Race Notebook: Ron MacGillivray Chev Buick GMC 150 @ Riverside International Speedway
It was a big night for Nova Racing!
While Donald Chisholm dominated the first 90% of the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150, it was his teammate George Koszkulics who took the win after the brakes faded away from the #89 Nova Construction Ford. While you can say his brakes faded all you want, Koszkulics was quick all night and really began to flex it over the second green flag run of the race. The #88 Pioneer Coal Ford ran all the way up to second on Lap 85 and was poised to take a run at then second place driver John Flemming for the spot when the caution flag flew. Once he got in the top two, Koszkulics was perfect on every restart that featured the #88 on the front row.
We’ve seen a few really great runs out of George Koszkulics since his last win in 2011. Remember back to Prince Edward Island last year when he started at the rear of our only stop at Oyster Bed Speedway and was well within contention in the second half of the race but had to settle for fifth? Three weeks after that Oyster Bed Speedway race saw Koszkulics running for second in the River Glade International at Petty Raceway when he ran out of fuel in the final three laps in the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 150. Koszkulics also ran well at our season opener at Scotia Speedworld but did not get the finish indicative of how he ran back in May. Obviously, when we go to Riverside, he is a favorite to win, but he may be one of the most underrated drivers at the four other venues we visit as well. Heck, with the momentum he is carrying, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to unload in Halifax this week and take the win in the Nova Truck Centres 150 on Saturday.
Koszkulics also made moves on the statistics list when it comes to Tour races at Riverside Speedway on Saturday. Koszkulics now sits tied for fourth overall for wins at the track since 2001 with four, is tied for third overall with 17 top fives at the track and leads all drivers with 30 top tens at Riverside in 39 races contested at the track.
While a lot was made about Koszkulics winning and Nova Racing finishing 1-2, it was Donald Chisholm who ended up with another second place run at his home track. There’s an old cliché that says something like, “nobody remembers who finishes second, it’s the win that counts,” just don’t tell that to the #89 team. Chisholm is on a pretty impressive streak as is, one that completely discounts that cliché, with seven consecutive top four finishes at Riverside, dating back to his win in the 2013 Ron MacGillivray 150. After that last win, Chisholm has finishes of second, second, second, third, fourth and second, for an average finish of 2.5 in that six race stretch since the 2013 season opener at Riverside. That, is impressive in itself! Oh, and not to mention, Chisholm is a single point out of the championship lead after three races.
Shawn Turple had his work cut out for him all night long to get to third at the end of the Ron MacGillivray 150. Turple battled tooth and nail in the middle stages of the race with Robbie MacEwen and then had to hold off another Islander in Jonathan Hicken to lock down the final podium position by inches at the line. After showing speed at the first three races of the season, Turple should be a contender for the win this weekend in Halifax.
Jonathan Hicken and Cole Butcher completed our top five on Saturday, and while they did not make as much noise as I’m sure they wanted to up front, it still reminds us that the pair are still two of the hottest drivers on our series dating back to last year. While the event at Petty Raceway is one the two drivers would like to forget I’m sure, their speed dating back to last year where Hicken was racking up wins and Butcher was leading a ton of laps is still evident in 2015.
Dylan Gosbee deserves a tip of the cap for coming home seventh after starting at the rear of the 24 car field Saturday. Gosbee did not look like he had a car early in the race to contend with Chisholm for the lead, let alone to stay on the lead lap in the first 50 laps of the race. It’s a run that could be huge when it comes to the championship in September and could be the difference between hoisting a $10,000 cheque and going home with one significantly less out of the championship fund.
John Flemming finished ninth on Saturday night, but the team has officially turned the corner in their new Port City Racecar Dodge. Flemming was running second at the time of our second caution, led a lap and pressured Chisholm in the first half of the race before fading back to third. He and Greg Proude would make contact late in the race, taking both cars that were running within the top five to ninth and tenth at the end of the race. Flemming, who told me on Race Time Radio after the race that they were “horrible” in the first two races, has his eye set on winning the Nova Truck Centres 150 on Saturday.
Some drivers did not have the runs they wanted to on Saturday. Kent Vincent and Sarah McKay each found themselves on the wrong side of a caution as both ended up two laps down just past the halfway point in the event. Craig Slaunwhite finished 16th after an early pit stop for an apparent soft rear tire put them seven laps down in the infield. Steve Ross had a rocket in practice, but finished 17th when the checkered flag flew. Joel Hickox tried to get a little more out of his “new to him” #22 Hickox Service Centre ride and ended up spinning out in Turn Two and would wind up 18th. According to crew member Mark Williams, DJ Casey ended up blowing up a transmission after contact with MacEwen which ended a surefire top ten night after cracking the Dash for Cash for the first time in his career. Brad Eddy ended up sidelined in the second half with a vibration after qualifying on the front row of the race.
Tip of the cap to Jerry Hayes and his team after a practice accident with another car Friday night. The team booked it back up the highway towards their Sydney Forks shop to assess the damage. Between 13 crew members and six hours, they replaced all control arms and a rear end on the #6 car to be ready for pit open at 11:30am on Saturday. Hayes is still trying to get a hang of the Pro Stock car after a successful run in Sportsman competition, and when he does get it down, he’ll be good. Mark my words!
Racing is one of the safest dangerous sports around. I know, the words safest and dangerous kind of clash, but you would know what I mean after looking at Daryl Mahar’s car after his Lap 85 wreck into Turn One. After the race, I caught up with Daryl when he said the throttle hung on his #66 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting/Inglis Jewelers Chevrolet going into Turn One, and he said there was not much time to react. Think about it, these guys are pulling an average speed per lap of 80 to 82 miles per hour. That’s average speed, not the top speed going into the corner where Daryl’s throttle hung. When I spoke to a few drivers prior to the race, including Terry Dougay, he said that while the speeds in the grandstands may not look great, Riverside can be an intimidating place for rookies and veterans alike, because you carry so much speed. On the other side, that’s half the thrill to spank 100mph around a 1/3 mile track.
We don’t have that telemetry, but Daryl was probably going around 150 kilometers per hour or so when he realized the throttle pedal didn’t come back up with his foot. Daryl’s first reaction was to go for the brakes, which slowed him down a slight shade heading into the wall, and while he went for the killswitch in the car, he did not have time to hit it before he got into the concrete, rode the Turns One and Two wall and came to rest in the Turn Two infield wall.
The first to the car were Bill Marr and the Parts for Trucks Tour medical team to look over Daryl, who had quickly hopped out of his car, which had been on fire when it came to a stop. Before hitting the road home, Bill had stopped into Daryl’s pit to make sure he was okay after the race and while Daryl said he was sore, he was fine. All the safety gear in the car, including Daryl’s HANS device, did its job in the impact. For those racers that are reading this, and I don’t care if you drive a Four Cylinder or a Pro Stock, make sure your safety gear is up to date and is in working order. It’s one of the reasons Daryl walked away from that vicious hit on Saturday night.
We have a point picture with the top two only separated by a single point heading into Saturday night. We will preview that a bit later in the week.
Once again, congratulations to George Koszkulics, Donald Chisholm and the entire Nova Racing team on their great night!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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