Race Notebook: Dartmouth Dodge 200 @ Scotia Speedworld
Well, if that wasn’t a way to end a season, I don’t know what is!
From the battle up in front between Jonathan Hicken and John Flemming, battles throughout the field in the point standings, the returns of Marty Prevost and Russell Smith Jr to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, Emily Meehan making her Pro Stock debut, Sarah McKay locking up the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year award. You get the point, there was a lot to follow on Saturday night, even if the point picture at the top looked “in hand” for most of the event.
The front is the easiest place to start, and at the front of the race for the better part of 195 laps and in the championship at the end of the night was John Flemming. Flemming paced Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, drew the top spot and held it in the King Freight Dash and led the first 179 laps of the Dartmouth Dodge 200 on Saturday night. Clearly, the #97 Happy Harry’s Dodge was the one to beat.
And it did, by Jonathan Hicken.
I said it around the halfway point on Race Time Radio that in order for Hicken to want any shot at the title, he needed Flemming to have some bad luck and the wheelman at the helm of the #5 needed to get up on the wheel. While the bad luck came in the way of a flat tire after the incredible battle between the two, Hicken, like we’ve seen many times before, got up on the wheel, thrilled fans and got the job done.
Alright, there were boos that came down from some fans after the race for Hicken. But there were some for Flemming too.
What does that mean? They got a reaction from those folks in the stands. Like how it ended or not, it was a helluva show to watch from my seat.
While we’ll be talking about and profiling the champion in the coming months leading up to the banquet, fan or not, Flemming has pulled off something special. Back-to-back championships is big, especially with the talent we have on this series like Hicken and former champions like Shawn Tucker and Shawn Turple. To win five in 13 seasons is a huge feat too. Greg Sewart’s five championships came in the same timeframe, winning his first MASCAR title in 1983 and his fifth in 1995. Wayne Smith’s six came from 1994 to 2011, for those keeping score.
Flemming said the goal was to keep going and look at six, sponsor pending, in 2015. The team scrounged up enough this year to run full time and will look for some more partners as they try to tie Smith’s mark next year.
Hicken’s season was a huge one for the Brudenell, Prince Edward Island. The team won four races this year at three different tracks - Petty International Raceway, Oyster Bed Speedway and Scotia Speedworld. The latter is a tough one to win at, and Saturday’s win is Hicken’s second at the track after winning the 200 in 2010. Hicken’s win also kept him second in the standings, the best finish of any Islander driver on our series since its inception in 2001. The season has established Hicken as a driver that can get it done at any track on our series and a serious championship contender, one that will have to be watched for next season as he tries to ride the momentum of 2014 into the future as he searches to become the first Island champion on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour.
When Flemming’s tire went flat and Hicken let out a bit for John to collect up the #97, Cole Butcher and Shawn Tucker appeared to be the golden boys as they were poised to get by both and race the Dartmouth Dodge 200 amongst themselves. The caution would save Hicken and keep Butcher and Tucker behind Hicken as he held the two off for the win, but boy that was exciting to watch! I said it last week and will say it again, Cole Butcher’s day is coming and finishing off this season with a second place finish at his home track will give him that morale boost he needs going into the off-season.
As we sometimes see in this race, we had some strong cars in the first half of this race fade in the second half, whether because of tire strategy or others getting better at the intermission. Daryl Mahar was up as far as second in the laps prior to the halfway mark while Brad Eddy was also within the top three for many laps on Saturday before falling back to sixth at the finish. On the opposite side, Dylan Blenkhorn had two flat tires during the race, one prior to halfway that would ultimately throw a set of tires off sequence at the halfway break, but still managed to drive home to fifth at the end of the night.
Was it ever great to see Marty Prevost back on the track? The veteran from Fall River made his 2014 debut and was fairly quiet throughout the night but began to make headway in the second half of the event, coming home with his 14th career top ten in ninth place. The crew and driver were happy to be back at the track and hopefully we see the #11 Sanford and Son Chevrolet more than once in 2015!
Craig Slaunwhite had a tough week that would wind up with an eleventh place finish in the finale. Slaunwhite suffered a practice crash on the Wednesday prior to the race, hitting hard enough to bend the clip and damaging the back end of the car. The team burned the midnight oil and got the car back straight to run on Saturday. While I’m sure the Slaunwhite team is disappointed in 11th, their dedication and hard work does not go unnoticed.
It looked like early in the race that Russell Smith Jr was going to score his first top ten on our series. “The Bounty Hunter” kept the #44 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Chevrolet out of trouble all night long but at the end of 200 laps would wind up in 14th place. I know he has his mind set on Sportsman, but it would be neat to see Junior run full time on our series in the future.
Emily Meehan, where do I start? For those that have watched this girl grow up through Bandoleros and into Legends and then to Pro Stocks had been waiting for Saturday for a while and she achieved the goals set out. Minus a couple tire marks on the side, there was not a scratch on the car after the race and logged valuable laps and seat time in the Stephen Henderson owned car. A lot were impressed with the speed she showed throughout the day for a rookie and will be one to keep an eye on in the future. Good job Em!
Jason Hathaway struggled all day in the #88 for Nova Racing and George Koszkulics. From Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials to a 21st place finish in the feature, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series regular never really got to show what he had. It was great to see him out with us though and we wish Donald Chisholm all the best this weekend as he steps into Hathaway’s territory at Kawartha Speedway outside of Peterborough, Ontario. Hey, I wonder if JR Fitzpatrick will have bragging rights on Jason after winning at Riverside in the Ron MacGillivray 150?
We close off this notebook with a tip of the cap to Sarah McKay and her team for getting the #32 back out after crash damage put her in the pit area for a handful of laps under green. Sarah and her crew have shown a lot of determination and have worked hard to get the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award and is a great foundation for what I’m sure will be many years to come in Super Late Models and other high powered race machines. Like Flemming, we’ll be talking about Miss McKay as we get closer to our banquet.
Before we close here, a big thanks has to go out to Doug Wilson, Gary Mason, Allan Curry and the entire staff at Dartmouth Dodge. These folks are huge supporters of motorsports in Atlantic Canada and without them, we couldn’t do what we do every Saturday night in the Summer. They love the sport and our fans too, which was pretty evident on Saturday night! Thanks again guys and we look forward to 2015!
Speaking of that banquet, it will take place on Saturday, November 22nd at the Ramada Burnside in Dartmouth. As has been the case for the last few years, our banquet is on the move following two seasons in Charlottetown and two seasons in Moncton. Ticketing information and all that other information that has to do with the banquet is sure to come out in the next couple of weeks.
For some of us, it is time to kick back and relax. For others, there are a few other Pro Stock type open shows to close off the season in New Brunswick. Petty Raceway, Speedway Miramichi and the Centre for Speed each have open races if you are looking to scratch that final itch before, dare I say it, the snow flies for another season.
We’ll be back here in a few weeks to begin looking back on 2014!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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