again.
So who are our top candidates for their first wins this season on the Tour? I’ve come up with a list of five drivers expected to run full time that stand out to me as possible first time winners in this series. I’ve also included some honorable mentions in this piece as well. Without further adieu, let’s dive right into it!
*Note - drivers are listed in numerical order.
#45 - Leonard Boutilier - The 2012 campaign turned out to be a part-time season of sorts for Leonard Boutilier due to crash damage, but everyone knew the 45 was there. The former Sportsman champion who came on to the Tour in 2010 ran up front on multiple occasions, including a run to the front of the Atlantic CAT 250 until a vicious wreck on the back straight ended his run and almost his season with crash damage.
It’s hard to tell where that first win will come, but if you’re looking for first time winners, you may want to have the Dutch Settlement driver on your radar.
#53 - Cole Butcher - Okay, I know what you’re thinking, a rookie on here… are you crazy?
Well, not overly. Two drivers have won in their rookie season on the Tour. Craig Slaunwhite did it twice in 2008 by winning at Riverside International Speedway and at the Dartmouth Dodge 200 at Scotia Speedworld. The other? Three years earlier, but it might not be who you think. Greg Proude did something Shawn Turple, the eventual Rookie of the Year in 2005 could not do, and won in his first full time season in 2005 at Oyster Bed Speedway. You can also add Gordie Ryan to this list from 2001, though no Rookie of the Year Award was given out, Gordie did win in his first Pro Stock season.
Fast forward to 2013, any one of our three full-time rookies could be on this short list of first time winners in their rookie seasons. Dylan Blenkhorn and Colby Smith have each proved that they can win races at every level they have competed in and I would not be surprised to call all three names by the end of the season to a victory. I have Butcher’s name here though for the adaptability I have seen in the youngster. Whether it’s moving up from a Bandolero to a Legend and winning a title in his first season, or taking that Legend to Florida and being able to run up front against the best at Winter Nationals, Butcher is the real deal.
Butcher has won Legend races at Petty International Raceway and Riverside International Speedway, championships at Scotia Speedworld and has some Bandolero experience under his belt at Speedway 660. The question is, can Butcher, or for that matter Blenkhorn or Smith, win in their first season and if so - who pulls the feat first?!
#72 - Brad Eddy - Winning a race on this series can be likened to entry to an exclusive club. If this was the case, Eddy tried to enter the victory lane party last year, but couldn’t get past the bouncer.
Eddy completed the 2012 season with four consecutive top ten runs on the Tour to end the season, including a second place finish in the Irving MAX1 - 150 at Petty International Raceway. Eddy also recorded a top five finish at Speedway 660 during the Auto Value 250. If it wasn’t for missing the second Oyster Bed Speedway date in 2012, we might be taking about Eddy winning that Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award one season ago.
The youngster from Lower Sackville was definitely on a roll at the close of 2012, and now with Eddy teamed up with Lonnie Sommerville Racing, he may be the prime choice for his first win, or wins, in 2013. Where does the first one come? You’d have to believe Petty International Raceway victory lane is prime real estate for the #72 team to pull the trigger on, and they’ll have their first crack at it since that runner-up finish on June 1st.
#91 - Dylan Gosbee - Gosbee, like Eddy, got hot at the end of the season. Gosbee ran all 12 races in 2012 to run for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year and picked up some good finishes while also having more than their share of bad luck and mechanical failures. The #91 Wendell Taylor’s Garage team never hung their heads once though, and always returned to the track with smiles all around, whether it was a part failure or a top ten in the previous race.
Gosbee really showed what he had learned after one full year on the Tour by putting the pressure on his competition at Petty International Raceway during an open show last October by finishing a strong second behind Jonathan Hicken. Gosbee has the knowledge of former Pro Stock Tour winner Kent Livingston and Bobby Nielsen on his side among others on his pit crew to pick the brains of, all the team needs now is a bit of luck, and the Gosbee team will have a checkered flag and another trophy to add to the slew of hardware earned in the Oyster Bed Speedway Modified division.
#98 - Jerome Kehoe - Jerome Kehoe is one of the most versatile drivers we’ve seen come on board with the Tour in recent seasons. While he runs well on the high bank race tracks, like his home track of Riverside, on the Island at Oyster Bed Speedway and at Petty International Raceway, he has led laps at Scotia Speedworld and even contended for a victory at the end of his rookie season at the Speedworld.
I want to look at Petty International Raceway and Kehoe’s performance there. In our four races there, Kehoe has four top ten finishes and two top fives. One of those top five finishes is Kehoe’s only podium run on the Tour, a third in the first race at Petty in 2011. Kehoe is one of only six drivers that have finished in the Top Ten in all Petty Pro Stock Tour races thus far, and each one of them has won multiple races on the series.
Look for Kehoe to keep that streak alive, and maybe give it a boost this season with a victory at a track that now has three dates on our schedule!
Not to be left out, we have two honorable mentions. These guys did not crack the top five because the indications are that they will be part-time teams in 2013. Less races, less chances to score that victory, but believe me though, these guys are close and could easily find victory lane in just a few starts this season.
#03 - Steve Halpin - Steve Halpin turned heads in 2011 by cracking the Fast Eddie Dash for Cash and running quick laps near the front of the field at the Speedway 660 100. He learned a ton last season as the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, and while we will see him only a few times this season, the times we do see the #03, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it up front and contending for a good finish.
#66 - Daryl Mahar - A driver who would easily be in the top five above if he ran full time on the Tour, something that the Hubley, Nova Scotia has not done in a couple of seasons. When Mahar stepped back a few years ago, the team began focusing on racing. Always a quick qualifier, the team felt their race craft needed some work and it has showed with top ten finishes in their select starts on the Tour. Their last race at Riverside International last year was a fourth place run after a 100-lap green flag run to the checkers. Watch for the #66 car to knocking on the door to victory lane this season - and don’t be surprised if the gatekeeper at Scotia Speedworld or Riverside International answers the call!
We’ll have some more top five and a statistical article or two leading up to the Lucas Oil 150, coming up on May 19th at Scotia Speedworld! Who do you have to win? Let us know your picks by logging onto the Maritime Pro Stock Tour Facebook page and posting on our wall!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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