Race Preview: Nova Truck Centres 150 @ Scotia Speedworld
We are one quarter distance through the 2015 edition of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and what an interesting season it has been thus far.
Heading into the Nova Truck Centres 150, we have a one point difference between the top two in the point standings. The top ten sit within 55 points of each other, which could once again swing one way or the other after 150 laps at Scotia Speedworld on Saturday. We saw a few swings last Saturday, including the top tightening up in the standings, Marty Prevost falling to fifth and Shawn Turple recording his second podium finish to move up to fifth in the standings.
So, what can we expect at Scotia Speedworld? While we can take some things from our first three races, it is still anyone’s guess as to what we can expect.
Let’s first look at those that are strong at Scotia Speedworld first. Obviously, Dylan Blenkhorn has to be at or near the top of the list, winning three of the last four races at the track including the season opener. Blenkhorn came from within the shadows at the Lucas Oil 100 to come out on top, but at the end of the day, they don’t ask how you won races, they just ask how many you won. A late race incident gave Blenkhorn an 11th place finish at Riverside, but if he can rebound here and return to Petty next weekend with a strong finish, it may be dangerous for that point picture.
When we were here in May, the two constants at the front of the field all day were Turple and Cole Butcher. Turple has shown speed in all three races and could have easily been up there with Blenkhorn and Donald Chisholm in the standings save for a right rear trailing arm bracket breaking at Petty. Even with that, Turple still sits only 32 points out with three races in the books and could easily make some ground up here this weekend.
Butcher was quick at Riverside, but was more on the quiet side as he went about his business and recorded a top five performance. Butcher led over three quarters of the season opener at Scotia Speedworld before fading to fifth at the end of the run. He also was poised to finish near the front at Petty Raceway in Race Two, but like Turple he broke a right rear trailing arm bracket. This is a 150-lap race, and while Butcher has been up front before in these extended races, the long run may have been partially his undoing at the Lucas Oil 100 when he was stretching his legs far in front of the field early in that race. If he can keep the tires underneath him, mark my words, Butcher will likely end up in victory lane Saturday night.
John Flemming and Jonathan Hicken have each turned the corner with their cars after Riverside Speedway. Hicken and his team have been experimenting with new setups on their car and were battling with Turple at the end of that race for third. Flemming and team haven’t been anywhere near the “five time” status they are accustomed to, but they ran many laps within the top three during the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150 before having a rendezvous with Greg Proude late in the race. Both could use a good point night on Saturday and yes, I know we are only on Race Four, but keep in mind, this show pays as much as the other 12 do throughout the year.
The interesting thing, if you can remember back to the opener, is that we had a lot of cars in this series perform well in May. Maybe it was because it was the first race of the year, but we had 14 cars of the 24 at one point or another run within the top five over 100 laps. So, while those aforementioned five might be, say your 2:1 odds in Vegas, you are going to have another half dozen or more that are a solid 4:1 for the win on Saturday with a handful of others not far behind.
At the top of those 4:1 picks would have to be Donald Chisholm. Chisholm is the only driver this season with three top five finishes in as many races as we’ve ran and while he was the car to beat at Riverside, he showed a ton of speed at our first two races as well. Why would I put him in the second tier of drivers, odd wise, for Saturday? One reason - he’s never won in Halifax. Chisholm has had a lot going for him on track over the last few years. Go back to 2012 when he won at Oyster Bed Speedway, the next year he picked up the Ron MacGillivray 150 and last year he was the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series winner at Riverside. This has to be one of Chisholm’s best stretches since the 2003-04 where he was running up front and winning races at pretty much every track the series went to, including two wins at Speedway 660 in that time. If he can win Saturday, he’s coming up to a stretch of tracks he is really good at, and it could be the start to something big for the #89 team.
