Race Preview: Lucas Oil 100 @ Oyster Bed Speedway
We head into our only stop on Prince Edward Island with two critical races within the Lucas Oil 100 - the race for the win and the race for the points championship.
Let’s attack the championship battle first, because it is a pretty unique one with five races to go. We have four surefire championship contenders, one driver that’s one slip from falling out of the picture and a bunch of others that are pressing the panic button after the IWK 250. New point leader Donald Chisholm, two-time feature winners in 2015 Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher along with Petty Raceway Linde 100 winner Darren MacKinnon have 21 points amongst them after seven races. The top three in this battle only have eight markers between them. Shawn Turple, the only former series champion in the top five in the standings, sits 53 points out.
So, with a 21 car field (using that as an expected average over the next five races, and a round number of points is easier to work with), the maximum amount of points a driver can gain on another is 50 points. Each position on track is worth two more than the next, with the winner of each feature receiving 200 points. If a driver leads a lap, he receives a one-time per race lap leader bonus of five points. The driver who leads the most laps will receive five points, for a maximum point total of 210 points. The 21st place car in the feature receives 160 points - for a 50 point difference possible between first and 21st in a race.
You would think that the two more experienced of the top four would have the upper hand here and rightfully so too, because Darren MacKinnon and point leader Donald Chisholm each have a win at Oyster Bed Speedway. MacKinnon’s win came in his breakout season of 2011, while Chisholm stood on the same ground in Oyster Bed Bridge in 2012. MacKinnon has one win this season, Chisholm has come close on a few occasions. With the way his season has gone and his record at his home track, it would be hard to bet against MacKinnon to close up the point picture after 100 laps in Oyster Bed Bridge, but it would also be hard to bet against Chisholm being within the top five after the Lucas Oil 100 concludes.
Of the two youngsters in this point battle, it is Butcher with the edge on paper. Butcher was stout here, scoring a fourth place finish and was a factor in the battle for the win. Dylan Blenkhorn has one top ten finish here but has been involved in more messes here than good finishes. Anyone remember when and Denver Foran got together a couple years ago in that spectacular heat race wreck? Last year, Blenkhorn and Robbie MacLean swapped paint, sending both to the pit with crash damage with nine to go. Keep in mind what Blenkhorn did last year though after that race on the Island - he was standing in victory lane as the winner of the Atlantic Cat 250.
On the edge of this picture, his championship dreams for a third title teetering over the side of the drop, is Shawn Turple. Turple will be the first to tell you that this track is his toughest and is one of the most successful active drivers there without a win with three podiums, five top fives and 12 top tens. It is the only active track on the series he has yet to win yet and would join an elite list of only 13 that have won here in Tour competition. For the sake of his Tour championship hopes though, he needs to put “consistency” behind him this weekend and trade it in for a checkered flag, or at least a podium finish, to put himself back in within that 50 point window, which he is just outside of right now.
This is where we transfer from the championship battle to the race win battle, and we’ll start with Greg Proude and IWK 250 winner Kent Vincent. Both within 90 points of the top spot with five races to go, neither are mathematically eliminated from the title chase but they are sitting at the bottom of a steep hill, wouldn’t call it a mountain yet, with a lot of climbers closer to the top than they are. Both are multi-time winners at Oyster Bed Speedway with Proude owning three wins to Vincent’s two and are prime candidates to add to their win total in front of their home fans Saturday night.
Also joining the Island contingent trying to defend their home turf include third place finisher in the IWK 250 in Robbie MacEwen, last year’s Lucas Oil 100 at Oyster Bed Speedway winner Jonathan Hicken, a former Parts for Trucks Tour feature winner at Petty Raceway in Dylan Gosbee, former Oyster Bed Late Model champions Terry Dougay and Joel Hickox and current Late Model division driver Alison MacKinnon. With about half the field comprised of Island drivers, there is a good chance there will be an Island driver in victory lane.
The last time a non-Island driver won this race was John Flemming back in 2013. Flemming finished second here last year en route to his fifth Tour championship but this has been a severely “hot and cold” season for Flemming’s team. The team continues to struggle with the new car they have and after a dismal IWK 250, they sit tenth in points, 117 points out of the championship. Flemming has the series lead for career wins at Oyster Bed Speedway with five, and while it is in no danger this year (Wayne Smith (4) isn’t racing and Jonathan Hicken and Greg Proude each have three), whether he can extend that mark is very much up in the air.
Craig Slaunwhite is excited to get to Oyster Bed Speedway. He has never won there before but the car came within 30 laps of making Maritime history last weekend by nearly winning the IWK 250. He’s never won at Oyster Bed, but has a podium, three top fives and six top tens at this track and with the car turned around he should be a threat to win.
Watch for Sarah McKay to be strong here too. McKay was within the top ten here last year before a late race incident took her out of top ten contention. You best believe that after a top 15 finish in the IWK 250 that she will be chomping at the bit to get at Oyster Bed Speedway.
How big would it be for DJ Casey to win this thing on Saturday night?! Sure, his name might not be as well known in Prince Edward Island, but the kid just finished second in the IWK 250 and he has been strong at Petty Raceway, another high banked track on our schedule. It would not surprise me one bit to see Casey take home his first win Saturday night, but again, the track is a tough bullring. Keep an eye on the #94.
Eighteen cars expected, all of which have a chance to win. Everyone within this series is so tight, I can’t really tell you who is going to win, unless you want to wait until 50 feet prior to the finish of the Lucas Oil 100.
I said it at the start of the season and stand by it that this might very well be the card of the season. Besides our series, we have the Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends Tour and the Oyster Bed Speedway Street Stocks on our card, both contesting 50 lap features. Their Street Stock class on the Island is always incredible racing, one of the best Street Stock classes you’ll find out east. Add the Legends for the Action Car and Truck Accessories 50 to the night and you have three big races, all for one night. If you haven’t booked your travel arrangements for the Island, do it now, you’ll thank me later!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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