New Season, Fresh Sheet
Can you see this?
Okay, of course you can’t, you’re looking at a computer screen. But, in my hand is a blank sheet of paper.
That’s what we have right now heading into this weekend’s racing action at Scotia Speedworld.
Sure, we have our schedule set. That schedule sees twelve races that will take us to the five premiere racing venues in Atlantic Canada. Sure, we have registered drivers, nearly three dozen of them in fact.
There were slight adjustments in the rules, but that’s just it, slight. There was no reinventing the wheel, or in the case of our Tour, the shock package or motor program, compared to other Super Late Model series in North America that continue to change their rulebook each season to make their division competitive.
Our series is competitive and for our technical inspectors, why break something that doesn’t need fixing?!
So, back to that blank sheet of paper I have. It’s the first race of the season, how do we expect to call a winner of the Harry Poole Memorial 100 presented by Lucas Oil 100 without seeing the hands of teams that are planning to attend on Saturday?
I don’t think you really can.
Our open practice last Sunday had four teams participate - Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Dylan Blenkhorn, King Racing’s Colby Smith (more on him in a bit), Shawn Pierce and the Nova Racing team, who had George Koszkulics shaking down their cars. With many teams either renting Scotia Speedworld for private testing, or teams taking part in practices closer to home (for example, many Island teams took to Oyster Bed Speedway last Saturday), a majority of our teams have seen track time, but most are holding lap times close to their chest.
So, who should we look at as favorites for the win on Saturday? In short - the usual suspects.
Let’s start at the top. In the last five Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour races at Scotia Speedworld, defending series champion John Flemming has held the checkered flag in three. His worst finish in that stretch is 11th at last season’s Atlantic Cat 250 and he won the season opener one year ago.
Okay, let’s back pedal to last season’s lid-lifter. Yes, it was a 150 and Flemming took the lead in the final 25 laps after a battle with the man that led at Lap 100 of last year’s event.
Who led Lap 100 last year?! That’s right - Marty Prevost.
Yes, remember back, Prevost led laps in this race last year and was looking like he was on his way to victory lane for the first time since 2003. A late race mishap put Prevost in the pits and to an 18th place finish, not indicative of how he ran that afternoon. If that Marty Prevost shows up Saturday, the one who put himself in a position to win in the last third of the event before his race ended 25 laps early, he will be a contender to win and if he were to win, I can almost guarantee you the place would come unglued!
Shawn Turple led the most laps in this race last year, pacing the field for 66 of the 150 circuits before losing the lead in the final five laps to Flemming. In a role reversal, Flemming lost the lead in the late laps of our last event, the Dartmouth Dodge 200 to Turple. With the #0 Dexter Construction team entering Saturday as the most recent winner on the Tour, it would be hard to bet against him when we drop the green flag.
Craig Slaunwhite came on strong at the end of 2013, winning one of the biggest prizes in our sport and the biggest at Scotia Speedworld in the Atlantic Cat 250. Slaunwhite is a former winner of this event, winning the Lucas Oil 100 back in 2012 and will be a contender on Saturday.
Strong endings cannot be mentioned without Shawn Tucker. Tucker went on a roll at the end of the year, winning four events by the end of 2013 Pro Stock Tour season. He is a former winner at Scotia Speedworld, winning the Lockhart Truck Center 100 in 2012. Look for the #52 to be good on Saturday.
It’s been a while since a team from Prince Edward Island has won at Scotia Speedworld. In fact, you have to go back to the 2010 edition of the Parts for Trucks 200 to find Jonathan Hicken as a winner. The last time an Islander won the Season Opening Lucas Oil 100 at Scotia Speedworld was 2009 when Greg Proude bested Daryl Mahar and John Flemming for the win. Last season, Darren MacKinnon led laps in the Lucas Oil 150 before a fuel shortage prevented him from running for the win in the last 25 laps. All are back on Saturday and are joined with a number of fast Island drivers, including Kent Vincent, Terry Dougay and Dylan Gosbee, who hope to become the first Island driver to win in Halifax in almost five years.
