We are a third of the way through our 2014 season, which is hard to believe with all the weather that has hindered us so far, and of the four races we have completed so far this Summer, Dylan Blenkhorn has won half of them.
Think about that, the driver who won our Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year in 2013 has won the last two races on our series. In his first win, he held off veteran Shawn Tucker at his home track of Scotia Speedworld to win the Lockhart Truck Center 150. In his second victory, he once again showed prowess of a driver with 19 years in a race car, let alone 19 years on earth, by saving his equipment early on what turned out to be a 69 lap run to the end of the Lucas Oil 100 and reeled in the leaders from fourth place, picking the front runners off one by one, eventually getting to Greg Proude in the final quarter of the event.
Before we talk about the pass, I believe we need to give a lot of credit to Proude. Proude, a five time winner on this Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, is on the verge of his sixth. He led the most laps in the Lucas Oil 100 at Petty Raceway and was one of the fastest cars at the end of the Lockhart Truck Center 150 two weeks ago. Both resulted in podium finishes and has vaulted him to a tie for second in the standings with Tucker. They have something figured out folks and I believe it is only a matter of time before Proude hangs another checkered flag out of the left side window of his #29 Atlantic Dodge Dealers/Loyalist Marble and Tile Dodge.
Proude was the bigger man on Saturday and told me that even if the lapped traffic that played a role in the battle for the lead did not end up where they were at the end of the Lucas Oil 100, Blenkhorn likely still would have run him down and passed him. That says a lot about the talent and capability of Blenkhorn for a veteran like Greg Proude to say that in victory lane. As Proude said though, Terry Dougay and Jason Carnahan went side-by-side in front of Proude for numerous laps, keeping Proude boxed in, and in turn, moved Blenkhorn closer to him as he backed up and Blenkhorn closed in.
Keep in mind, the #14 and #55 were battling for position. Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow, but you have to remember though those two were fighting for what turned out to be 10th at the finish. Both had great days, Carnahan qualified eight in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials and spent most of the day within the top ten before securing his first top ten run of his Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour career.
Dougay, on the other hand, was really quick in the middle stages of the races, racing his way up to and spending most of the middle half of the race in seventh. In that time, he was outrunning guys like Donald Chisholm, Cole Butcher and kept four-time series champion John Flemming at bay for over 30 laps under green. At the end the longer run got to him and the #14 Right on Board Locksmith Chevrolet faded to 12th.
Nevertheless, Blenkhorn got to the clump of cars, waited a couple of laps, and then eventually pulled the trigger making the winning move on Lap 79 and would lead the final 21 laps to victory.
The battle for third raged throughout the final laps as well, with Shawn Turple and Darren MacKinnon going side-by-side for a half dozen laps leading to the stripe, with Turple edging the #18 by inches at the end of the race. For both, the finishes follow up top five finishes obtained in the Lockhart Truck Center 150.
John Flemming had a different night compared to what we are accustomed to seeing at Petty Raceway. Yes, he increased his streak to nine top tens at Petty in as many races that we have visited the high banked bullring, but he had to do it from 17th place. Flemming’s team discovered an alternator going sour on the Dodge during the autograph session and the team pulled the Dodge Charger from the grid prior to driver introductions to fix the car. If that alternator died under green, Flemming likely would have finished back in the pack.
Instead, he got up on the wheel and drove to the front of the field. As I mentioned, he followed Terry Dougay up to the front then passed the #14 soon after the half way point. Then, the veteran got into a duel with Cole Butcher. Every time Flemming got under Butcher, Butcher would find a bit more in the #53 Atlantic Tiltload Chevrolet and would power past Flemming. With about ten to go, Flemming finally found the right line and got past the #53 to take seventh at the finish. Ironically, the pair finished in the same order the race before, with Flemming sixth and Butcher seventh at the Lockhart Truck Center 150.
Of note, Flemming did win the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, stopping the streak of Blenkhorn who had scored fast time in the first three races of our season. Will be interesting to see who can strike first coming up this weekend !
Craig Slaunwhite had a new chariot with him on Saturday. After “bending” his primary car a couple weeks ago in a test session followed by an effort that missed the mark Slaunwhite fans are accustomed to at Scotia Speedworld, Slaunwhite sought the King Racing crew for the weekend and seeing as Colby Smith was not planning on running the Lucas Oil 100, it was a perfect fit for Slaunwhite to get into the seat. The team, who worked together last September on a PASS North effort at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine, came home with sixth in this combination.
