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Issue 151

Race Notebook: Dartmouth Dodge 200 @ Scotia Speedworld

What a way to close off our 2013 season!

We had so many storylines to follow going into the Dartmouth Dodge 200 and now we have all our answers. First of all, let’s begin with the championship. It was pretty simple heading in - John Flemming needed to finish 19th or better to win his fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour crown. While Flemming has admitted in the past that he doesn’t go in and “point races” over the course of a feature, the thought of points is there throughout the season and is one of the primary goals of the #97 Action Car and Truck Accessories Dodge team.

When it came to the Dartmouth Dodge 200, it didn’t take long to figure out that the #97 car had the win in mind. Flemming put his car out front early and kept it there for longer than any of his peers (154 laps in fact), getting him another five points to add onto his point total. Even though a power issue that keep temporarily shutting off the car in the early laps couldn’t hold the team back as Flemming marched through the Dartmouth Dodge 200 with what appeared to be the dominant car.

Enter Lap 175. Enter Shawn Turple.

Turple, who was winless up to the Dartmouth Dodge 200 in 2013, used a bit of muscle in first couple of corners on that circuit to work his way past Flemming. Flemming fought back but it was Turple who put some distance on Flemming and the rest of the field as he rode to his eighth career Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour win of his career. Of note as well, this is the sixth consecutive season Turple has visited victory lane on the series, dating back to the 2008 season. Shawn Tucker holds the record for victories in consecutive seasons, holding a checkered flag at least once from the series inception in 2001 to 2009, or eight years straight, before going winless in his 2010 championship season.

Speaking of Tucker, he was the one chasing Flemming in the championship chase and while he was quick on Saturday, the competition was also on their game and it was the #52 having to settle for third at the end of the race. While it will go down as a 50 point gap between first and second in the title hunt at the end of the night, Tucker and his #52 Rockico Equipment Limited team had an incredible run over the last two thirds of this season. Four Tour wins (including the IWK 250 where he beat the current Sprint Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski) and the Auto Value 250 win would be classified as a dream season to all of our teams that embark on a full time foray in a Pro Stock, and Tucker’s hard working team made it a reality! Congrats guys!

As fast as Turple was in the second half of the race, Jonathan Hicken was also turning heads as one of the fastest cars on track in the Dartmouth Dodge 200. Hicken’s team has had some strong runs this season but this one looked like one of the most promising when it came to the #5 Castle Building Centres Impala’s chances of bursting back into the win column. With the way he had been running in the final few races of the season, I’m sure if this was a 15 race Tour, we would have seen Hicken in the victory circle a few times. Watch for the #5 to come out of the gate strong in 2014!

Darren MacKinnon has been another driver who has been consistent at the end of these races and does it again with a great fourth place run to close off 2013. MacKinnon is a great talent and continues to strive towards the ultimate goal of a championship in this series, which I’m sure will happen sooner rather than later. This year he’ll have to settle for fourth in points though after another top five performance at the Speedworld!

Mike MacKenzie found his groove once again and came home sixth in the season finale. I spoke with Mike when he rolled through tech on Saturday and he was happy to have a car capable of contending again after a couple of runs at the start of the 2013 campaign were less than desirable. Great to see Mike running up front and in contention at the Speedworld!

The Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year hunt came down to the last laps as Dylan Blenkhorn was caught up in some early action and Cole Butcher was driving the wheels off his car to capitalize on every point to get as close as he could to the top spot. When the points fell at the end of the race, Blenkhorn was ahead of Butcher by 36 points, enough to clinch the top freshman honor. We’re going to look more into the battle and statistics as we get closer to the Banquet in Moncton on November 23rd, but these two deserve a ton of credit for driving their rears off in 2013 and putting a show on for our fans. They will be stars in our sport for years to come and will win races in 2014 - mark my words!

There were three of us in the announcer’s booth at Scotia over the first 100 laps of the Dartmouth Dodge 200 (Joe Chisholm from Race Time Radio, “Hollywood” Chantel Ackles from the Speedworld’s ACE Lumbermart Thunder class and I) and we were all impressed by the run Wayne Smith had put up on the board in the early laps. The veteran had struggled earlier in the season in select starts with the Tour but the Oval Outlaw of old was back for the first half and change of the season finale. When you look at the results sheet, you will see the #44 eight laps down after pitting under green to fix his car, but everyone knew he was there after making the dash and running a ton of laps near the front!

Andrew Hicken’s Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour debut was short lived after something mechanical with the car arose early in the race. This marked the first race since last year’s IWK 250 that brothers were in a Pro Stock field (Wayne and Russell Smith). With his first start under his belt, I wonder how often we will see Hicken in a car next season?

That, and many other questions will be answered over the next eight months or so as we embark on the off-season. We’ll have a couple offerings here a month as we move deeper into the off-season and eventually the light at the end of the tunnel that is 2014. Over the next few weeks and months, we will put a cap on 2013, looking back at all the moments that made the season what it is, leading up to the banquet at the Crowne Plaza in Moncton.

Before I sign off - I need to thank you, the fans, for making this season what it was! Without you, we’d look pretty silly driving around in circles on Saturday nights. You’ve stuck with us through some tough times, weather delays, power outages and much more, and we couldn’t have done it without you. From all the staff and sponsors on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour - thank you, and we hope you’ll keep coming back to in the off-season.

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