Not an Island driver, but Greg Fahey will be making his debut at Scotia Speedworld for Big Poppa Motorsports. The team, headed up by “Big Poppa” Tom Nicholls, has adopted Greg’s #20 number to their car and will run five races with us this season, including this weekend’s Harry Poole Memorial 100 presented by Lucas Oil. Greg is a six-time Speedway 660 champion and is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Super Late Model talents not to run with us on some sort of regular basis in the past. Kudos for Tom for giving him a chance in the Racing For Kidsport Chevrolet - I look forward to seeing what they can do this year!
Is it ever great to see Jerome Kehoe on the entry list for Saturday’s race! Kehoe stepped away from the Tour at the middle point of last season and had been a contender in each of our races, especially on the high banked tracks like Petty Raceway. It will be awesome to see Jerome and the #98 Zutphen Racing Chevy in the pits on Saturday, looking forward to catching up with them!
From “The Pride of Cape Breton” to across the stream - Josh Collins is set to make his Scotia Speedworld debut this week. A late entry to the Harry Poole Memorial 100 presented by Lucas Oil, Collins is looking to make his first Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour start in his #56 Edward Collins Contracting ride. From Placentia, Newfoundland, Collins gives it his all every lap and is exciting to watch at the helm of a Late Model. Our fans are in for a treat to see Collins run on Saturday.
Speaking of treats, it’s been talked about for a while now, but Sarah McKay will finally make her Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour debut on Saturday at Scotia Speedworld. After a Super Late Model start at the CENTRE For Speed at the end of last season, McKay and the team made the move to full time Super Late Model racing with the series and will become the first female in nearly 20 years to make a major Super Late Model touring series start in Atlantic Canada. She has been getting track time at Scotia Speedworld and Speedway 660 in the off-season and is excited to get the learning process started as a rookie on our series!
We also have to give Matt Harris of “The Junction” a welcome to our series. Harris and his #87 Matt Harris and Son Limited Ford expect to run the full series in 2014 and comes to the Tour with Pro All Stars Series experience. A former winner on our series at Speedway 660 back in the day that it was named New Brunswick International Speedway, it will be exciting to follow his progress and how he adapts to a track like Scotia Speedworld this season.
Progress is a word we can use for our two sophomores - Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher. Both showed a lot of it last season with the pair of teenagers knocking on the door of victory lane at the end of the year. Heck, the knock was almost answered in River Glade last season when the #67 came to the door! Fans and interested onlookers I spoke to during the off-season have one of, if not both, of them visiting victory lane this season on the Tour. It is a tall order with the field we have, but I’ll agree, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of them in victory lane this season. Question is, who will be first?!
The $64,000 question this season has been - who is driving the #13 car?! The answer - nobody at the first race. I spoke to Colby Smith last week, who confirmed the only King Racing entry out of Pictou is the #31 with himself at the wheel. Smith is slated for five races with King Racing. So, you can continue to ask the question, because for the Irving Blending & Packaging 100 at Petty, we really don’t have an answer!
It’s hard to devote space to everyone here within my space allotment - so I’ll take the time to wish good luck to Shawn Pierce, Steve Ross, Cy Harvey, Vance Hanes, Brad Eddy and everyone else that I may have missed good luck on Saturday. It is a stout field and when you look at those five names, any one of them could start their season by ending up in victory lane after 100 laps Saturday evening!
If you can’t join us at the track on Saturday, be sure to tune us in at RaceTimeRadio.com as Joe, Gerry, Josh and I will bring you all the action live from Scotia Speedworld. Maybe you are heading to another track this weekend?! Take your cell phone and ear buds, download the Race Time Radio app from their website and tune us in while you watch whatever you are watching so you do not miss a single lap of racing action!
We also have racing action on Sunday at Scotia Speedworld. Take this Pro Stock Tour event as your main course, then join us on Sunday for dessert with the Weekly Racing Series point opener. It’s like a buffet with six divisions in action, the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman, Strictly Hydraulics Legends, Coors Light Trucks, Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros, Thunder and Lightning. Cripes, now I’m hungry. Wonder what JC has cooking at the track?!
Good luck to all teams on Saturday and I hope to catch up with everyone on the weekend!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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