Race Preview: Lucas Oil 150 @ Riverside Speedway
Welcome back to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour.
I hope you enjoyed the last two weeks off. If you were like me, you kept busy but I will tell you, the buzz around this weekend’s race is pretty huge.
From Newfoundland to New Brunswick and all points in between in the Atlantic region, everyone is talking about this point battle we have on our hands with just two races to go.
Within this battle, you have a veteran of the series that has been around since Day One, one of the original “young guns” of Pro Stock racing in the region and the two youngsters that have become the talk of the town. Three of those drivers have won a pair of races each this season, one driver, the one that is leading the standings, has yet to win once.
With Donald Chisholm, Dylan Blenkhorn, Darren MacKinnon and Cole Butcher all having successful pasts at Riverside International Speedway and Scotia Speedworld, this battle will be one for the ages.
Statistically, and this should come as no surprise, Chisholm is the best of the four at Riverside. Four of Chisholm’s seven Tour wins have come at Riverside Speedway, and he owns 15 podium finishes at the track, a record he shares on the series with Shawn Tucker.
Yes, I understand Chisholm has been at this longer than the other three in the fight, but their stats are pretty respectable at this track too. MacKinnon has five top fives at Riverside, compared to Butcher’s three and Blenkhorn’s two. MacKinnon has four podium runs compared to one each for Butcher and Blenkhorn. MacKinnon also has a win while the two youngsters have yet to score a victory at the famed high banked oval.
I focus in on those top five and podium finish numbers, because if these four want to be within striking distance of each other heading into the Dartmouth Dodge 200, they cannot afford a misstep this weekend. The top four only have 18 points between them and with their records at Riverside, it is quite possible that number becomes smaller after Saturday
night’s Lucas Oil 100.
Oh, did I mention there is also, I don’t know, a race to contest on Saturday too?
When you look at drivers holding hot hands, I think you have to look at Craig Slaunwhite as the driver to beat at Riverside International Speedway on Saturday night. If you can remember, Slaunwhite was within 30 laps or so of winning the IWK 250 before he found himself tangled up with Blenkhorn and out of a winning position. Since then, he has been on a mission. He has finished no worse than second in our last three Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour races, including a win in our most recent race two weeks ago at Petty Raceway. He went up to Speedway 660 last week and was on the podium in third in their 250-lap Pro Stock race.
Think about that, in his last four races, he has finished no worse than third. That’s impressive and reminds me of the run Shawn Tucker was on a couple years ago where he won almost everything in sight at the end of the year.
You’ve got a few other drivers like Greg Proude, Dylan Gosbee and Kent Vincent that have seen some better runs late in this season. Vincent is our most recent winner here where he beat freshmen DJ Casey and Robbie MacEwen for the IWK 250 win. MacEwen will be back on Saturday, while DJ Casey will be running a borrowed ride from Wayne Smith to compete at Riverside Speedway after his primary car was wrecked at Petty Raceway.
Let’s call a spade a spade, Shawn Turple’s second half of 2015 has been pretty dismal. Turple started off the season hot and was looking poised for a third championship but the team has struggled on the back half of the summer. Hopefully this is the race that the #0 team can turn it around, because nobody likes seeing someone struggle like Turple has the last couple of races.
Speaking of the struggle bus, John Flemming has been riding it all season.
Flemming heads into Riverside Speedway after an interesting weekend in the 250 at Speedway 660. After blowing a motor in practice, Flemming borrowed a race car to compete in the race from Lonnie Sommerville. Flemming drove the car from the back of the field and was running within the top five before a big wreck inside 100 laps to go ended the race for many of the top runners.
The point is, while some may have thought this new car Flemming and his team are trying to dial in may have hampered Flemming’s competitive edge and fire, those critics were quickly silenced Sunday in Geary. Whenever they can finally tame that new car, Flemming will be tough to beat and hopefully this is the week they can find something.
I’ll leave you with this, if you are looking for a surefire race contender to pick in your pool with your friends, along with Craig Slaunwhite, I really like Greg Proude. Proude was so quick here in July but an early mechanical failure put him out by the time the first five laps were completed. Greg was good at Petty Raceway, finishing third, and has had a few really solid runs this year. I think this is the race that Proude may end the draught like Slaunwhite did in our last event.
Keep in mind though, there will be another dozen or so drivers that we haven’t mentioned that will look to upset the apple cart with two races to go. Whichever way you look at it, this will be a fantastic night of racing.
Before I sign off, I want to send my thoughts out to the family and friends of Dave Mutch after his passing on Monday. Dave was one of the nicest guys you would ever have the chance of meeting in our pit area and I had the chance to catch up with him on many occasions since I joined the Tour back in 2008. He took pride in his #91 car and was the first one to the car when Dylan won his first race a few years back at Petty Raceway. He was always so positive. His smile and personality would light up any conversation and it was so great to have him around.
We have lost one of the best to ever enter our pit area. My heart hurts for Jeni, Luke, Jack and the entire #91 team. Thanks for helping make this sport what it is Dave. You will be greatly missed.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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