Race Notebook: Nova Truck Centres 150 @ Scotia Speedworld
The monkey that Cole Butcher had on his back for about a year or so has finally decided to hitch a ride elsewhere.
Butcher pulled his #53 Atlantic Tiltload Chevrolet into victory lane Saturday, at his home track of Scotia Speedworld, to win the Nova Truck Centres 150. The win came in Butcher’s 28th series start and at 18 years, nine months and 21 days becomes the youngest of 33 drivers to ever win a Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race. Butcher edged out Dylan Blenkhorn, who was less than a year older than Butcher is now when he pulled into victory lane in the same race in 2014.
Butcher has come a long way in this series over the last 27 races leading up to the one that he found victory lane in. Saturday’s race was a prime example of Butcher’s talent; he held his own in the top five for the first half of the race and laid pressure to then leader Donald Chisholm in the first 75 laps. When Chisholm fell back, it was Greg Proude who looked poised to take his first Tour win in a few years. After leading nearly 30 laps, he and Butcher went at it for the lead. In the late laps, Darren MacKinnon did what he has done all season - quietly creep into the picture from a mid-pack starting position to vie for the win at the end of the race. MacKinnon led one lap, but it wasn’t meant to be as the glass slipper would finally fit for Butcher at the end of 150 laps.
Here’s something for you to chew on. Of Butcher’s 28 starts, 21 of them have resulted in top ten finishes. The kid is just so darn consistent, and that consistency is going to win him championships in this series. He, or for lack of a better term, the car, created a hole for him in the standings after our last Petty appearance, one that he chiseled a bit out of with his victory.
How about Proude and MacKinnon though? MacKinnon looked stout at the end of the race, as he has in every race we have run this year. It is hard to believe MacKinnon’s runner-up finish is his best career run at Scotia Speedworld, his first podium and only sixth top five. That #18 car has looked good in these long races and should be one to watch in those upcoming 250s. Heck, I’d put Darren as one of my favorites when we return to Halifax in August.
We dropped a MacKinnon stat, so let’s drop one for Proude. Did you know, out of Proude’s 13 podium finishes on the Tour, his best track in that statistical category is Scotia Speedworld after scoring his fifth top three on Saturday? Proude also has four podiums at Oyster Bed, three at Petty Raceway and one at Riverside Speedway. After his mechanical failure at the Lucas Oil 100, Proude is reminding us why he should be considered a title threat with strong runs in the last three races.
Whatever way you look at it, the racing up front was spectacular and was well worth the trip to Scotia Speedworld.
Speaking of title threats, with leading over half the race and notching five extra bonus points, it helped the #89 car driven by Donald Chisholm get to the top of the standings. We’re going to talk more about the fifth place and sixth place finisher (Dylan Blenkhorn) from this week in our preview for Petty Raceway, because that could be an exciting battle between two drivers who are dangerous threats for the win on our high banked tracks in this series.
Two drivers drove their tails off from the back of the field in this race, and while one got a finish deserving of all the work he put in, one was left with a finish far from indicative of how he ran. Marty Prevost started at the rear of the 21 car field and wound up fourth at the end of the race. Prevost was consistently picking off spots throughout the race and the veteran was in the mix for the win at the Speedworld. A lot can be said for the preparation of the car by Tony Leonard and Pit Stop Race Car Repairs as well. Leonard may be one of the most underrated in the Pro Stock Tour garage. He has been a part of John Flemming’s last two championships and his IWK 250 victories, along with helping out his son Cory in the Coors Light Truck class at Scotia Speedworld. Did I also mention he also has a Sportsman car that he is a contender with every time he hits the track?! Prevost and Leonard make a great team that are turning heads early in the season!
Daryl Mahar had told me after the race that he thought he was going to be talking to me in victory lane after the Nova Truck Centres 150. I thought he was too. Like Prevost, Mahar started scratch on the field and worked his way up to the top five, running as high as third, late in the race. The run was all for not as contact with another car while running in the top five flattened a tire on Mahar’s car, which would go down in a shower of sparks on the back straight with eight laps to go. Mahar would finish 12th, far from where he was running for most of the middle to late portion of the race.
Steve Ross finally came home with a top ten run, something that has eluded the #24 Speedy Auto Centre Chevrolet all season long. Ross had worked hard at Riverside to put his car in the top ten in two of the three practices, but a clutch problem sidelined Ross in the Ron MacGillivray 150. Ross started the Nova Truck Centres 150 in 16th place and would move into the top ten for good on Lap 95. While he ran as high as seventh in the race, the #24 team would have to settle for seventh. They have showed speed and as Ross says, they have hit on something with the bump stop setup on the car and if they continue to run the way they are, the top fives and maybe even a win will be right around the corner!
For the second consecutive race, Joel Hickox was the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Race and is beginning to chip into the advantage DJ Casey built up in the first two races. Both crews work hard on their race cars and this will be a battle down to the wire, especially when we go back to tracks we’re visiting multiple times - like Scotia Speedworld last Saturday and Petty Raceway this Saturday.
Shawn Pierce had a bad night go even worse on him. After breaking a pan hard bar bracket running just outside the top ten, the crew went to work to fix the #21 car. Once the repair was made, the car got back out on track, only to break the rear yoke, which in turn broke the drive shaft, pan hard bar, power steering bracket and transmission. The Bridgewater based crew has not had any luck this year and hopefully it will change after hours of hard work this week to get the car race ready for Petty.
Now, for the back half of the field and the two drivers listed as “DQ” - and that does not mean they went to Dairy Queen during the race. Craig Slaunwhite received the black flag for apparent contact with the #0 car of Shawn Turple and not reporting to the rear of the field. John Flemming was disqualified for intentional contact with another car following the checkered flag. To answer the questions that are running wild, no, I haven’t heard of any additional penalties for either driver and yes, I would assume they will both be at Petty. I spoke to Craig already and he said they are happy the bugs got worked out of their car and are excited to get to Petty.
Later in the week, we’ll look at the Linde 100 at Petty International Raceway.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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