After a week off after an exciting 14th Annual Atlantic CAT 250, we are back at it this weekend as our series heads to another staple event in the region, the 49th Annual River Glade International Weekend and the Parts for Trucks 150.
Last season in this event marked the first Tour sanctioned 150 at Petty International Raceway and was a very interesting chapter in the story that was the 2012 championship. Jonathan Hicken dominated this event but broke a pan hard bar within the final 20 laps of the event. Shawn Turple inherited the lead and would hold it to take his first win of the season en route to the 2012 championship. Behind Turple, Brad Eddy was scoring his first podium finish by edging out Craig Slaunwhite in a photo finish for second.
Here’s a cool little stat as well, in six Tour sanctioned races at Petty, we have had six different winners. Wayne Smith, Jonathan Hicken, Kent Vincent, Shawn Turple, Dylan Gosbee and Shawn Tucker have each won a Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour point race at the track and five of those six (or approximately a quarter of our field this weekend) will look to become the first repeat winners at the track. Yes, I know Jonathan has also won an open show there in the past before, but the race did not pay points for our series and was not a PST sanctioned race.
We’ll have approximately 15 others trying to derail those plans and there are some stiff competitors in those looking to capture their first point paying win at Petty Raceway. Three of the top five in the standings have yet to win a point paying race at Petty. Let’s start at the top with John Flemming. Like Hicken, he has won an open show there in the past but never a point paying race. In fact, Flemming’s average finish at Petty this season is 6.5 and the team finished 11th at Scotia Speedworld last week, their worst finish in over a year on this series dating back to Oyster Bed in August 2012. I talked with Pat Ryder for a while last weekend at Riverside Speedway last week during the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series festivities and he said they plan on taking their Oyster Bed setup to Petty on Saturday. Keep in mind they won the only stop at Oyster Bed this season but they are working with essentially a different car since that race after a practice crash on the Tuesday of CAT 250 weekend. They’re still trying to dial in that car, so it will be interesting to see what car shows up at Petty - the car we’ve seen dominate the first eight races of this season or the temperamental Action Car and Truck Accessories Dodge that reared its head at Scotia Speedworld.
Greg Proude and Darren MacKinnon are the two other drivers in the top five in the standings that have not won at Petty Raceway leading to Saturday. Both have had great seasons but both are missing wins in this current season and I’m sure they’d like to reel in that second place point battle in Turple and Tucker to put themselves in the fray for the runner up spot in the championship. Of note, MacKinnon has the third best average finish at the River Glade track this season - behind Tucker’s 1.5 and Gosbee’s 2.0. Both Tucker and Gosbee have a win, so you’d have to believe that MacKinnon has to be a favorite to score the win on Saturday night.
Proude and his team have been progressively gaining on their race car. While there have been some races the team has been taken out of a good finish, the races they have been running good, they have been a top five team, something that is hard to do each week with the competition on this series. Proude had a sporty looking car at the Atlantic CAT 250 and was looking for a little more than the sixth that he scored. If the team hits the setup right, don’t be surprised to see the Springvale, PE driver near the front when it counts in the Parts for Trucks 150.
The Exide Batteries Rookie battle took quite the turn at the CAT 250. With Cole Butcher having issues early in the race after lighting it up in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, it allowed Dylan Blenkhorn to stretch his legs in the standings by 34 points. Here’s an interesting fact for the rookies at Petty though - both Butcher and Denver Foran have a top ten this season at Petty with Butcher scoring seventh the last time we went to Petty while Foran took a ninth place run in the Lucas Oil 150 in June. Blenkhorn’s best finish at Petty this season has been 11th. This could be a make or break round for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year championship - if Butcher can close the deal he left open at Scotia, it will make things close. Foran has to get up on the wheel in this race if he wants a shot at this thing as he sits 62 points behind Blenkhorn. Meanwhile, the #67 car has been consistent all season and that consistency maaay be enough to take that championship. There’s a stress on that may, because both Butcher and Foran have the ability to light it up here in these final three races as does Blenkhorn. Regardless who takes this, these three are very talented drivers and will be big names in years to come!
Not to mention we have two drivers coming in who make select starts on our series - both of whom have the ability to win this thing on Saturday night. Let’s begin with Chris Duncan. Duncan was strong here in the Oktoberfest race last season to close off the year at Petty Raceway, finishing on the podium in that race with Hicken and Gosbee. The former multi-time Speedway 660 Pro Stock champ will make his second start of the season with us and it would not surprise me in the very least to see him nipping at the heels of the leaders by the end of the night Saturday.
As mentioned last week, Craig Slaunwhite is standing in at a wedding this week, meaning Travis Benjamin will be sliding into the window of the #99 Halifax Glass and Mirror Impala on Saturday. Benjamin has lit it up on the PASS North series in the last year and a half which includes a PASS North title in 2012 and the prestigious TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway just over a month ago. I’ve said it before, momentum means a lot in this sport and while Travis has never seen Petty Raceway, you’d be silly to not have Benjamin on your radar for Saturday night, especially with him driving the car that went to victory lane in our most recent series race - a race that Benjamin has also won in the Atlantic CAT 250!
We have 19 cars on the pre-entry list but it’s 19 quality cars and drivers that will take the green on Saturday night. Guys like Terry Dougay, Shawn Pierce and Steve Ross started this season off strong and will look to do the same in the final three of 2013. Brodie MacQuarrie is back in the Big Poppas 63 Motor Sports Island Excavators Chevrolet, Brad Mann will also look to defend the turf on his home province and hey, Josh Jaillet is making his return to the series in the #55 Carnahan Property Management Chevrolet for Jason Carnahan. It’s kind of ironic Josh will be driving the #55 as it was Carnahan and the #55 car he battled for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year title in 2009, which Josh ended up winning. It will be great to see Josh Jaillet back in our series this weekend!
It’s going to be a great night of racing! Be sure you are with us Saturday night when we go green at Petty Raceway, beginning with the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials at 5:10pm. We have three classes of support racing with us, including the Atlantic Open Wheel Modifieds, the Mister Transmission Mini Stocks and the Maritime League of Legends Tour.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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