Race Preview: Cummins 100 at Speedway 660
We’ve spoken about odds on favorites, numbers and such this season, but it’s time to play one of the wildcards this season.
While we only go to Speedway 660 once, it pays the same amount of points as the IWK 250 will in two weeks at Riverside International Speedway. It will pay the same amount as the Atlantic Cat 250 in August at Scotia Speedworld. The Cummins 100 pays as many points as last week’s Linde 100 at Petty International Raceway put out.
My point? This is one of 12 races, sure. But, it is one of 12 races where someone could stand to gain a lot of points or shock the field. Win here, and your competitors have tough luck and you could be climbing the ladder closer to the top of the standings.
We have had four winners in five races this season, and we could very well see another one this weekend. Here’s something else too. We’ve had 26 races at Speedway 660 since 2001, and Shawn Tucker has finished every single one of them in the top ten. Unless they know something I don’t, that will come to an end this weekend with Tucker in “semi retirement.” He also owns eight wins of those 26 races contested. Next in line to Tucker are Wayne Smith and Lonnie Sommerville, who, again, as far as I know, are not racing on Saturday night.
That leaves us with three former winners at the track expected to compete with us Saturday night. John Flemming, Donald Chisholm and last year’s winner Shawn Turple each have two wins at this tight bullring. With 18 to 20 cars expected at the Cummins 100, that means about 5/6 of the field that will take the green on Saturday has never won at Speedway 660 in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour competition.
I like Shawn Turple’s record here. In addition to his two victories, he has ten podiums, a dozen top fives and 15 top tens. He’s been running strong all year and has come close to victory lane a couple times in the first five races of the year. It has been a year since he’s won and this Saturday definitely has the potential to be “Turple Time” in the Geary woods.
Not saying that Flemming and Chisholm are harder sells than Turple, but let’s look at both of them. This season, it is a tale of polar opposites. With the exception of Riverside Speedway where Flemming had a car capable of a top five, he and his #97 team have struggled mightily to get the train moving in the right direction. Flemming’s latest Speedway 660 win came here in 2013 and has that going for him. Chisholm, is the exact other side of the coin. Chisholm has had solid cars everywhere we have gone this year and has yet to finish worse than seventh, which he did last weekend at Petty Raceway. Contrary to Flemming’s recent win here though, Chisholm hasn’t won here since 2004, when he took two of three appearances by the series at Speedway 660.
When speaking with a couple of drivers last week about the track, they told me that it is not only a tough track to figure out, it is a tough track to figure out in the dark. The sightlines are completely different, the track isn’t lit as well as some of our other venues which can mess with a driver’s rhythm when s/he tries to get into one and it’s a very temperature sensitive track. Cole Butcher has yet to finish any better than 15th here in two starts, while his “rival” Dylan Blenkhorn rattled off a fourth here last season after being 17th in his first start at the track. Guys like our Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year contenders Joel Hickox and DJ Casey may struggle here but for Casey, he has Bandolero experience here a few moons ago, for whatever that is worth.
An Island driver has never won a Tour race at Speedway 660 but don’t be surprised if it changes Saturday night. Darren MacKinnon and Greg Proude have been holding the hot hands for the Island after five races with MacKinnon winning last week’s Linde 100 and Proude being in contention late in four of the five races contested this year. Ironically, of the two, the only one to have a podium at Speedway 660 is Darren MacKinnon. That was in 2011, the year MacKinnon won two races including the IWK 250. MacKinnon is on a career year, and a win here could be HUGE.
You know, Kent Vincent might not be a bad bet for at least a top five either. The veteran has 11 top tens in 26 starts and showed speed last weekend at Petty Raceway. The Vector Aerospace Dodge could play spoiler here this weekend. On the other end of the spectrum, this is statistically one of the worst tracks for Jonathan Hicken, with only one top five and four top tens at this track, but this could be the night he changes it around.
Craig Slaunwhite, who was on the podium last weekend, has one podium finish here in a Tour race. The former Pro Stock 250 champion at Speedway 660 has the bugs worked out of his car now and will look to continue momentum Saturday. He is tied for 11th in points with Casey, who leads the Exide Batteries Rookie chase and Sarah McKay, who has a top ten finish here last year. Keep an eye on that #32 car Saturday, she should be fast at her home track this weekend!
Then there are a few drivers looking to break into the stat column at Speedway 660. While Steve Halpin, Terry Dougay and Ken MacKenzie have top tens on our series, they have yet to record one at Saturday’s venue in Tour competition. Shawn Pierce and Dylan Gosbee each have one top ten at Speedway 660 and will look to add to that on Saturday night.
I’ll share you a story from last Saturday night. When I went back to pit road after the Linde 100, I spoke with Ken Mackenzie and his crew. Mackenzie, who is in his final full season behind the wheel of a Pro Stock, had a smile on his face after the race at Petty International Raceway, not because he finished the caution free affair, but because he is coming with us to Speedway 660 Saturday. “For a team like ours, I cannot describe how it feels to load race tires in that tire trailer, knowing that we’ll unload them next Saturday in Fredericton.” For a guy whose bucket list item last year was just to compete on the same track with guys like Shawn Turple, John Flemming and our field, that says volumes for not only our drivers but our series as a whole.
I’ll get a couple messages each week from fans that follow us each week asking “what’s racing with us on Saturday night?” This week, it’s Speedway 660’s Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman and DMR Auto Sales and Service Street Stock classes. The Sportsman division has a healthy mix of what Joe Chisholm would call “crafty veterans” and a bunch of kids that have amazing skill at the wheel of a race car. The Street Stocks are exciting to watch too and will be the perfect appetizer round to 100 green flag laps presented by Cummins.
Before we close this off, I want to wish a Happy Birthday to Bob Pelrine. Bob and his wife Shirley, attend all of the Parts for Trucks Tour races they can and if they’re at Speedway 660 this weekend, you’ll see him in the first set of grandstands heading up the hill toward the Alpine Zone. Bob celebrated 65 years young last Sunday, and if you see him this weekend, be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday.
I hope you can join us Saturday night in the Geary woods!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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