Race Notebook: Irving Blending & Packaging 100 @ Speedway 660
When the lights finally came up Saturday night at Speedway 660, it was John Flemming who lit the candle to get to the checkered flag first in the Irving Blending and Packaging 100.
Unlike some of the other races this season where Flemming got up front and led the most laps to take the victory, this one had to be earned the hard way against some of New Brunswick’s best as they attempted to defend their home turf. While he did make it to second for a few laps prior to the halfway point, Flemming sat fourth at the Lap 50 red flag after starting in fifth.
The pass for the lead though was very impressive. After virtually parking himself on the back bumper of Shawn Tucker for more than 10 laps waiting for the #52 car to flinch, Flemming went to the outside of Tucker on Lap 83 in Turn Three and threw it into Turn One on Lap 84 on the outside - and it stuck! Flemming would drive down the back straight on that lap as the leader and while it appeared the #97 Action Truck and Car Accessories Dodge would drive off with the win, lapped traffic and a #52 car who moved up a groove in the tire tracks of Flemming made the race for the win an interesting one.
We’re witnessing something special with this #97 team. Flemming has three wins and a second place finish in five races.
Add that to an eighth place finish at Petty Raceway, and he has nine consecutive top tens dating back to last season, the longest currently active streak. Flemming actually owns the second longest streak on the list when he reeled off 19 consecutive top tens from 2002 to 2003. The list is led by Tucker, who had a streak between 2009 and 2011 with 25 consecutive top ten finishes. When it comes to most wins in a season, Wayne Smith holds the mark at six wins in his championship season in 2001 while Flemming had five wins the year after. Another nugget Flemming is trying to change this year? The champion in the last four years has failed to win the most races on the Tour in that year. The last time the champion won the most races on the series was Smith back in 2008.
After a dismal start to 2013, Tucker has two consecutive runner up finishes on the series. Let’s put it in perspective for you. After Race Three and a 21st place finish in the Lockhart Truck Center 150, Tucker sat in 19th place in the standings. In the next two races where Tucker recorded two second place finishes, he has rocketed up the standings to sixth. If he can keep this up, we may be seeing Tucker hoist his fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour championship trophy in November in Moncton, but he does have a long way to catch Flemming - 108 points to be exact.
Yes, that is a huge number five races in but this season is faaaaaar from over. With the competition being so close in this series, one small slip up can spell disaster for your championship hopes. Even with a 43 point lead on Shawn Turple, Flemming could easily see it vaporize in a race or two if he slips and Turple has a strong run.
It appeared for a while that Dylan Gosbee was going to back up his first career win with a podium run at Speedway 660. Gosbee ran up front for a while with Tucker, Dave O’Blenis and last year’s Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Steve Halpin, who was making his first start of the year and was well within the top five most of the night before coming home 22nd. Gosbee kept the car under him all night long and in his third career start at Speedway 660, he came home with a top five run. The #91 team continues to prove they belong at the top of this series and Gosbee continues to send the statement that he has officially arrived as a contender everywhere we go on this series.
While Gosbee lights it up, another young prospect from the Island made his first start on Saturday in Brodie MacQuarrie. MacQuarrie has been putting up impressive numbers in the last few seasons in the PEI Modified class at Oyster Bed Speedway and is sure to be a star in our series in the next few years. This year is a learning experience for the team and Tom “Big Poppa” Nicholls tells me that this will be the first of five starts on the season which will take them to all five tracks. Their season is slated to continue with us on Saturday with the Fast Eddie Racewear 100 at Petty Raceway.
Dave O’Blenis was a man on a mission Saturday night. After a right rear went flat on them during the Lap 50 caution, the team pitted and returned to the track at the rear of the field. With half the race left to work their way to the front again O’Blenis got up on the wheel. With a lot of green flag laps at the end of the race, the #48 Irving Blending and Packaging Chevrolet got back up to third before time ran out. His stats on our series in the limited starts he’d had with us over the years are pretty impressive with two wins, nine podiums, 14 top fives and 19 top tens.
Quick kudos to Greg Proude on another solid run with a sixth place finish, Dylan Blenkhorn for his first heat race victory on the Tour and becoming the first Rookie to win a qualifier on the series this season and to Denver Foran for picking up the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Race Award for the second week in a row. There are a lot more stories from the weekend with 27 teams taking part in Irving Blending and Packaging 100 festivities but only so much room here in the Corner for the week!
The race featured two stoppages for light failures on the track. The problem was traced back to a breaker going bad and some handy work from some on site electricians, including the Dougay Electric crew and we were back in business. While the racing was memorable, it certainly made for an interesting ripple in the 25th Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race at the track since 2001.
Finally, a tip of the cap to the new management group of Speedway 660 in Max and Shawna Roy and Gary and Debbie Foley must be given. These folks have made significant improvements to the facility in the short time they’ve had to do so and if this is a sign of things to come, the future of stock car racing in the Fredericton area is looking very bright. If you haven’t been there yet, be sure to book one of our off-weekends around one of their races - you’ll thank me later.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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