If the name “Riverside International Speedway” does not get you excited, you need to check your pulse.
When you get two dozen or more Pro Stocks on the track at Riverside, the roar is something indescribable. It’s something you must experience in person, and I hope you have the opportunity to do just that on Saturday when we roll in to town for the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150.
So, who do you take to win? Good question.
A quick glance at the stats over the previous 38 races and the three events hosted at Riverside last year, you have to believe John Flemming, on paper, is the favorite. Two wins last year and five at the track since 2001 is pretty impressive. His five wins is only trumped by Shawn Tucker and Wayne Smith, who each have six wins, while Donald Chisholm is close behind with four. Eight of the 15 drivers who have previously won at Riverside Speedway are expected to be in the field Saturday, Flemming leading active drivers in the category.
But, let’s call a spade a spade, the team is struggling with their new car.
Pat Ryder (car owner) told me at Petty Raceway they spent over 35 hours on the car between our season opening Lucas Oil 100 at Scotia Speedworld and the Irving Oil Blending & Packaging 100 at Petty and they still hadn’t made ground on where they were before. They still managed to get eighth place in both events, which is a testament to the team.
If Flemming isn’t a favorite to win because of a struggling race car, Donald Chisholm has to be next on that list, right?
I don’t see why Donald Chisholm cannot win the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150 on Saturday. Chisholm has shown speed in the first two races and sits third in the standings after two races. He and Nova Racing teammate George Koszkulics, who was impressive in the season opening event in Halifax, should both be hard to beat Saturday.
Here’s a special stat about George, Kent Vincent and Tucker. Each have 29 top ten finishes at Riverside Speedway since 2001. Obviously, with Tucker absent, he will not be in the running for a 30th, but Vincent and Koszkulics should be sure bets to continue that. Vincent was a victim of Turn One at Petty Raceway but has shown a ton of potential in the first two races of the year and could be a darkhorse pick to turn his recent luck around on Saturday.
Darren MacKinnon and Greg Proude have each won at Riverside in the past and each were on the podium at Petty Raceway, another high banked track, two weekends ago. Mackinnon’s team is coming in fourth in points and riding high, while Proude rebounded nicely from a broken trailing arm mount at the season opener. Craig Slaunwhite is also a former winner at Riverside that will be in the field on Saturday.
If you look at Dylan Gosbee’s stat line at Riverside, you will find one lonely top ten. I have a feeling that will change Saturday. Gosbee sits second in the standings and has the potential to become the first Island driver to go all the way this year and win the title. If he wants to do so, he will need to get Riverside figured out and this weekend will be a good indication on whether the #91 team is a contender when it comes to the season long chase.
Then, there is Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher. Remember last September when we were at Riverside? Those two were the story. Butcher led 108 laps in the Lucas Oil 150 and when he tried to lap Blenkhorn, he spun the car, lost the lead and ultimately the race. They were the story again in the season opener at Scotia Speedworld when Butcher led 80 plus laps, only to lose the race to Blenkhorn.
On paper, Blenkhorn has this “rivalry,” as he calls it, under control. Blenkhorn has five wins, Butcher has none. Ten years down the road, we may not remember Butcher led a ton of laps, but we sure will remember the five wins Blenkhorn has in the last 12 series races. I said it about Blenkhorn and say it about Butcher, once the #53 car wins one race, the floodgates will open and he’ll win a ton of races. It’s that breaking through to victory lane that he has to do first. Who knows? This weekend could be his!
I’ll leave you with this though. I asked Dylan if he could go into Riverside Speedway and beat Donald, George and Nova Racing on their home turf they have been so successful on. His reply? “Yes, I think we can.”
That’s confidence folks, and Blenkhorn has a ton of it. Keep in mind, only one driver since 2001 has won three races in a row - Wayne Smith in the first three races of this series back in 2001. Blenkhorn wins Saturday, and he joins elite company.
On top of these guys are about a dozen more looking to make a splash. We’ve only scratched the surface here! You’ll want to be at Riverside Speedway Saturday to experience this one yourself! Get your tickets now, at RiversideSpeedway.ca!
Before we sign off for the week, I do want to send well wishes to Merrill Cronin. When I was over to the Island Sunday Merrill was absent. Track owner Bill Kinney told me Merrill was in Halifax recovering from surgery. In recent years, Merrill has ran the scoreboard at the track and is a vital part in keeping our fans up to date on how many laps are completed in the races we host on PEI. Here’s to a speedy recovery, my friend. We all look forward to seeing you on August 1st!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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