Race Notebook: IWK 250 Presented By Steve Lewis Auto Body
Well, that was certainly an IWK 250 to remember.
That race had so many twists and turns, especially in the last 35 laps, that I don’t think anyone predicted what could have happened. If you had picked the podium finishers on Saturday, I hope you took it to Vegas because you would have cashed in big.
Let’s start at the top. While all fans have their favorites, it’s really hard to be upset seeing Kent Vincent in victory lane. Vincent and his team have struggled pretty hard over the last year and a half with this race car but showed some glimmers of hope at the start of the season with speed in their car. They’ve even struggled outside the car. Vincent blew the rear end in his truck he hauls his trailer with at Scotia Speedworld back in June and had to borrow a truck for two races to get to the track. The team almost missed Geary because of the issue, but they put their heads down and got to it.
For most part of the IWK 250, Vincent hung out within the top ten, then he knocked on the door of the top five and after the craziness that happened in front of him, he ended up running in the top two. He took the lead from DJ Casey on a late restart and held off the hungry rookie for his second IWK 250 victory.
The victory lane celebration was something special. Kent’s crew was pumped up, and rightfully so, they just won the biggest race in Canada. One of the first to the car after Kent emerged from the #8 Vector Aerospace/H&P Glover Inc. Dodge was his father Alan. After victory lane, I got to speak to Alan, who had a pretty firm grip on the Silver Plate that comes with the victory in the IWK 250 and the new John W. Chisholm Memorial Cup, and he drove a simple point home as he made his way down pit road. There are a ton of great drivers that go their whole racing career and never win a 250. Kent Vincent has two now.
Behind Kent at the line was DJ Casey. DJ started 27th in the IWK 250 and methodically worked his way up through the field. When all the crazy broke out, DJ was in the right place at the right time, even leading eight laps of the race. Sure, Casey is a rookie, he is leading the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year chase, but he showed patience well beyond his years Saturday night, riding behind Vincent after losing the lead. On Race Time Radio Monday, Vincent even said “DJ could have dumped me numerous times, but he didn’t. He raced me clean, hats off to him.”
Coming from a veteran, that’s quite the tip of the cap to DJ Casey.
Casey is the future of our sport. He grew up racing Bandoleros at Scotia Speedworld with his family around him. His parents were there Saturday night, and I haven’t seen them this happy in a long time. Even Krista said he watched the final 50 laps intently. Not bad for someone who headed for the gate every time DJ took the green flag in a Bandolero or Sportsman in Halifax, not being able to watch with nerves taking over.
For a kid that dreamed that he would one day race on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, to finish runner-up in one of the biggest summer sporting events in the province, that’s huge.
How about Robbie MacEwen?! The team had struggled previously to finish a race, whether it had been mechanical or an on track incident taking them out of a race, the team finally finished one - and it happened to be the biggest one of the year. The team is made up a lot of young crew members in their first Pro Stock Tour adventure together, but many have experience on other teams. They worked their way up through the Late Model division at Oyster Bed Speedway, but, like Casey, this was their first 250. To be consistent all day and turn up the wick when it counted says something for MacEwen and his team.
Two rookies on the podium for the IWK 250? I’d say the future is here.
A good eight or so drivers emerged in the final 50 laps as contenders, but with 20 laps to go, they were nowhere to be found.
Let’s begin with Donald Chisholm. Things went sour for him early with a spin within the first handful of laps that sent him to the rear of the pack. Chisholm would regain the lead and was the leader when the skies opened up briefly for a quick passing shower that dampened the track, but wasn’t enough to lose the racing surface to the weather. When we went back to green, Jeff Fultz, who led a ton of laps in the IWK 250, got into the back of Chisholm and sent him for a spin, which would also collect Dylan Gosbee.
Then, there was Craig Slaunwhite, who was looking to make history by becoming the first driver to win all three Maritime 250s, and point leader Dylan Blenkhorn coming together. Blenkhorn and his team had spent the whole autograph session putting together the front end of the car after a hard lick into the inside during the Dash for Cash. Whatever magic they put into the car worked, because Blenkhorn was working over Slaunwhite for the lead in the race when the two made contact coming up out of Turn Two. The contact smooshed Blenkhorn’s #67 car into the wall and gave it enough damage to force him to pit road for the night.
Cole Butcher and Darren MacKinnon carried the two hottest hands on our series into the IWK 250, but even they couldn’t get around each other to win the biggest race of the year. Butcher was riding the back bumper of MacKinnon for numerous laps and would get into Turn Three a bit too hot on one of those laps, sending the #18 hard into the wall.
Greg Proude’s chances at the IWK 250 were over early with a broken axel tube on his car. Matt Crafton led laps early and looked poised to win the IWK 250 in his second attempt at the race, but an apparent brake problem lit the right front of the #15c ablaze, ending his night before halfway. John Flemming’s bid for a third IWK 250 also ended on pit road with mechanical problems to his #97. Jonathan Hicken and Jerome Kehoe were taken out early in separate incidents. The list that had their IWK 250 dreams shattered is plentiful, and they can only sit back and think about what might have been.
Great to see Greg Fahey score a top ten finish in the biggest race of the year. Fahey runs out of Speedway 660 and had former IWK 250 champion Shawn Tucker’s car and his assistance at the track on Saturday night. Fahey was quiet most of the night and turned up the heat in the final 50 laps to take a top ten finish. Not bad for a guy that missed the autograph session and started 26th, eh?!
After working hard all season, Steve Ross was in the top ten in the biggest race of the year. Ross, who was one of the teams to quickly pick up on the bump stop set up on his car at the start of the year, worked through a bevy of mechanical issues with the 24 car. It all held together for Ross on the night, taking home a top ten, lead lap finish. It only sets up well for the team that we will see again in a couple weeks at the Atlantic Cat 250, his home track. Could this be setting up for a strong stretch run for the #24 team.
Shawn Turple had a decent run throughout the day, which also resulted in a top ten run for the team. At the end of the day, while a seventh place finish might not be indicative of how he ran throughout the afternoon, it still keeps him alive in the point picture as we roll into Oyster Bed Bridge next weekend.
It was an incredible experience and it is hard to cram everything that happened at the IWK 250 into this space. Hopefully you were one of the over 8,000 that got to live it live, or one of the over 228,000 that listened on Race Time Radio. Kudos to the staff at the track for their wonderful hospitality once again, we’re already counting the day until the 2016 IWK 250.
We’ll be sure to talk a little more about this race as we preview the Lucas Oil 100 at Oyster Bed Speedway next weekend. We have ourselves a tight little point battle after Riverside Speedway, with Donald Chisholm back in control heading to a track he has won at before.
Until next week, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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