Race Day Notebook: Irving Oil Blending & Packaging 100 @ Petty Raceway
Dylan Blenkhorn is on pace to re-write the record books on our series.
Before we get into a bit of post-race recapping, I want to take a look at this run that the Truro driver is on. As you can see here, he is some elite company.
Blenkhorn is tied for eighth on the All Time Win List on the series with five career wins, all coming within the last twelve months. Wayne Smith (25), John Flemming (23), Shawn Tucker (22), Shawn Turple (10), Jonathan Hicken (8), Donald Chisholm (7) and Gordie Ryan (6) are the only seven drivers that have more wins than him, with Kent Vincent, Greg Proude and Craig Slaunwhite each having a handful of wins as well.
Did I mention he only has 27 starts? Of the 11 drivers on the list, the stat line will show he has fewer starts than the others without looking at their start total. Blenkhorn has seven podiums, 11 top five and 16 top ten finishes. The top ten number, for example, is less than half of what the next driver with five or more wins has ever scored - Gordie Ryan with 43.
Only thrice before has a driver won the first two races to open the season, and it hasn’t been done since 2004 prior to last Saturday night. Wayne Smith (2003) and John Flemming (2004) each won the first two races in their respective season while Smith won the first three races in series history in 2001 to open the year. Smith’s hattrick to open the inaugural season on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour is the only three-in-a-row on record, something Blenkhorn will try to match next weekend at Riverside.
The race certainly started off last Saturday with a bang. Only five cars came onto the backstraight on Lap One while the others sat in a mess in the first corner after the green flag. Some got on the brakes enough to not receive any damage, some had nowhere to go but to jump in the pool like their peers. Dylan Blenkhorn that he told me afterward that he spun the tires coming to the green, but did not know what had happened behind them. It had appeared from the tower that the outside pole sitter Cole Butcher also bobbled a bit on the outside. Can you blame them though? Both were on it and wanted to get the lead into Turn One.
End story; a (re)start on a tight track like Petty Raceway with one or two mistakes can cause some headaches and a handful of drivers will have long nights in the shop getting ready for June 13th as a result.
It’s uncommon to see the same part on a race car break on multiple race cars in the same race, but that’s what happened Saturday with Cole Butcher and Shawn Turple. Both cars are Howe chassis, and both broke right rear trailing arm brackets, two laps apart from each other, on Saturday night. Butcher’s was the first to break, and break in a big way as he slid backward into the Turn Three wall from the second place spot. Turple was able to get his slowed down before any wall or other competitors coming into contact with the #0 car. Greg Proude had a similar issue at Scotia Speedworld, when the mount for the right rear trailing arm broke clear from the frame of his Port City chassis.
Joining Blenkhorn on the podium were two Island drivers in Darren MacKinnon and Greg Proude. MacKinnon was the fastest car on track consistently in the last ten laps of the race and may have been the only one to have anything for Blenkhorn if it wasn’t for traffic and a nearly three second gap. MacKinnon has had a pretty good start to the season and find himself fourth in the standings after a pair of races. Could this be the season the #18 returns to the top of the podium for the first time since 2011? They’ve showed the speed they need to get there!
Proude was bit dejected Saturday night. After showing the way for a handful of laps just past the halfway mark, the Springvale, PE driver faded to third at the end of the race after getting passed by MacKinnon on the last lap, in the last set of corners. While Proude was clearly disappointed about the run he had, he did mention that it was a bit easier to be beat by a kid who passed him on the outside of the race track with the ease he did. Still, third place is nothing to shake a stick at on this series, especially after the weekend Proude had at Scotia Speedworld. He’ll be strong next weekend at Riverside, it is a track he has won at before and I’m sure will be looking to get back to victory lane at on June 13th.
How about Marty Prevost?! Prevost is back for a full time season on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and he has been turning heads in the first two races. Okay, maybe Saturday shouldn’t have been a surprise, it sure wasn’t to me.
Statistically speaking, Petty Raceway is one of Prevost’s best tracks on the series. Prevost ran a strong third for a majority of the race, eventually falling to a hard charging Darren MacKinnon and missed out on the podium by one spot. The fourth place finish marks his third top five at Petty Raceway and with the speed he has shown, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him knocking on the door of victory lane before this season is done.
Great to see new blood in the sport with Polaris on board Brad Eddy’s ride last Saturday. While they did not have the run desired Saturday, Brad sure gave them some time near the front by qualifying well and running many early laps within the top five. Here’s hoping we see Brad and Polaris back again at Riverside.
Tip of the cap to Michael Kyle. Kyle, from Sussex, New Brunswick, became the third driver to make his Parts for Trucks Tour debut in 2015. He joins Jerry Hayes and DJ Casey as drivers to make their first Tour starts. Kyle was the first driver one lap down at the end, finishing 14th.
Here’s a couple more statistics to chew on. MacKinnon scored his sixth career top five finish at Petty Raceway Saturday night, which ties him atop the series at that race track with Shawn Tucker. Blenkhorn also becomes the third multi-time winner at Petty Raceway, joining Hicken (3) and Tucker (2) as multi-time feature winners at the track.
DJ Casey also made history on Saturday night by becoming the 100th driver in series history to record a top ten finish. Casey, like he did at Scotia Speedworld, kept his nose clean early and worked his way quietly up to contend for a top five finish. At Scotia Speedworld, contact with Craig Slaunwhite prevented him from getting a top ten finish while Petty resulted in a well earned sixth place finish. While the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year battle is far from over, Casey has shown speed and hasn’t looked out of place in his first two races.
Next week, we preview the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 at Riverside International Speedway.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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