Race Notebook: Atlantic Cat 250 @ Scotia Speedworld
Scotia Speedworld was Craig Slaunwhite’s playground on Saturday night.
Yes, he may have led 165 laps and on paper it may have sounded like utter domination by the #99 team after starting from the pole but anyone that was at the Speedworld on Saturday night will tell you it was far from that on the track. Slaunwhite had to earn his first CAT 250 by battling with fellow Speedworld home track favorite in Shawn Turple. The battle up front was pretty intense and the two combined to lead all but one lap of the 250. In the end, it was Slaunwhite edging out Turple in the sprint to the finish, leaving Slaunwhite with his second career major 250 victory after winning an Auto Value 250 and leaving Turple as one of the most accomplished active drivers on our Tour without a 250 win.
The racing from front to back was tremendous. Every one of our 27 drivers on Saturday put on an incredible show of hard and, for the most part, clean racing. There were not a whole lot of cars tore up and 21 of our 27 starters were on the track when the race ended. That says something about our series and the talent from front to back.
It was great to see Slaunwhite back in victory lane. The win was Slaunwhite’s fifth on the series, fourth at Scotia Speedworld and was Slaunwhite’s 15th career top ten at his home track in a Pro Stock. It is also Slaunwhite’s 42nd career top ten, which moves him to 12th overall of 93 drivers to ever record a top ten in our series. Pretty big numbers for a guy who has only been racing with us since 2008!
I know what you’re thinking, let’s quit the number jibber jabber and let’s talk racing. That race was the #99’s to lose on Saturday night and he was not to be denied. Even after he let Turple get by on a restart and it looked like the #0 had saved something and began to stretch his legs a bit on the field, Slaunwhite kept calm and eventually worked his way by en route to the win. When the two were together, they put on a show. They raced each other hard but raced each other clean, even leaning on one another once or twice as they exited the turns at the Speedworld. It was a great duel and a great way to see Slaunwhite turn around a season that has had its share of ups and downs in the first eight races.
You won’t see Slaunwhite in his #99 car though on August 24th at Petty Raceway. While Slaunwhite is standing as the best man in his brother’s wedding, he has called in a pretty big name in the short track racing world in 2013 Oxford 250 and former CAT 250 winner himself, Travis Benjamin. While it is big that Slaunwhite will not be in the #99 car, the news of the current TD Bank 250 champ coming to the International is huge for our series.
Back to the CAT 250, in the case of Turple, he seems to be the Rusty Wallace of our series. He’s won championships and many big races (he’s tied for fourth on the all time win list in the series) but has failed to win a marquee 250 lap event, though he’s come close many times. I’ve said before that it seems like Turple and Donald Chisholm are two of the biggest names in this region that have had so much success but not a 250 win to show for it. I still firmly believe that both will win one, it is just a matter of when. In the case of Turple, this Atlantic CAT 250 moved him back to second in points by four markers over a hard charging Shawn Tucker, who may have got to the top two if the race was a 300 as opposed to a 250.
Heavy on our thoughts and hearts on Saturday was Mike Stevens. It was different not having the #4 car at Scotia Speedworld, a track where he recorded his first of three career wins at back in August 2010. You have to believe that he was looking over us though. He would have been so happy to see how hard the top two were going for the lead and how everyone was racing throughout the pack. As one fan told me after the race, “I have never, ever seen that much three wide racing at Scotia Speedworld and the boys were able to make it work, or at least save it when they couldn’t!”
Let’s all take this opportunity now to pat ourselves on the back. Thanks to you, we raised $11,922 for the Trust Fund for Mike’s boys, Brody and David, through decal sales and the passing of the helmet prior to intros. On top of that, Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100 winner Russell Smith Jr pledged whatever he won for the victory at the Speedworld on Sunday would be going towards the boys.
I’m not sure how much was raised at the memorial, but I know our friends at Oyster Bed Speedway raised $6300 Saturday through 50/50 sales and donations. I know Speedway 660 was raising funds on the weekend as well with no amount in at press time.
If you would like to donate, we will have the #4 decals on sale at Petty International Raceway next weekend for the International. You can also head to any CIBC Branch to donate if you cannot make it to the track. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your kind generosity!
