Race Preview: Parts for Trucks 100 at Oyster Bed Speedway
Playing the “Wildcard”.
After a week off, the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour now enters the “make or break” stretch of the season.
Four races, on back to back weekends, that will ultimately decide who will fight for the championship in September. We don’t have a “Chase” like the big boys do down south, but this is as close as we will get to one.
Like the race at Speedway 660, this race at Oyster Bed Speedway on Saturday night could be considered a wildcard. Why? Well, we only visit the tight bullring in Oyster Bed Bridge once a season and while characteristics from Petty Raceway or a Riverside Speedway could possibly be transferred over to how you set up and drive a car at Oyster Bed, it is quite a different beast within itself.
Add in two handfuls of drivers that will be looking to defend their home turf against the “CFAs” (come from aways), and you have a ton of storylines entering Saturday’s Parts for Trucks 100.
Let’s start with that point picture. Six races has given us quite a spread. Up top is John Flemming, who comes off his second IWK 250 win and first win on the Tour in 2014, and enjoys a sixteen point lead over Shawn Tucker. Flemming’s record at Oyster Bed Speedway speaks for itself, leading the series with five wins, including two of the last three August events in 2011 and 2013. Flemming also has six podium finishes, nine top-fives and 12 top-tens to his career at Oyster Bed Speedway.
In comparison, Shawn Tucker has one win at Oyster Bed Speedway on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. It came in the first race contested on the Island with the series in 2001. That day, he started ninth and bested Bobby White and George Koszkulics for the win. Tucker has two podium finishes at Oyster Bed Speedway, beside his win, he had a third place finish in 2004 when Kent Livingston went to victory lane in his only Tour triumph.
Yes, the last time Shawn Tucker was on the podium of a race on our series in PEI, the show was the “CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour,” Paul Martin was the Prime Minister of this country, George W. Bush was the President of the United States and “Burn” by Usher was burning up the music charts.
Burn? Really? I think I was in Junior High when that thing was on the radio.
Oh wait, I was.
Third and fourth in points, Shawn Turple and Dylan Blenkhorn, have never won at Oyster Bed Speedway. Okay, Turple has had more cracks at it and has three podiums, five top-fives and eleven top-ten finishes at the track. Blenkhorn was involved in a heat race wreck last year with fellow freshmen Denver Foran and the team pieced the car back together for Blenkhorn to get back out and capture a top ten finish.
Fourteen points is the difference between Turple and Blenkhorn with 49 points being the difference between Blenkhorn and Flemming.
With the way that Flemming, Tucker and Turple have been running this season, 49 points is a big gap. Blenkhorn has two wins and if he can keep consistency up and maybe have a slip from the three in his windshield, he is still very much in this championship hunt. Falling much more behind in the next couple of races could spell a deathnail in the championship chances for the sophomore.
Fifth through ninth are over a race behind when it comes to the championship hunt, but with half the season still to go, I wouldn’t necessarily count their championship bids out yet, though the bigger girl behind the curtain is warming up her vocal chords for this four race stretch in August.
The good thing for Greg Proude, Jonathan Hicken and Darren Mackinnon, who are fifth, sixth and eighth in the picture is that they head into their home track Saturday. All three have run well in this season but have faced hiccups and bumps in the road along the way in the first six races. The three combined have six wins at Oyster Bed, which is a quarter of the races ever ran at the track for the Parts for Trucks Tour. Proude can tie Wayne Smith for second in career wins at Oyster Bed this weekend if he can lock down his fourth win at his home track, while Jonathan Hicken has a pair of wins at Oyster Bed. Mackinnon and his team have held the checkered flag at Oyster Bed once, but its been three seasons since the #18 has been to victory lane at his home track.
Within the battle for fifth to ninth, which only sees 24 points between the five drivers, is sophomore Cole Butcher in seventh and Craig Slaunwhite in ninth. Butcher will make his second start at Oyster Bed on Saturday, while Slaunwhite has a podium, three top-fives and six top-tens to his credit on PEI.
Back to the “wildcard” statement, for guys like Slaunwhite, Turple and Tucker, this track has fooled them. Drivers who have performed well at other tracks and have a combined 37 Tour feature wins among them, but only Tucker’s 2001 win is the only Island tally in that statistic.
Island drivers typically run well at their home track, but it also comes down to preparation and seat time. It’s been a while since a part-time team that only makes two or three starts on our series has won a race with us. Yes, a guy like Donald Chisholm or Dylan Gosbee have won on part-time efforts in the past, but they are making over half the races, have experience in these race cars and talented crews that know what they are doing. By the way, I’d put both Donald and Dylan as favorites this weekend. With the way Donald ran at the IWK 250 and how hungry Dylan is for a win, both will have to be denied in order to win on Saturday.
Not saying a Robbie MacLean, or a Joel Hickox will not do well on Saturday, but with the talent the series brings in, they are on an uphill climb. Both have one Pro Stock Tour start this season, while they have spent most of their free time racing at Oyster Bed Speedway’s weekly classes.
Excited to see Robbie MacEwen run on Saturday, MacEwen, who is leading the points in the Late Model division at Oyster Bed and comes off a big victory last Saturday in the Maritime Late Model 100, purchased an ex-Slaunwhite car over the winter and will be making his first start in his own car at his home track with us this weekend. MacEwen did run one race last year at Petty Raceway, subbing in for Shawn Pierce at the Fast Eddie Racewear 100. Great to see new blood in our series.
And then, there is Driver #32.
Okay, okay, I have to update my records, but isn’t it cool to see Chris Hughes is making his return to the series?
Hughes will be behind the wheel of the #63 Winsloe West Royalty Irving and Corporate Partners Racing for Kidsport Chev Impala this weekend for Tom Nicholls and Big Poppas Motorsports. Hughes is one of the most successful drivers to never win on our series, posting four podiums (all at Oyster Bed), 12 top- fives and 42 top-tens. Eight of those top- fives and 15 of those top- tens came at his home track, but no wins. He’s even told me he’s a bit rusty, but it will be exciting to see Hughes, whose last run on the Tour saw him behind the wheel of a #32 car, back on the track with the series.
Kent Vincent, who has two series wins at his home track, sits tenth in the standings and is a prime candidate to defend his home turf. Terry Dougay will also look for a good run to move himself up the point standings, and Sarah McKay will be making her first career start at Oyster Bed Speedway Saturday.
Whoever comes out on top, they will have to earn it on Saturday. It’s our only stop on Prince Edward Island, so be sure to come over and enjoy some great racing and a great drive as well. I was over last weekend on our off-weekend and got to do some sightseeing, it is a great vacation spot and hopefully you get the chance to enjoy some of it as well this weekend.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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