Race Notebook: Linde 100 at Petty International Raceway
By the time I am done writing this piece, I probably will spend more time than the Linde 100 actually took to run on Saturday.
But, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
We’ve had caution free races before on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, but never at Petty Raceway. Typically, you think caution free race and it is associated with a race with a lack of action. This one had a ton of excitement throughout the field, and I haven’t heard one negative comment about the show since the checkered flag went in the air Saturday night in River Glade.
With the way he was running to begin the season, we only knew it was a matter of time before Darren MacKinnon would win again on our series. He has been strong at the end of each of our races, really charging hard at the finish. This race was no exception. As he said in victory lane, Darren battled with the #0 and #99 cars for most of the first portion of the race, waited his turn and finally got past the two at halfway. He then began to run down Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher, who were together up front for most of the race. Butcher began to fade first, with MacKinnon getting him on Lap 81. Blenkhorn was next and with 11 laps to go, MacKinnon made the winning pass for his first win since the 2011 IWK 250.
The crew was telling me after the race that all the numbers lined up nicely for MacKinnon. Think about this, in all three practices, MacKinnon was ninth. Okay, in a 20 car field, you might think that ninth isn’t the most desirable number, but nine is a multiple of 18. When you’re rolling dice at a casino or maybe playing a slot machine, what number do you want to appear? Seven. Darren MacKinnon drew seventh in the King Freight Dash for Cash redraw. He started in fifth. The Linde 100 was the fifth race of the season. He led the final 11 laps for his first win since 2011. Every number has something special behind it when it happened on Saturday.
Before MacKinnon, it was Blenkhorn and Butcher up front. Well, the stat line will show Blenkhorn led the first 89 laps, and that he did, but most of those were with the #53 Atlantic Tiltload/Top Construction Chevrolet tucked up under him. There were even a few moments where Butcher went low on Blenkhorn to challenge for the lead but to no avail. Blenkhorn said in victory lane he drove the right rear tire almost off the car and that contributed to his backslide. Butcher got passed late in the run by Craig Slaunwhite, who, like MacKinnon, had a fast piece at the end of the race and had saved for the late run.
Looking at timing, and keep in mind it is hard to tell when these guys catch traffic, but the #18 and the #99 were clicking lap times off about the same pace. One would gain a tenth on the other, one would lose one the next lap. These guys though, at the end of the race, were a couple tenths a lap quicker consistently than the rest of the field.
Donald Chisholm entered the point leader and came out 13 points in the rearview of Blenkhorn, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Nova Racing team was busy putting together an axle along with the snout on the rear end that broke before final practice on Saturday. They got the thing back together and Chisholm got up on the wheel during the race, finishing seventh and was one of the faster cars outside of Mackinnon and Slaunwhite near the end.
For a while, three of our five Dodge drivers were running within a pack. Greg Proude, John Flemming and Kent Vincent, who finally turned his luck around with a Dash appearance and a top ten run, put on a show throughout the race. Proude was consistent, finishing behind Shawn Turple in sixth. Vincent was solid in eighth and Flemming faded a bit at the end to ninth. Our top rookie, DJ Casey, finished tenth after the team had to put together a rear end following the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials. Not bad to come from the rear of the field in a caution free race!
Flemming and Jonathan Hicken both kind of hinted at their rivalry not being over. When asked, both drivers gave the “you’ll have to talk to him about that” line. They were not near each other during the race, but played some mind games with each other during the second practice when they were the only two on the track. One would slow down, let the other pass and then speed up when the gap was great enough. Take it for what it’s worth, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that show.
Think about it though, the Linde 100 runs green to checkered without a caution in just a shade under 25 minutes. A total of 19 cars started, not one car entered or exited the pits and 11 of them finished on the lead lap. Michael Kyle finished 19th, only four laps down. That says something for the competition of this series and how close it is. We also have four different winners in five races. The action so far this season has been nothing short of exciting!
Tip of the cap to the Butcher Racing team for loaning a motor to Sarah McKay and the #32 camp after theirs began to go sour following an early practice run. Great effort by the team to change the motor and get Sarah back out on track for her heat race.
For those that have asked, and I’m not going into great detail why, but King Racing did not pass pre-race inspection on Saturday and opted not to run the Linde 100. The tech team tells me it is an issue that was discovered at an event prior to Saturday and the team had more than a week to fix the issue. Nobody likes seeing a car load up prior to racing, but you have to give the entire technical staff a tip of the cap for being fair across the board. This isn’t the first time a team on the series has failed a pre or post race inspection after giving ample time to fix an issue.
Now we head to Speedway 660, a track that can go either way. We’ve seen clean races there and we’ve also seen, let’s call them, eventful races there as well. We will preview the upcoming Cummins 100 later in the week.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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