Great to see Ben Rowe back with us at the CAT 250. I had the chance to see Rowe wheel a race car the Tuesday prior to the 250 at Autodrome Chaudiere in Quebec and told myself that he would be tough to beat come Saturday. While Rowe was battling with our leaders for most of the race, the #10 car faded in the end back to fourth after a spirited battle with Tucker. Here’s hoping Rowe will be back with us soon!
Two great runs came from two drivers who drove red cars as opposed to their black ones on Saturday. Let’s begin with Greg Proude. Proude had to work hard to finish sixth on Saturday, as can be displayed with all the tire marks up the passenger side of “the Red Rocket.” Proude has quietly been hanging around the top five all season long in the standings and now sits fourth with three races to go at three tracks where he has performed well at in the past. With 26 points sitting between him and second place, we could have an all Dodge top two if the championship cards play out right.
Was it ever cool to see Mike MacKenzie give the #02 a run on Saturday. After some of the runs he’s had this season, MacKenzie needed to turn his season around. He told me Friday that they tried some things that had worked in the past and hoped would work again on Saturday and it looks like they did. MacKenzie, who hasn’t run a red race car since his early days of stock car racing, was in the top five most of the night before winding up in eighth when the checkered flag flew.
We also saw two other part time teams in the top ten with Brad Eddy and Daryl Mahar. We see some part time teams who have been full time in the past lose some of that, I’m not sure if competitive edge are the right words but we’ll roll with it, when they go to a partial schedule. It hasn’t shown with these two. Every time Eddy and Mahar are out on the track, they are competitive and fighting up front. Eddy and his team are looking to scrounge up the dollars to go racing next weekend at Petty in an International weekend where Brad scored second one season ago.
Was also cool to see Stacey Clements back out at the Speedworld. Stacey took part in the Ron MacGillivray 150 earlier in the season, but this was his first shot at his home track in a few years after being out of the seat. He drove the Remax Nova Cathy Fenske Realty, Billy Joe’s Automotive Chevrolet for all it was worth before a mechanical problem forced him to retire 71 laps from the finish. His teammate Wayne Smith didn’t fair any better after a rear end forced him pit side after 62 laps.
The surprise from the weekend may be John Flemming. After trying to push the wall out in practice on Tuesday, the crew had been throwing everything at the race car to get it back to where they wanted it to be for the Atlantic CAT 250. The outcome is an 11th place finish, snapping a 12 race top ten streak (which will stand as a tie for sixth overall for the longest top ten streak in series history). Flemming did lead one lap in the race though and still has a 91 point lead on Turple and the rest of the field with three races to go. Word is that his off week will include some racing at Riverside in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series 300, good luck to him and Donald Chisholm as they take on the regulars in the 300 lapper!
We close by thinking “what might have been” for Cole Butcher and the #53 team. A brake issue forced Butcher to the pits in the first 20 laps and the team was forced to retire after 45 circuits. This comes after putting up the fourth quick lap in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, qualifying eighth for the Atlantic CAT 250 and running most of those laps within the top ten before the problem arose. The downside is that he will lose a ton of points to Dylan Blenkhorn in the rookie battle presented by Exide Batteries, but it puts the field on notice that Cole Butcher will be one to watch in the last three races!
Before we go - couple of shoutouts. I found out I had fans on Saturday! I got a picture with a couple of them and even @d0rty (Lisa Dougherty) tweeted me when I mentioned at the track that I only had one fan! Those around the track know that I am amazed by the little things, including that - and the fact Olivia Meehan brought me birthday cake Sunday in the tower! Pretty good weekend all round if you ask me! ;)
I also want to send my condolences to the family and friends of Louie Boudreau. Louie was one of our biggest race fans, followed the Tour around to a lot of our races and we lost him suddenly on Sunday. I grew up watching races with Louie and Olive along with friends Bob, Shirley, Roger, Cathy and others I’m sure I’m missing, years before I started announcing the series and most afternoons prior to Time Trials I would make my way over to chat with them about last week’s race and who they thought would win this week. It will be different not seeing Louie prior to getting on the mic every Saturday night. My thoughts are with Olive and all his friends and family.
Until next week, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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