Letís Get Down to Business
For many, it has been a long while since they saw Pro Stock racing. The last time the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour was on the track was at Scotia Speedworld during the Dartmouth Dodge 200 last September. If you remember, it was Jonathan Hicken and John Flemming going at it up front for the win. Flemming blew a tire in the battle after leading 180 laps and Hicken went on to win his second career race at Scotia Speedworld. His championship dreams fell just short though, with the #97 Happy Harry’s Affordable Building Centres Dodge team celebrating their second consecutive, and fifth overall, Tour title.
Back to the present, and we are just a few days away from sending Flemming, Hicken and about two dozen others off Saturday in their season opener - the Lucas Oil 100 at Scotia Speedworld.
Let’s start with this battle that ended our season last year. Remember back to those old EA Sports NASCAR console video games where you could use the “intimidate” button and it would make drivers race different around them if you approached them throughout the season, whether it was the next lap or five races into the future? While this is a little more serious than a video game, we do have rivalries within our sport and our series, some are a little more visible than others. For example, when Flemming finds Hicken on the track this season, he may race Hicken differently with what happened at the finale last year. Keep in mind, that flat tire nearly cost Flemming a championship, something that I’m sure isn’t going to leave the mind of the Halifax driver very quickly.
Not only could that be a rivalry to watch race to race, these two, along with a handful of others, clearly have what it takes to contend for the championship in this series. If you look at drivers like three-time 2014 feature winner Dylan Blenkhorn, two-time 2014 feature winner Shawn Turple and Cole Butcher, who came close to winning a number of races last year, as the three to challenge Flemming and Hicken for the championships. I would call those your safe bets, your 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 odds if you’re placing wagers with your friends heading into Saturday afternoon.
But wait, three of those five names have never won the Tour title?
Think about this, with Shawn Tucker not running this season (more on that in a bit), you only have two former series champions running for the title in 2015. What we’ve seen out of Flemming, the run he is on, is something special, but with the competition on this series, it will be a tall task to repeat again. Turple came out of the gate hot to trot last year, and don’t expect anything different this year, he is really good at the first two venues on our schedule, but it is all about season long consistency to win the title. Blenkhorn, Hicken and Butcher each saw success on the series, but their seasons did not stack up to the numbers that Flemming had on the board.
While we don’t have the space here to preview everyone who will be at the Lucas Oil 100 on Saturday, the vibe is that we should have a full field of cars for the first race. We had 15 cars at the Test and Tune last weekend. Assuming those cars will be at the track Saturday, plus another ten or so that were not at the Test n Tune that plan on running full time with us, we should have over two dozen cars on Saturday for the first green flag of 2015.
Full time cars seems to be the hot button topic around our series. Here’s what I can tell you about who is coming with us for 12 races. We had 14 teams (the top 13 plus a Nova Racing car at every race) that ran the full schedule last year. The only driver who has indicated he will not be back is Shawn Tucker. After 28 years of running full-time every week, whether it be at Speedway 660, Speedway 95 or in a touring division like MASCAR or the Maritime Pro Stock Tour, Tucker is taking a break. Don’t call it a retirement, because Tucker still plans on racing as the team says “when he feels like it,” but it will not be a full time effort.
So that leaves us with 13 cars. Joel Hickox and DJ Casey have signified they plan to run for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award, which means a full time season. Dylan Gosbee did not meet full-time criteria last year but we are hearing the #91 team is back for a swing at full time competition. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a guy like Marty Prevost, Vance Hanes or a Cy Harvey, who bought a car from the Mike MacKenzie stable over the winter, step up for more involvement with the series.
I would expect 17-ish full time cars with us this season, give or take one or two. That doesn’t include the number of part time cars that will complement our full-timers on Tour. We have great support from drivers in Nova Scotia for their events, New Brunswickers that will run with us at Petty Raceway and Speedway 660 along with Islanders like Alison MacKinnon and Robbie MacEwen who we’ll see in Prince Edward Island and a few select off-Island races.
Amongst those full time drivers are many stories to follow. Sarah McKay spent time down south this season and has picked up support from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s Dean Clattenburg, word is that Craig Slaunwhite has a new race car prepared by another Dartmouth transplant in Gary Crooks, rookie contender DJ Casey has the car John Flemming drove to the last two series championships and Kent Vincent will become the series’ “Ironman” when he takes the green flag on Saturday. Vincent and Tucker are currently the only two drivers that have run every Parts for Trucks Tour race and with Tucker taking time off, Vincent will become the record holder when he takes the green Saturday. Darren MacKinnon has a new-to-him car that has come out of the King Racing stables, Terry Dougay’s car has been getting a little off season “massage” at Mike MacKenzie’s shop, the list goes on and on of what to follow and we will go down the list for you Saturday.
If you cannot be there this Saturday, even if you can be, grab your smart phone, laptop or internet capable device and tune us in on RaceTimeRadio.com. Joe, Josh, Gerry and I will bring you all the action from the Lucas Oil 100 and the Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends 50 on Saturday, beginning at 4pm Atlantic. The best way to experience the show though is to be here yourself, especially if you haven’t smelt the race fuel and burning rubber or heard the sounds of Pro Stock motor in a while.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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