Race Preview: Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 @ Riverside Internaional Speedway
Well, let’s try this again, shall we?
What was scheduled to be round three on our schedule becomes the ninth race on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour for 2014. The rain out of the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 from June presents us with a pretty unique situation. We have four races left on this season, with two of them on the stage of Riverside International Speedway. Both races are 150 lap features and both are sure to provide us with some pretty big excitement.
Heading into this weekend, the three favorites have to be Donald Chisholm, Shawn Tucker and John Flemming. After all, these three have won seven of the last nine races at this track in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour competition with the other two wins in 2012 belonging to the late Mike Stevens. We’ve seen some big battles between Chisholm and Flemming in last year’s Ron MacGillivray 150 and of course in July at the IWK 250. Tucker seems to hit his stride at this time in the season and won two races here last year, pocketing the IWK 250 and the Lucas Oil 100.
What will it take to beat these three guys? Well, whoever finds it will have to be on the top of their game and find a little magic to crack the code.
I look to Hicken and Blenkhorn, both did battle late in the IWK 250 before contact between the two took each out of a top five run in the big race. Jonathan Hicken comes off a top ten finish last week and a win at Oyster Bed Speedway two weeks ago. Hicken has said in the past that this track has fooled him at times but Hicken has also had success at this track. This could be the night that if the team hits on everything that the #5 could take his third win of the season to keep up with last week’s winner Dylan Blenkhorn. Blenkhorn impressed last week by outdueling Ben Rowe and Flemming and taking the biggest win of his career, the Atlantic Cat 250. As mentioned, both ran well at the IWK 250 and own the two wins at Petty Raceway this season amongst them. I’m sure a Riverside trophy would look nice on both mantles, and while there are two races left where they could split both, they will have over 20 other competitors with the same goal.
While this is becoming a two horse race for the title (yes, mathematically there are more than two cars in this thing, but Blenkhorn, Hicken and the rest of the field right now are a race out given that they start each of the final four races), the battles in points amongst the full-time drivers are getting close. Blenkhorn and Hicken have only five points between them, and from Blenkhorn in third to Darren MacKinnon and Greg Proude who are tied for eighth, there are 35 points. There are two more to watch Friday night that have won at this track before. Especially Proude, who ran to the front of the field last week after a late spin to finish in the top five. MacKinnon on the other hand has quietly been reeling off top ten finishes and will look to make something happen on Friday night.
The other two in the middle of this point fight, and only have one point between them, is former two-time series champion and former winner at Riverside in Shawn Turple and our third place finisher from the IWK 250 Cole Butcher. Butcher is a determined young man who runs his heart out every lap and you have to believe that win is right around the corner. With his statistics at Riverside in his short year and a half Pro Stock Tour career, combined with the run he had in July, this could be that night that someone answers his knock on victory lane’s door.
Meanwhile, like Blenkhorn and Hicken, Turple finds himself with two wins and virtually outside of championship discussions with four races to go. Turple came out of the gate hot with a win at Scotia Speedworld and then another up at Speedway 660. A trailing arm bolt stood between he and finishing the Atlantic Cat 250 last weekend and he will look this weekend to put that luck behind him as he gets up on the wheel at Riverside International.
Craig Slaunwhite kind of sits all by himself in ninth place. He is closer to eighth (26 points) than eleventh place Kent Vincent is to him (78 points) and could re-enter himself in the battle for third in the standings with a good run at a track he has gone to victory lane at before. Kudos again to Slaunwhite for taking the Atlantic Tiltload Pole Challenge last week and though 11th was not what he wanted at the end of the Atlantic Cat 250, it was sure fun watching him get up on the wheel throughout that event after starting 23rd.
Sarah McKay finds herself in a battle with veteran Kent Vincent for tenth in the standings with just four points between the two with four races to go. There’s a vast contrast there. You have Kent Vincent, who, along with Shawn Tucker, has started every single race on this Tour since 2001 (all 154 of them) and has a pair of wins at Riverside, including an IWK 250 win. Then there’s Sarah McKay, a rookie on the series with eight starts who is learning the ropes of Super Late Model racing and doing quite a fantastic job in her first year. Could Riverside be the turning point in this battle? I guess we’ll find out Friday.
Thirty points behind McKay is Terry Dougay. Dougay continues to make gains on his car and was happy with his finish last weekend at the Atlantic Cat 250. Another driver who was happy with his ninth place finish and had to get up on the wheel to get back there was Shawn Pierce. Pierce is a couple dozen points behind Dougay as he continues to wheel his car closer to the front of the field.
Then there are teams who tend to shine at Riverside Speedway that we don’t typically see at every race, including Steve Ross, Vance Hanes, Jason Carnahan, Daryl Mahar and Jerome Kehoe. Kehoe was on his way to at the very least a top ten finish in the IWK 250 until a late race crash took him out of contention. Steve Ross broke a clutch prior to the Atlantic Cat 250 after showing speed in the practice sessions. With some luck, these five could be near the front on Friday night.
I left out three teams that I want to shed some spotlight on. I’ll begin with Robbie MacEwen. MacEwen ran with us on the Island for his first Pro Stock Tour start with his own team. Their fans on the Island had a lot to cheer about with the #40 narrowly missing the King Freight Dash, winning his Dartmouth Dodge Heat and running within the top five before a mechanical problem benched the car.
A rookie, in his first start with his own team, running within the top five in the biggest Super Late Model touring series in Canada - that’s big!
MacEwen and his team will be headed to Riverside Friday to take part in their first off-Island race and they are excited to be doing so. For one, I’m pretty pumped to see what MacEwen, point leader in the Late Model division at Oyster Bed Speedway, can do on Friday night!
We’ll end with Jason Hathaway, who will be driving a #3 Rockstar Energy car out of the Nova Racing shop as a teammate to Donald Chisholm and George Koszkulics. The last time we saw Hathaway on our Tour was 2011, when he ran the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 100. The finish didn’t go the way he wanted and he ended up 20th. He is back in town with the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and hopes to take two trophies home to Appin, Ontario with him after this weekend.
His teammate though may be one to watch. George Koszkulics won here at the end of 2011 and ran really strong at Oyster Bed two weeks ago, coming from 19th to 4th and having to settle for fifth at the end of the race. If you had to pick a driver outside those three I mentioned off the top, keep your eye on the #88, I think he’ll have something for the boys and girl on Friday night.
It’s going to be an incredible night of racing and I hope you can join us at Riverside!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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