Race Preview: Atlantic Cat 250 @ Scotia Speedworld
The buzz is in the air in the Halifax Regional Municipality for this weekend’s 15th Annual Atlantic Cat 250 weekend!
If you were in Burnside on Wednesday at Atlantic Cat, you got to feel that buzz first hand. There are lots of storylines heading into this one, so let’s tap into a few of them here.
Let’s begin with our point battle on the series. Yes, while this is a big race with $10,000 on the line for the winner and $25 a lap on the line for the leader of each circuit, it is also more importantly a point race for our drivers.
Okay, who am I kidding? I’m sure John Flemming, Shawn Tucker and Shawn Turple among our front runners in the standings are going to have more important things on their mind than point racing at Lap 245 if they are running up front.
Realistically though, if you want to win the championship this season, you have to keep it in the back of your mind. If Flemming comes out with the win here on Saturday night, and Tucker, Turple, last week’s winner Jonathan Hicken, Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher falter, the #97 could get one step closer to clinching championship #5. While it is too early to mathematically count any of our full-time drivers out, with four races to go after this Atlantic Cat 250, the reality is some of these teams will likely receive an axe after Saturday night.
Flemming and Craig Slaunwhite are the only two Canadian drivers entered into Saturday’s show that have won this race before. Flemming won it in 2000 and Slaunwhite scored a huge win here in this event last year. I believe, and I said it on Race Time Radio, that this might be Tucker’s time to shine in Halifax. Tucker commented in Oyster Bed victory lane that they usually run well in Halifax and could make history Saturday night should he lock down the Atlantic Cat 250. Tucker has previously won the IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway and the Pro Stock 250 at Speedway 660 and is missing one jewel in his crown when it comes to Super Late Model racing in this region.
Oh, and if you’re keeping score, Tucker has finished third and second in the first two races at Scotia Speedworld this season on the Tour and was third in the 250 last year. There’s only one more spot to move up.
On the other side, Shawn Turple has been pretty tough to beat in Tour competition at this track.
Let’s look back to the 2013 season. Turple finished second in the first three races at Scotia Speedworld last year, including the Atlantic Cat 250 before winning the Dartmouth Dodge 200 in 2013. This year, he started off the season with a win in the Harry Poole Memorial 100, before finishing fifth in our last stop to Scotia Speedworld in June for the Lockhart Truck Center 150. Statistically, Turple has been the best at Scotia Speedworld in the last season and a half, scoring two of his five wins at his home track in that time and posting a trio of second place runs in six races. That is impressive.
Question is, can he finally get the monkey off his back and win a 250?
Jonathan Hicken comes in with a hot hand. Hicken has won before at Scotia Speedworld and is last week’s winner at Oyster Bed Speedway after besting Flemming and Tucker for the win in what was a three car race all race long up front. Hicken was in the top three at Riverside before an incident within ten to go set him behind the eight ball. These long races are Jonathan Hicken type races and this could be the night he finally scores a 250 win.
Dylan Blenkhorn on the other hand, who completes the top five in the standings, has had a busy week. The team had to skip the Meet and Greet on Wednesday because, well, their car wasn’t together. Dylan sent me a text on Thursday with a picture of a car with a new body on it, with the exception of the roof. “All new car there about,” Blenkhorn told me when I asked him how bad the damage was after last week. The team has been busy in the Truro shop, but keep in mind, it was Blenkhorn’s veteran-like prowess that put him in victory lane here a month and a half ago at Scotia Speedworld. You thought the crowd went nuts that night, imagine if he could pull this thing off Saturday night!
Cole Butcher has quietly been picking off good finishes. The sophomore finished third at the IWK 250 on a late race rally and snuck by George Koszkulics late last week for fourth in the Parts for Trucks 100. We go to his home track, where he is lacking a solid run on his resume. Sure, he has a top five here, but the continuation of the run he has been on could result in a podium, or maybe something bigger on Saturday. Hang on and watch Clifford work on Saturday.
Darren MacKinnon and Kent Vincent have both won 250 lap races before, albeit it was up the road at Riverside International Speedway. Both will look to come off the Island Saturday, along with the likes of Terry Dougay, and try to put their cars into victory lane at Scotia Speedworld, which is something all three are missing on their impressive resumes.
Greg Proude does have a win at Scotia Speedworld in his career, but not a 250 victory. Proude’s team had a shock go bad on them last weekend and will look to put that in their rearview mirror for Saturday’s big race.
Sarah McKay enters her third race at Scotia Speedworld and second career 250 after running all the laps she could last month at Riverside Speedway. She comes off an impressive mid-race run at Oyster Bed Speedway and will look to find some magic on Saturday night when the green flies for the Atlantic Cat 250.
We will also see our typical part time teams that come out with Tour races at Scotia Speedworld. George Koszkulics has to be at the head of these teams as of late after wheeling the #88 up to fifth last week. Wayne Smith is slated to run his second race of 2014, as is Brad Eddy. Eddy will be looking to put the #02 Autofair car near the front after contact with Matt Crafton ended his chances at the IWK 250 last month. Roger Miller and Steve Ross are among those also looking to make the best out of a part time situation as well and you never know, we may see one or two more teams pop up late and order tires prior to gate open on Saturday.
I did leave four teams to the end for a reason.
Let’s start with Dean Clattenburg. Clattenburg has been down south building race cars for nearly two decades now and will return home to run his first Atlantic Cat 250 in a car that he built. The car he will run is one out of Daryl Mahar’s #66 shop and Mahar will be on the box for this race as opposed to in the driver’s seat. You can call Clattenburg an American based driver, but his roots are in Dartmouth and had success coming up the ladder in the Maritimes before shipping down to North Carolina, including race wins and championships at Scotia Speedworld. Keep a half eye on that #66 car Saturday.
Then there are the tribute cars with three big names at the wheel.
Let’s start with the #12 Scott Kelly commemorative car, which will be driven by Donald Chisholm. We mentioned the monkey on Shawn Turple’s back earlier in this article, well I’m pretty sure that monkey has a cousin that lives in Antigonish, specifically on Chisholm’s back. Donald sits in the same boat, with success almost everywhere and in every event, except for Scotia Speedworld and the Atlantic Cat 250. Chisholm has yet to win at the Enfield oval and one would assume that would be second on his racing bucket list behind an IWK 250 win. With the colors of SK Racing and a legion of fans behind him, this could be the night Donald finally gains admission to victory lane at Scotia Speedworld.
Scott Fraser fans will be seeing double on Saturday with tributes to the “00” and “08” on track, driven by two of Maine’s finest in Ben Rowe and Cassius Clark, respectively. The 00 pays homage to the black and gold #00 Atlantic Cat car, while Clark’s ride is the #08 King Freight Lines Chevrolet. Between them, they have five Cat 250 titlewith Ben setting the pace with three in his pocket. Both know what it means to win this race, and above all others, you best believe they will be driving their hearts out to put their cars in victory lane for the Fraser family and fans on Saturday.
It will be a special night at the track Saturday as we will retire the #00 and #12 prior to the start of the Cat 250, as they will then run their final races on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour moments later.
It’s set to be a HUGE night of racing, and a big weekend of racing for that matter. We are expecting upwards of 30 cars for the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100 on Friday along with a full card of Weekly Racing Series divisions throughout the weekend. The Maritime League of Legends Tour will also be on hand Saturday on our undercard as they go for 50-laps in the Scotia Tire 50. For my Weekly Racing Series and Dartmouth Dodge 100 preview, please visit ScotiaSpeedworld.ca.
I can’t wait for this one folks, I can feel the electricity already!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
|BACK TO TIM'S CORNER ARCHIVES|