Race Notebook: Atlantic Dodge Dealers 150 @ Petty International Raceway
If I’m the ownership at Petty International Raceway, I’d be highly considering hanging a new sign at their race track with something like “Hicken’s House” on it.
Jonathan Hicken scored his second win of the season at Petty and third point paying win at the track Saturday night. Might I add it was in pretty convincing fashion. Yes, Cole Butcher had his number at the end of the race but couldn’t complete the call to take his first series victory and John Flemming kept him honest in the first half, but it was Hicken setting the pace in Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials and leading the most laps in the race en route to the win.
Hicken has really padded his statistical categories this season. In his career, Hicken now has seven wins on the series, which ties him for fifth all-time in the series with Donald Chisholm. Only Wayne Smith (25), Shawn Tucker (22), John Flemming (22) and Shawn Turple (10) have won more races than Hicken. It also gives way to the statistic that Hicken has the most wins of any Island driver in the history of our Tour, the next on that list are Kent Vincent and Greg Proude, who have five wins each.
In his career, Hicken also has 16 podium finishes, 26 top five and 57 top ten finishes. Three of those wins, five of those top threes and fives and six of those top tens have come at Petty Raceway, where he holds the mark for most wins and top threes.
The only thing Hicken is missing now? A championship.
We’ll look more in depth next week on the championship chase as we head into Riverside, but Hicken gained 11 points on leader John Flemming and 13 on second place Shawn Tucker. At that pace, he would end the season second in the standings, as he sits 12 behind Tucker with two races to go and 40 behind Flemming. Either way, with Dylan Blenkhorn’s late mechanical problems in the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 150, it is figuratively a three horse race heading into the last two events.
Coming into the season, a lot of us had that inkling that Cole Butcher will eventually add his name to the win list on our series. The 17-year old is so talented that once he does add his name to the list of currently 32 drivers, he will likely win a boatload of features.
I still believe that, and Saturday backs my point up.
Butcher showed a lot of patience on Saturday, maybe for his cause of winning it was a bit too much patience, as he chased Hicken around the ¼-mile high banked oval. Yes, Butcher painted the back bumper of Hicken’s car once or twice in the last 25 laps with a light tap, but not enough to rattle or throw Hicken off his rhythm. His time is coming, and when it does, the first is sure to follow with more.
In 22 starts on our series in the last two years, Butcher has 16 top ten finishes. Yes, he has only finished outside the top ten six times in his young Pro Stock career. Six of those have equated into top five runs with three being podium finishes.
Greg Proude has been the model of “qualifying doesn’t mean much” in the last few weeks. Proude hasn’t time trialed well and more often than not starts our features around tenth. This week, Proude and his Atlantic Dodge Dealers team started 13th and methodically worked their way up to third at the end. They have their sights set on a top five spot in points, and with runs like that, they will get there no problem in the next two races.
Both of our championship contenders saw some success on Saturday en route to top five finishes. Shawn Tucker led our field to green and picked up a couple laps led to take five bonus championship points before Flemming took the advantage up front for his five extra points. It seemed like at the end of the race, Flemming and Tucker’s car both faded a bit, either that or the cars behind them got that much better and it resulted in a fourth and fifth place run for the #97 and #52, respectively. Flemming still controls the championship chase as he continues his “drive for five.”
What a heartbreak for George Koszkulics and the Nova Racing team. George cracked the King Freight Dash for Cash, ran in the top five all night and was on his way to what appeared to be a podium finish with Hicken and Butcher.
That is, before the fuel ran dry.
The #88 car began to sputter with two to go and did not complete the final lap, being scored in 18th at the end of the race, far from where he was running during the first 147 laps. It’s almost like we’ve seen a rejuvenated Koszkulics in the part time races he’s ran this year. He’s been a top five car in every race he’s been in and if it wasn’t for circumstance taking him out of the last two races, he would easily be riding a streak of three top fives in his last three races heading back to Riverside in two weeks. It’s racing though, things happen but it great to see the New Glasgow driver running well at the end of this season!
