The third of four consecutive weeks on the road with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour takes us back to Petty International Raceway.
The venue that hosted our second of 12 Tour races this season is the stage for Saturday’s Linde 100. It is our first 100-lap event since May at Petty after two 150-lap races at Riverside Speedway and Scotia Speedworld kicked off this four race stretch.
The last race had some obvious fireworks and you have to believe that some of the storyline will be made of the Jonathan Hicken and John Flemming rivalry. For Flemming, you have to believe after four races and being 81 points back (more than you can make up in one race), the hand has to be hovering over the “championship panic button” if it hasn’t given it a little tap yet. Remember back to 2013, when Flemming went into the seventh race of the season with a 73 point lead on the rest of his competition? The 81 point hole with eight races to go can be clawed out of, and Flemming might be the best to do it, but with how close the field is, it will be a tall task.
Like Flemming, Hicken has a hole to dig out of in the championship. The runner-up in the 2014 championship is 54 points out of the top spot but his advantage may very well be we are heading into a race track where Hicken and his team have a ton of success at. He has more wins than anyone at Petty Raceway with three and if they are to turn around the backslide, this is a perfect venue to do it at. Regardless if you are on “Team Five-Time” or “Team Five” in this battle, you might want to shift your attention to these two if they find themselves on track on Saturday.
Two drivers that have been solid in the two races since we’ve been to Petty have been Shawn Turple and Cole Butcher. Turple has been quietly going about his business and has put himself back up in the top five while Butcher went out last week and won his first Pro Stock Tour race in 28 starts. Both broke right rear trailing arm brackets here in May and were up front when it happened. Turple is coming up on one year since he last won a Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race and I’m thinking with the speed the #0 has showed that this could be the night he breaks back through.
The two point leaders are good here as well. Donald Chisholm has won at every other high banked track on our circuit, except for Petty. Chisholm does have two podiums and four top five finishes though, and his teammate George Koszkulics also has a podium run here and has shown a ton of speed when Nova Racing fields two cars. Blenkhorn won our first stop here in May and has two wins at this bullring to his credit. The gap right now is seven points, and it could easily shrink even more after 100-laps on Saturday.
Darren MacKinnon and Greg Proude are running similar seasons. I say that because both have been near the front of the field in every race they have ran and are both looking to snap winless draughts. MacKinnon is on a 41-race winless streak dating back to the IWK 250 in 2011 while Proude’s also goes back to a Riverside win - the first race of the 2010 season, which was 62 races ago. Hard to believe it has been that long for both, but with the way they are going, both will come to an end in 2015, one of which could cease this weekend!
If you want a pick that might win your pre-race pool with some of your buddies, I would go with Marty Prevost. Marty has two top fives this season, including one here at Petty in May and last weekend at Scotia Speedworld. At Scotia Speedworld, Marty fought back from the rear of the field to finish fourth, while the first race at Petty he had an incredible short to mid run car which also resulted in a fourth place finish.
Statistically, this is Dylan Gosbee’s best race track. Gosbee has one career Tour win here, two podium finishes, three top fives and four top tens. With the Lap One, Turn One wreck in May, he really did not have enough car to stretch his legs over 100 laps after getting dinged up in the melee. Same can be said for Kent Vincent, who also has one win here and six top ten finishes. Vincent, like MacKinnon, is riding a 41-race winless draught, something that could come to an end this weekend with some speed in the Vector Aerospace Dodge.
New Brunswick will be well represented on Saturday, and while Sarah McKay will be a prime contender on Saturday track on a track she has enjoyed success at, I look for Ken MacKenzie Sr to have a good run. That team, led by Drew Lewis and Kenny Jr, show up every week to have some fun. It is Senior’s final full time season behind the wheel as he is prepared to hang the “full time” helmet up at the end of the year to focus on his son’s racing career. You’ll be able to see Junior run on Saturday night in the CMax Street Stocks - and that kid can drive! He’ll be a star on our series in a few years, I’m sure, he’s certainly got the potential to mix it up with the best in the region. In the meantime, watch for the older guy with the biggest smile on his face in the #85 car as he makes his fifth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour start.
This should also be the debut for the season of Steve Halpin. The GD Fabrication team led by Geoffrey “Hollywood” Armstrong has been busy since a pre-season crash derailed the plans for the #03 team. Halpin is a former Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year on this series and knows what it takes to claw his way to the front of the field. Keep a half eye on the #03 car Saturday!
We are also expecting to see Michael Kyle and Tim Rodgers Saturday. Rodgers missed our first race at Petty due to last minute work commitments while Kyle made his Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour debut with a 14th place finish.
Of course, there are more that will be vying for a win Saturday night if all the right cards fall into place. Terry Dougay is a fan of these high banked tracks and will look to turn some heads Saturday. Shawn Pierce and his team have the car back together after some long hours in the shop and are ready for the Petty haul. Rookies DJ Casey and Joel Hickox should be in the mix when push comes to shove at the end of the race. Craig Slaunwhite is also ready to go and is excited to get to Petty Raceway after a good run in the first 90% of the Nova Truck Centres 150.
Whether you are coming to see the potential fireworks between rivals, whether Cole Butcher can double up after his first trip to victory lane, a home province star defend his or her home turf or whether you’re just coming to see a good race, you are in for a great show on Saturday. If you see Gary Jamieson or any of the folks from Linde, be sure to thank them. They have been a longtime sponsor on the Tour and have stepped up to present this race. I think they picked a good one to be a part of.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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