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Issue 147

Race Notebook - Parts for Trucks 150 at Petty Raceway

For the second straight race at Petty Raceway, it is Shawn Tucker on top of the charts.

We’ve seen this story play out before. In fact, in essence, we saw it play out the last two trips we were at Petty. Tucker and his #52 Rockico Equipment Chevrolet develop great long run speed and end up in the lead shortly after the halfway break. This race saw the same storyline unfold. Tucker took the lead from Shawn Turple on Lap 77 and never looked back to take the win, even holding off all comers on a handful of restarts in that second half of the event.

Before we get into Tucker’s run at Petty and the numbers that follow, let’s give a tip of the cap to Turple. The team has been in the top three in the standings all season but has hit some speed bumps throughout 2013. One of those speed bumps was a spin in Turn Four in the mid stages of the race shortly after dominating the first half of the race, leading the most laps and having over a half straight away lead before Tucker found his way to second. The eleventh place run is not indicative of how the #0 car ran in the first half of the event but I’m sure the #0 team will finish off this season strong with second in the standings in sight.

Back to Tucker and his performance on the high banks. When you look at the stats from the 2013 campaign, it will be hard to deny that Petty Raceway was Shawn Tucker’s house this summer. In three starts, Tucker led just shy of 50% of the laps and his worst finish at the track in the trio of races we had at the River Glade track was second at the Lucas Oil 150. Tucker also becomes the first multi-time winner in the Tour era in seven Tour races at Petty Raceway.

The most impressive number may be three wins on the season in total, including two of the “big three” on our season - the Parts for Trucks 150 on International weekend and the IWK 250 at Riverside. Usually, three wins in ten races would give you the point lead, or be within a few points of it, and be in contention for a championship. When you look at the standings though, you find Tucker 74 points behind John Flemming who has four wins this season. It boils down to consistency - those seven races that Tucker has not been in victory lane have been slightly worse than the six that Flemming hasn’t been holding the flag. You have to think back to the beginning of 2013, when Tucker had a rough start to the season. Not to discount the #97 car though, they’ve been having a rough end to this season by their standards with his last two finishes since his win at the EXIT Realty PEI 100 being outside the top five. That 74 point margin is big, but if the #97 crew cannot get back on the rails and Tucker continues this up, it could be real close in those final laps of the Dartmouth Dodge 200.

Great to see Jonathan Hicken back on the podium as well. Hicken ran a great race, not leaving the top five once and coming home with a very strong second place run. That team is due for a few good runs and they are heading into two tracks in Riverside and Scotia that they have run well at in the past. It will be a great battle between he and Greg Proude, who have two points between them battling for fifth and with Darren MacKinnon in fourth and Craig Slaunwhite in seventh not far off the battle, this one should also go down to the wire during the Dartmouth Dodge 200.

Mentioned in my preview was that this would be a make or break round in the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year championship chase and it appears that it was only slightly true. Three rookies and three stories - the big one was the driver of the “Big Bird” car in Dylan Blenkhorn. Blenkhorn methodically moved his #67 Blenkhorn’s Auto Recycles Chevrolet through the field after winning Heat One and worked his way into the top five in the second half of the event.  On those quick yellows in the second half of the race, the #67 found himself creeping up the restart lineup and had to go toe-to-toe with Darren MacKinnon to lock down his first career podium finish. This race is quickly turning into the race where rookies really shine - the third place spot by Blenkhorn follows up a second place run in this 150-lap affair in 2012 by Brad Eddy. Eddy went on to finish the season strong with a couple of top ten runs, something that Blenkhorn will also look to repeat in the final two races of 2013.

It appeared we were going to have two rookies in the top five at the end of that one, but it was sophomore Dylan Gosbee, who has three top fives at Petty this season in as many races, denying 16-year old Cole Butcher for the spot. Butcher hounded Gosbee’s #91 for that fifth place spot at the end but the #53 car had to settle for a sixth place finish at the end of the night. The difference between the two is 40 points for the top freshman in the series but this is stock car racing we are talking about - anything can happen!

Denver Foran also had another very respectable run in the #13 MMD Mineral Sizing Ford by coming home in 12th after 150 laps. The Edmonton-via-New Brunswick native continues to improve in the seat of the King Competition Ford (making his second dash of 2013 is proof of that) and with two races to go will look to continue the trend.

The race was also a top ten run for guys like Shawn Pierce and Brad Mann. Pierce and his team have had a great season but some of the finishes the team has are not indicative of where they have been running this season before parts failures or other luck out of their hands factored in. Mann scored his 38th career top ten with us on Saturday night in the Coors Light Restigouche Drive Thru Chevrolet, which puts him 14th overall when it comes to career top tens in the series. Pierce and Mann are battling for 13th in the standings with just two points between them with two races to go.

It was great seeing Travis Benjamin going wheel to wheel with the Maritimes best this weekend. Benjamin fought handling problems all weekend long in the #99 Halifax Glass Impala and in the end brought the car home for regular pilot Craig Slaunwhite in tenth. It’s not everyday we get the reigning TD Bank 250 and PASS North champ running with us, pretty neat!

Week off for most of our teams now (some will be heading north to the Auto Value 250 at Speedway 660) before we head to Riverside International for the Lucas Oil 100. Note the times for Riverside - everything is pushed ahead 90 minutes, so instead of our gates opening at 12:30pm for teams, they open at 11am, Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials at 3:40pm and racing at 4:30pm. The NAPA Sportsman Series will be running 75 laps in their season finale. All in all, it is a race you will not want to miss on September 7th, after all - we’re the only stock car race on the calendar in Atlantic Canada on that day!

Until next week, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!