Part Timers Part of the Sport
Let me say this from the get go. To run on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, or any touring series for that matter, takes a major commitment.
Financially there’s a lot of money sunk into travel expenses like gas, wear and tear on rigging (truck, trailer, etc.) hotels, feeding the crew, shows that get rained out or run long. For teams that have come with us full-time in the past, like Jerome Kehoe from Sydney, David Heino from Barrington and Brad Mann from Glen Levit, that financial commitment is huge, and that doesn’t even include race car costs!
You also have time commitments, not only for the driver but for the crew. For bigger weekends, some require time off work and unless they tag along, it’s potentially a dozen weekends away from significant others and children. With our climate, it is only warm outside for so long in the summer, and some have other hobbies they like to enjoy with their families. Hey, maybe that’s why I’ve been single every Summer since I’ve hopped on to the Tour in 2008!
Sure, in a perfect world, everyone that wants to race full-time on this series, or any Touring series, would do so. But, that perfect world doesn’t exist. Thankfully for us, we have a great group of part-time teams that show up to the track and join in to put on a show for our fans in the stands.
This year had some memorable part-time efforts, and when I think of that, the first that comes to mind is Ken MacKenzie. MacKenzie, of Salisbury, New Brunswick, ran with us thrice in 2014, all at Petty International Raceway. Late in 2013, when MacKenzie was planning out his season, he had the Tour on his radar, making it one of his “bucket list” items to run with us. To me, that’s one of the ultimate complements we can receive as a series, to be that place drivers dream of running, to want to race against and stack their talents up against the Flemmings, Tuckers, Turples and Proudes of this region. It’s even bigger when it comes from a guy like Ken MacKenzie, an established racer in the province of New Brunswick with an already stout racing resume.
Every time the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour came up in conversation, you could see that glimmer in Ken’s eyes, and see that smile on his face, something that I don’t think left his face all season. In those three starts, he proved he belonged with this series. He completed every lap he could, was on the race track for every moment and it came full circle with a top ten on International weekend.
Personally, I would love to see Mackenzie more on our series, his next “bucket list” item is to run at the IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway, but there’s that financial and time commitment that holds one back that comes into the equation. His son, Kenny Jr., is making quite the name for himself in New Brunswick which includes the accolade as the 2014 Petty Raceway Street Stock champion. Hey, who knows? Kenny Jr. might be the one making the name for himself on our series in the future! He’s certainly shown in his young racing career he’s got what it takes.
Then there’s Robbie Fraser. Fraser, who moved to Pro Stock this season without the comfort of a big budget, fulfilled a dream that same International weekend by making his first start on our series. While they struggled in the feature with a mechanical problem that sidelined them before the finish, you could tell Robbie was just happy to be in the field with some of the best talent in this region.
Jason Carnahan, the runner up in the 2009 Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year chase, had a successful part-time season in 2014. It’s almost like that Carnahan Property Management team has turned a corner, they are showing more speed and you can feel the elevated confidence level in their pit area at the track. Carnahan scored his first series top-ten earlier in the season at the Lucas Oil 150 at Petty Raceway and look for Carnahan to show more of that speed this coming season.
How about the commitment of a team like Josh Collins and the #56 from Placentia, Newfoundland? The team made three starts in 2014, and continued to learn every time they were on the track. They had mainland help from Stanley Miller, a familiar face and name to anyone in Maritime motorsports. Josh is a great young, up and coming talent, and is one to keep on your radar for the future! Expect this team to be strong in their efforts when 2015 rolls around.
There are part time efforts you remember because of the effort they put up on the track when they are there. Brad Eddy had a top ten run going in the IWK 250 presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body before an incident with now two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Matt Crafton happened just past halfway. He backed up that run with a top five run in the Dartmouth Dodge 200 at Scotia Speedworld that ended up with a sixth place finish in the season finale. Two spots behind him was Daryl Mahar, who also ran well within the top five before finishing eighth on the night. Daryl’s #66 crossed the stripe ahead of another part-time driver and former Pro Stock Tour feature winner in Marty Prevost.
Sure, while John Flemming and Jonathan Hicken were swapping paint at the end, guys like Prevost, Mahar and Eddy were making waves throughout the race and giving us a brief glimpse into what we could see in 2015.
Chris Hughes and Emily Meehan are two drivers that only each appeared once, but made their impact on the season nonetheless in the limited time with us.
When I began doing a few races on this Tour as a fill in at the end of the 2008 season and beginning full time in 2009, one of the first guys that came to me and welcomed me into the series was Chris Hughes. As an 18 year old kid taking over the biggest short track Touring series in Canada as the voice of the series with only a year and a half under my belt at Scotia Speedworld, it was pretty nerve racking at times. Chris was one of the first that I would see light up on Facebook on Monday, and we would shoot the breeze back and forth about the race, both good and bad, from both of our perspectives.
You get into habits in this role too. When I go down to the track for driver introductions, I introduce drivers prior to the feature with only a list of car numbers and starting positions, the names, hometowns and sponsors come from somewhere in my brain and somehow come out at the right time. After watching many years in the stands and calling a few years with Chris being in the #32, it was almost a force of habit when seeing “32” on my lineup that it was Chris Hughes. Even though it has been a few years since Chris raced on our series, I still had to catch myself the first few races this year to not introduce Sarah McKay as the driver of the #32 Pauley Equipment Toyota Camry from Brackley Beach, Prince Edward Island.
Chris made his return to Pro Stock racing, at the helm of the Big Poppas Motorsports #63 car at Oyster Bed Speedway. Like Mackenzie, you couldn’t wipe the smile off the face of Chris Hughes throughout the afternoon, and while he left the race early, it was great to have Hughes back on our series this year on the Island.
Speaking of nerves, I had a few anxious ones when introducing Emily Meehan at the Dartmouth Dodge 200. I started announcing at Scotia Speedworld in 2007, a year after the likes of Meehan, Eddy, Cole Butcher and 2015 rookie prospect DJ Casey got their starts in stock cars in the Bandolero division, so to see any of the Bandolero drivers graduate up to the Pro Stock Tour, like my career did on the announcing side, is pretty neat.
It’s something to have thousands watching at the track and tens of thousands listening on Race Time Radio, but that pressure kind of put me on the spot. I think I did okay, right? She held up her end of the deal too, finishing every lap she could on track and came home 17th in her Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour debut at the helm of the iconic Stephen Henderson owned, Dexter Construction sponsored car. What does the future hold, Tour wise, for Meehan? Your guess is as good as mine. Whatever the case, 2015 is coming soon and we’ll soon know.
While it would be impossible to give all the guys that ran part time with us credit in this allotted space, trust me when I say this, our fans thank you for coming out and racing your cars to put on a show every Saturday night. We haven’t forgot about you full time teams though, over the next few weeks and into the 2015 calendar year, we’ll be looking back on 2014 a bit and showing you some love too!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
**Note, two of our part time drivers lost loved ones over the past few weeks. Our thoughts are with Chris Hughes (Ron) and Robbie Fraser (Bob) on the recent passing of their fathers.
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