Race Preview: Atlantic Cat 250 @ Scotia Speedworld
Last weekend was big on Prince Edward Island, and this weekend is shaping up to be even bigger.
Sure, this weekend is the Atlantic Cat 250 at Scotia Speedworld, but we head into it with one of the tightest point battles in series history with only four races to go. With Darren MacKinnon’s big win at Oyster Bed Speedway and a subpar race by the three drivers he is battling in the point standings, it was the #18 that vaulted to the top of the point picture. He entered fourth and now he has a 15 point gap on that fourth place driver in the standings.
Fifteen points between the top four. Let that digest a bit.
We knew going into Oyster Bed Speedway that it was a fickle animal. We knew Donald Chisholm and Darren Mackinnon had each won there before and both would be strong. They were. We also knew that passing and track position was at a premium and the driver who could pull off moves would be the one that would likely be in victory lane. When Chisholm went to the rear of the field, he could not recover to where he was running. Mackinnon, on the other hand, started sixth and could pass wherever he put the #18 Shaw’s Towing Chevrolet.
Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher struggled throughout the evening and came home seventh and tenth, respectively, with Chisholm in 12th.
Why are we talking points off the top in such a big race?! Well, when you look at previous results from this year, the point picture has the potential to get tighter after Saturday night.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that could go into the equation in a 250-lap race. We don’t need to look far in the rearview mirror to see how crazy the final 33 laps were in the IWK 250. The first two races at Scotia Speedworld this season will show that these four are pretty darn good in Halifax and not only are they in the point chase, they have to be considered contenders for Saturday night’s Atlantic Cat 250.
Sure, Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher have won the two races contested here thus far in 2015. They are also the only two drivers to score top five in both Scotia Speedworld races this season. Donald Chisholm has two top six finishes while Darren Mackinnon was second here in June but a late spin in May put him back to ninth at the end of the race. It should also be noted that Chisholm and Mackinnon, who have run strong all year, have never won at Scotia Speedworld in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour action. I don’t think you can give any of these four the upper hand on the other when it comes to leaving Scotia Speedworld with either the point lead or the prestigious dump truck trophy for winning the Atlantic Cat 250.
Oh yeah, there are about 20 others looking to win this race too.
The Dexter Racing team has to be high on the list for favorites. Shawn Turple was really good here in May and with the #0 team coming off a last place finish last week on the Island, you best believe Turple wants nothing more than to hold the checkered flag for his first 250 win on Saturday.
He’ll have a teammate for this race – Cale Gale. I’m really excited to see Cale run here, especially with his extensive short track and NASCAR background. We know he is going to be in good equipment. We know he can wheel with the best in North America. Now, how quick can he adjust to the tight Scotia Speedworld oval?
It’s expected we’ll also see Cassius Clark at the Atlantic Cat 250. Clark is a former winner of the event and a former Pro All Stars Series North Champion and the competition always ramps up their games when Clark is on the track. He and the King Racing team are coming off a podium run at an open race at Speedway 660 in July and will look to move up the ladder to P1 this weekend.
We’ll have a lot of Island contingent at this race, and besides Darren Mackinnon, you would have to believe that Dylan Gosbee and Greg Proude are near the top of the odds cards on Saturday. Both have podiums at Scotia Speedworld this season and have shown great runs throughout our first eight races but have missed victory lane. Remember Gosbee’s spirited run to the front in the Lucas Oil 100 in May after being at the back? Think back to last week now when Gosbee started last in the Lucas Oil 100 at Oyster Bed Speedway and his spirited run back up to the podium on home soil. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see the #91 team in victory lane on Saturday.
They’ll also be joined by the likes of Terry Dougay, Exide Batteries Rookie Joel Hickox, IWK 250 winner Kent Vincent, Jonathan Hicken and they tell me Robbie MacEwen may be making the haul over as well. For Halifax fans that have yet to see Robbie wheel a race car, you are in for quite the treat. The #40 team finished third in the IWK 250 but this is his first trip to Scotia Speedworld and first trip to a non-high banked oval. If he can adapt to the Speedworld oval quickly, he’ll be a very dangerous threat for the Atlantic Cat 250 title Saturday.
Sarah McKay will be joined in the fifth 250 of her career by a first time Atlantic Cat 250 competitor from her home province in Brady Creamer. Creamer has ran with us in the past, but never in one of our extended 250 lap races. Creamer has Legend and Sportsman experience at Scotia Speedworld, including a top five run in a Sportsman car in his last Halifax appearance in May 2013. McKay has been knocking on the door of a big run at Scotia Speedworld and with a little luck on her side, this weekend could be her breakthrough run in Halifax!
I thought Shawn Pierce was on his way to a top five run last Saturday at Oyster Bed Speedway before a string of incidents put him laps down at the end of the Lucas Oil 100. Late in the race, Pierce spun in Turn Three, putting a ton of water down on the track. It turns out the water temp plug came out, spilling all the water out of the motor. Did I mention he ran up through the field early in the race on used tires because the team could not afford new tires as they were saving for the Atlantic Cat 250? The right side tires they ran at Oyster Bed, according to Pierce on social media, had 250 laps on them and the lefts had over 400 laps on them. If that is not dedication to our series, I do not know what is. Keep an eye on Pierce this weekend, he could be in for a big run after one that got away last Saturday night.
Speaking of big runs, DJ Casey is coming off one two races ago with a runner-up finish in the IWK 250. After last Saturday night’s race, the team got back to the shop and went over the car with a fine tooth comb and they believe they will be contender for another podium, or possibly their first win with the series, on Saturday night. Imagine if DJ Casey is to win this race on Saturday night, how explosive and electric the crowd would be? Casey cut his teeth at this track and I’m sure there would be an overnight party on the Prospect Road if he could pull off the big one on Saturday.
I haven’t spoken about John Flemming or Craig Slaunwhite yet but they are worth a mention here after their top five runs at Oyster Bed on Saturday. For the first time this season, Flemming looked like the Flemming of old, nearly winning the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, starting up front and leading laps before fading to fourth. Craig Slaunwhite went side-by-side for a dozen or so laps late with Mackinnon in a fantastic tilt for the lead. Slaunwhite hasn’t been to victory lane in two years, but his last one was a big one - this race in 2013. Keep in mind, he was a contender in this race last year too before he and Cassius Clark got into a romp late in the 2014 edition.
Add in top ten IWK 250 finisher Steve Ross, Daryl Mahar, Vance Hanes and the potential of drivers like Jerry Hayes, Cy Harvey, George Koszkulics and Marty Prevost, all of whom have not confirmed for the race but have been known to run the Atlantic Cat 250 in the past, and you have the makings for an incredible race.
It is set to be another incredible weekend under the lights at Scotia Speedworld. Don’t forget the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100 and the Weekly Racing Series along with the Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends Tour which will race as the undercard on Friday and Saturday night.
The only way to really experience the Atlantic Cat 250 weekend is to live it live. I hope to see you all this weekend in Halifax.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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