Race Notebook: Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 @ Riverside Speedway
If you did not get to Riverside in person to see the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 last Saturday night, I hope your rear end is sore from kicking yourself all week!
Seriously though, it is pretty early in the year but the racing displayed Saturday night not only for the lead with John Flemming, George Koszkulics and eventual winner Donald Chisholm but throughout our 27 car field has put up a serious contender for “Race of the Year.” The battle for the top spot in the closing 60 laps was nothing short of tremendous between Chisholm and Flemming but you also had pockets of battles throughout the pack that left us trying to figure out which one we wanted to cover on Race Time Radio.
With 28 teams at the track, there are at least 28 different stories to cover and even though I won’t get to them all, I’m going to try and breeze through some if you missed the race on Saturday. Let’s begin at the top though and the battle for the lead with the #89 Keltic Ford Fusion and the #97 Action Car and Truck Accessories Dodge. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the battle for the lead spot go side-by-side for the better part of 60 laps in this series. Of those laps, 21 in the middle of the run to the checkers saw an impressive 10 lead changes. Overall in the event, 15 lead changes between Koszkulics, Chisholm and Flemming took place.
While the battle for the lead was intense, there was a ton of respect shown. If it was anyone else going for the top spot like those two did, you may have seen some bent body panels peeled up on the wall but those two kept it straight and out of harm’s way. Even when they would come up on lapped traffic, they would play some games with each other (using a lapped car as a pick for example) but would then find each other again and go at it for the spot. Both were quick to mention the respect level in victory lane, something a lot of up and coming stars should look at as the benchmark in years to come when you talk about a classic battle between two fierce but respected rivals on track.
On the other side of the respect coin, there were some drivers that left Riverside less than pleased. Koszkulics and Shawn Tucker, two of the most successful active drivers at the track, had a run in late in the race that prevented both from finishing within the top five. Shawn Turple showed his displeasure with Greg Proude after the #29 gave the #0 a tap out of Turn Four, which sent the defending series champion into the front straight wall. With that ends Turple’s consecutive top ten streak, which sat at 15 entering the race and will come to a close with the Dexter Construction/Municipal Group Impala finishing in 12th place.
You know me, I like to look at numbers and trends, so let’s ask this - who now has the longest active consecutive top ten streak on the series? There are two answers to that. With six consecutive top tens each, John Flemming and Brad Eddy lead the pack in that statistical category. The longest streak is held by Tucker at 25 races between 2009 and 2011, so these two guys have a long way to go but both have the talent to get there!
We keep talking about the length of these races. Personally, I think we’ve seen the advantages of running 150 lap races as opposed to 100. Case in point, look at all the turns some drivers have taken in the final laps of these races. If these races were 125 laps, Marty Prevost would easily be in the top ten in points but after spinning out of the lead at Scotia in the final 25 laps and pounding the wall on the white flag lap at Riverside, he sits 13th in the standings. Rookie Cole Butcher would also be in the same top ten boat if these races were 140 laps but spins or wrecks late in the race have the former Legends champion 22nd in the standings. Mike Stevens has also had two races he’d like to forget about, especially after his Lap One wreck in the heat which sent his car to a rendezvous with the inside wall.
We mentioned Butcher and it seems our rookies had a night they’d like to forget. Dylan Blenkhorn was the top Exide Batteries Rookie in the race by coming home 15th after getting Big Bird caught up in a skirmish late in the race. Colby Smith finished two spots behind in the running order. Denver Foran had a vibration in his #13 car and had to come onto pit road under green in the closing laps, which put him 24th on the results sheet, two spots behind Butcher. When it comes to the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year standings, Blenkhorn leads by 18 points over Smith. Foran is only four points behind Smith and only four points behind Foran sits Butcher. While the #67 Blenkhorn’s Auto Recyclers Chevy has the early advantage, it is still too early to call a winner in this fight that will go down to the last laps at Scotia Speedworld in September.
What about the awesome run Dylan Gosbee and his team had on Saturday! After their blown motor at the opener, the team came to Riverside and was fast out of the trailer. A good draw and finish for the heat put Gosbee in the top five at the start of the race. I don’t remember seeing the #91 off the leaderboard all night on Saturday, which goes to show how far the Cornwall, Prince Edward Island driver has come in the last year and change. The team finished sixth and now sits 11th in the standings heading into Saturday’s Lockhart Truck Centre 150.
Darren MacKinnon came home third on Saturday night, on fumes! The team told me after the race that the car began to sputter on the cool down lap and they figured the car was out of gas at the end. After Scotia Speedworld and the issues they had with their tank, the team may have to consider installing a bigger tank for these 150 lap events. At least this time they brought home a trophy for their efforts and now the team is fifth in points heading into a track they led laps at back in May.
Let’s close this by giving Pierce Racing a tip of the cap. Shawn Pierce and his team do a whole lot with a budget that is a fraction of some of the other teams in the series but boy are they making the best of it! Pierce sits 10th in the standings after two races and the family run team continues to make gains each week. They are coming back to their home track of Scotia Speedworld where they finished ninth in May. Keep an eye on the #21 car as they make strides towards the front each week!
Later in the week, we preview the Lockhart Truck Center 150.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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