Darren Mackinnon being in the top five in points is no fluke. Coming off a podium run at Petty Raceway, he followed it up with sixth at Riverside. He heads back to a track where he was running within the top five and knocking on the door of more when a late race incident set him back and into ninth at the finish. If we have a first time track winner at Scotia Speedworld Saturday and it is not Chisholm, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see it come from the #18 team.
Another that could potentially shock us Saturday would be DJ Casey. The leading Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year on the series was poised to make a serious run at a top five finish last week before an incident late in the race that happened in front of his swept him out of the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150. While he has good equipment under him, it takes a driver to be able to wheel it near the front of the field and DJ has shown he has that potential. Sure, he is a rookie still and he’ll have missteps along the way, but the kid is the real deal. How he rebounds from Saturday night will be a real test of character early in this season, and his home track may be the perfect stage to shine.
I like the way Dylan Gosbee ran at Scotia Speedworld to start the season and he picked it up in the second half of the race at Riverside but he had to come from scratch on the field. Marty Prevost was quick in our first two races but did not perform well at Riverside and will look to rebound Saturday. Greg Proude has been top five fast in our first three races but only has one to show for it.
Kent Vincent, Daryl Mahar and Craig Slaunwhite each have one top ten this season and each found themselves behind the 8-ball at Riverside last weekend. Vincent got trapped two laps down by the time the finish rolled around while a flat rear tire left Slaunwhite multiple laps down under green. Mahar had his throttle stick into Turn One at Riverside and came out on the other side of the vicious hit with a sore neck and a destroyed car. Mahar will turn to his Clattenburg Racing Enterprises car at Scotia Speedworld to try and put the hit in James River behind him. All three drivers like these long races and could fit right into their wheel houses come Saturday night in Halifax.
While we have some surprises near the front of the field, I think the biggest surprise at the opposite end of the spectrum is Brad Eddy and King Racing. King Racing with the Lower Sackville driver have made the King Freight Dash for Cash in all three races and have shown speed in all three races but haven’t been around to finish two of the three, while an adjustment on pit road at Petty did not pan out the way they wanted to. Here’s the thing though. Brad is confident in his car and in his driving and rightfully so, the car he is in is bad fast. That good break is around the corner, I can just feel it, and when it happens, it will likely be accompanied with a checkered flag out the driver’s side window.
Quick - name me the two drivers with the most laps completed this season without a top ten finish? If you said Sarah McKay and Terry Dougay, you are right! McKay has had two close brushes with a top ten finish in the last two races and probably would have been within the top ten at Riverside if she did not get trapped two laps down by inopportune yellows for the team. Ironically, those are the only two laps she has not completed this season. Dougay had quite the piece here in May and was in the top ten for many laps before a late race shuffle put him on the outside looking in after 100 laps at Scotia Speedworld.
Shawn Pierce, Steve Ross, Vance Hanes and Joel Hickox will look to make the headlines their own Saturday. Hickox’s debut for the season at Scotia Speedworld is something the team wants to put far behind them and with a new to them car with a history at this track, this could be a perfect stage for the rookie to have his breakout race. Ross was quick at Riverside Speedway with appearances on the time sheet in the top ten in practice but came out with not much to show for it in his finish. Pierce had a lead lap finish here in May and will look to do that and then some on Saturday night.
Place you proverbial bets now on who you think is going to win Saturday night. I know my buddy Joey Livingstone told me last Saturday night before the race he had George Koszkulics to win and he was right. Get in the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #NovaTruck150 and send us your prediction to win. We may even drop a couple of those Saturday prior to the Nova Truck Centres 150 on Race Time Radio.
Be sure to be at the track for 6pm for the start of all the racing action, and for the undercard of the Coors Light Trucks and Chickenburger Thunder and Lightning divisions. These guys and gals put a lot of time and effort into their racing machines and they get one night a year to shine with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. Not to mention, arguably, they are some of the best racing week in and week out in our Weekly Racing Series. We’re happy to have them on the card and hope you will give them some support Saturday by coming out and seeing them race!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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