Tip of the cap to Ryan Mackintosh as well. I’ve watched the kid grow up from Bandoleros at Scotia Speedworld and followed his progress, like many in Atlantic Canada have when he moved in with Christi and Chris “Woody” Woods in Kannapolis, North Carolina, through the ranks and eventually to a 2013 INEX Semi Pro Legends title. Compared to a Legend car, a Super Late Model is a huge step. Just ask Blenkhorn, Butcher, Brad Eddy and many other who have made that step. The Amherst native did not look out of place at all as he logged laps to a 14th place finish, one spot ahead of Jonathan Hicken, at the end of the race. Hope to see Ryan on the Tour more this season!
A perfect transition to talk about last race and the upcoming race is our Exide Batteries Rookie in Sarah McKay. McKay continues to log laps in her #32 A.E. McKay Builders/Pub’s Drive Thru Bottle Exchange Chevrolet on the Tour and was a whisker away from her first Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour top ten finish last Saturday by finishing eleventh. The crew and many of her fans, me included, are impressed with how she is attacking the steep learning curve she had entering this season and as we go back to these tracks twice and thrice, she will continue to get better.
We head to a track this week that Miss McKay is quite familiar with in Speedway 660. McKay cut her teeth at this race track last year in the Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman division, winning the Rookie of the Year in the class. McKay competed here in June in the Pro All Stars Series event and I’m sure that 150-laps last month will help her Saturday. Keep an eye on her folks, it wouldn’t surprise me if she becomes the 95th driver in Tour history to score at least one top ten run on Saturday.
This 100-lap feature on Saturday night at Speedway 660 is like the Daytona or Talladega of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, in my opinion. We visit here, and Oyster Bed Speedway, only once in the season and with 660 having such a unique layout, it takes a skilled driver to get up on the wheel to maneuver a car gracefully around what is almost a circle compared to an oval.
Shawn Tucker has pretty much owned this race track in the past and with the #52 Dobbelsteyn Service and Maintenance Chevrolet being tied for second in the point standings, this event could be a turning point in the championship. Tucker has 25 top tens at this track in Tour competition and, you guessed it, there have been 25 races here since the Tour began coming to the Geary woods in 2001. Tucker also has eight wins, five more than any other driver in Tour history at Speedway 660. Talk about a resume!
His nearest rival in the standings, John Flemming, is also good here as well. Flemming has a pair of wins here, including last year’s voyage to Speedway 660 and ten top five finishes. With eight points, or the difference of four feature positions minus bonus points, this will be a battle to watch.
Other than that, who do you keep an eye on? You have to believe Dave O’Blenis will be a driver to watch on Saturday. One of the fastest cars last year in this race, the reigning RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock champion at Speedway 660 will be looking to edge out his third career Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour victory at the track. He is joined on the entry list by regulars Kevin Moore, who has also won a feature with us in the Geary woods and finished second last weekend in a 40 lap feature, multi-time track champion Chris Duncan and Matt Harris. Harris began running with us as a full-time car on the series but scaled back because of work.
Okay, so Tucker, Flemming and the locals will be quick. Who else?
Shawn Turple is a former winner here, Donald Chisholm owns two victories here in the early 2000s, but besides Turple and Chisholm, Tucker, Flemming, Moore, and O’Blenis are the only former 660 feature winners on our series entered Saturday.
We typically have a surprise or two creep into the top three at the end of these races, and one of those could become a first time winner at Speedway 660. You have to think Blenkhorn will be quick again. Darren MacKinnon owns a podium finish here two seasons ago and Proude, who enters second in the standings, has four top five finishes at the track. While Craig Slaunwhite only has one podium finish in Tour competition here, he is a former Auto Value 250 champion and will be gunning hard for a top spot. Maybe we’ll see a Kent Vincent or a Shawn Pierce hustle out a top five run this weekend. The track, stats wise, is so unpredictable that you really cannot call a winner.
The only way to guarantee to for sure find out who will win Saturday is to be at Speedway 660. The racing card as a whole will be great. The Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman has seen a see-saw battle back and forth between Brent Roy and Andrew Rodgers all season, while the DMR Auto Sales and Service Street Stocks had more than sparks flying when “The Villain” Rick Cashol and “Hollywood” TJ Madore mixed it up last weekend. The whole card is going to be an awesome show, I just have that vibe. Be sure as well to stop by Joyce’s Pit Stop on the weekend for the amazing Speedway Fries as well - easily the best French fries on our series, I would know, have you seen me lately?!
Before we close off here, I want to send a special thank you out to the whole crew at Blenkhorn Auto Recyclers for getting me hooked up with a rad fan for my car. Please if you can use any one of our sponsors, whether they are on a car, on a sign, or mentioned throughout our program, please do so and tell them you saw them on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. It helps our teams re-sign sponsors and in the long run helps cars coming back each week.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
|BACK TO TIM'S CORNER ARCHIVES|