Also, for those keeping track, it would have been cool to see George win and complete the #88 sweep on the day. In the Mini Stocks, the #88 of Kody Quinn took the win with Nicholas Naugle and the #88 winning the Atlantic Tiltload 50 for the Legends. Eat your heart out, Dale Jr.
I’ll mention this while we’re on the subject, there’s a name I just dropped that will be a kid to watch in the next couple seasons. I don’t know how many expected the season Nicholas Naugle is having. The 17-year old from Dartmouth has won four major Legend car races this season and is showing no signs of slowing down. The kid has matured a lot over this season, the team led by Bryan and Connie Naugle is disciplined and I can easily see Nicholas in a Super Late Model in a few years, following in the steps of Blenkhorn, Butcher, Eddy and others. Congrats on sweeping the weekend in Legends!
It was neat to see Wayne Smith back in the car on Saturday, and not only in the car, but competitive at that. As we’ve seen in the past out of others, a part time role typically doesn’t equate to being out front and vying for wins. Sure, the #44 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Chevrolet may not have been a winning car the caliber of Hicken or Butcher at the end, but Smith was running with the top five early before the car came down pit road prior to halfway. Smith then got back up on the wheel and moved to the front, along with Shawn Turple who had been back there because of a pit stop around the same time.
If you’re keeping score, Wayne’s top ten was the 98th of his Parts for Trucks Tour career. Only two drivers have been the top ten more frequently - Tucker (121) and Flemming (103). Even though he’s been a part time driver for the last couple of seasons, his stats that he racked up speak for themselves. He still leads the Tour with 25 wins, second in podiums with 54 and he has 71 top fives since 2001.
While Wayne Smith was scoring that 98th top ten, Ken Mackenzie was scoring his first with the Tour.
Ken and his team, anchored by his son Kenny Jr and Drew Lewis, has been a great addition to our three stops at Petty Raceway. The #85 team found something in their car after qualifying Saturday and whatever it was, it worked. Senior ran within the top ten for a majority of the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 150 and most of those laps were battling for eighth. It was awesome to watch and though I didn’t get a chance to catch up with Ken after the race, I’m sure he was smiling ear to ear all race. Actually, I don’t think the smile has left his face since May when he got to complete one of his bucket list items of racing with us.
Speaking of drivers making their first start with us, it was great to see Robbie Fraser out with us. Fraser, who runs his Pro Stock off a limited budget and is in search of marketing partners for the 2015 season, told me it was a dream to run with the biggest Late Model Touring series in Canada and had a blast Saturday night. While a transmission issue sidelined him and the #07 Ayer Convenience Chevrolet just prior to halfway, I’m sure Robbie still has a smile on his face from Saturday night.
New to the Tour on Saturday was the Bonus Dash, pitting the bottom three from each of our Dartmouth Dodge Heats in a ten lap dash for a cash bonus and a trophy. While some had some tough sledding in it, Joel Hickox has no problem picking up the win in the inaugural Bonus Dash. Hickox got into the wall in the feature, but has been fast in his last two appearances with us and hope to see him again before the season ends.
We’ll close this one with our Dartmouth Dodge Heat winners, beginning with Heat One winner Jason Carnahan. Carnahan has seen quite the improvement this season and has been quick our last two appearances. It appeared the #55 was on his way to his second career top ten finish with the series after running in the top ten early before he found himself at the rear of the field. Carnahan rallied to 11th and it looked like he had much more speed in it than that. Great to see that team coming together and Jason having great runs like he deserves!
History was made Saturday night when Sarah McKay crossed the line first in her Dartmouth Dodge Heat Race. With the win, McKay became the first female to win a heat race on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, which backed up her top ten in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials. She didn’t get the finish she wanted in the feature, telling me after the feature the adjustments made to the race car after her heat went the wrong way. With our third stop at Riverside and fourth stop at Scotia Speedworld upcoming and Sarah having notes now from those two tracks, keep an eye on her as we close out the season.
Speaking of closing out, that’s it for this piece. Enjoy your off-weekend, whether you’re heading to enjoy one of the last quality weekend of the summer at the lake, camp or maybe you’re heading to Speedway 660 for the Re/Max 250, either way, have fun and we’ll see you here next week to preview the Lucas Oil 150 at Riverside.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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