Race Notebook: Dartmouth Dodge 200 @ Scotia Speedworld
Okay, so I’m sure you’re wondering, it is almost a month after the checkered flag fell on the Dartmouth Dodge 200. It is the week after Thanksgiving. Most race tracks in this region are sitting quiet now and most others are planning banquets, ours is in a month overlooking the Dartmouth waterfront.
So, why is this article “late” as opposed to most post race pieces from me? Well, there is a good reason.
Many that I spoke with after the race, whether it be fans, crew members, officials, any one that was at Scotia Speedworld for the Dartmouth Dodge 200, said it was the best race they had seen all season. Some went as far to say it was the best race they have seen on at Scotia Speedworld or on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in years.
Some will say that after seeing the incredible battles we saw throughout the show immediately after because of the shock value of the show. Think about this, you go and you see a movie. You think to yourself that it was the best movie you’ve ever seen. You think that until you go see another movie a few weeks or months down the road and you say the same thing about that.
After letting it sink in for over a month, fans are still raving about the race. Even some that weren’t there and went back to listen at the Race Time Radio archive are thinking the same thing, kicking themselves for not being there.
Donald Chisholm started on the pole and hung out in the top five in the early laps of the race before a spin in Turn Two in front of half the pack sent him to the rear of the field and some race fans gasping for air. Like Chisholm has done all season though, he got up on the wheel of the #89 Nova Construction/Keltic Ford Fusion and drove it up through traffic and to the front of the field. With the low attrition rate we had and the talent we had in the 20 car field, Chisholm had to stay cool as a cucumber, working his way methodically through the field. About 70 laps later at the halfway break, the #89 was firmly in the top ten and within championship contention with the two in front of him going for the title.
The two youngsters running for the championship with Chisholm that night, Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher, ran a majority of 175 laps side-by-side at the head of the field. If they weren’t side-by-side, they were chasing each other around the track within a car length from one another’s bumper waiting for the next chance to open. One car and driver preferred the bottom of the track, one liked the high side. It was exceptional two groove racing at a track that we typically don’t see that out of, at least not from green to checkered.
The respect value between those two was evident from the start of their battle as well. Sure, they touched doors dozens of times in the battle and Butcher did what he had to do at the end to try and win, but show me another driver that wouldn’t have.
While they swapped the lead amongst themselves an incredible 26 times over 200 laps and they ended up putting on a show both drivers can be proud of, the championship ultimately because of where the #89 finished, did not rest in their hands. By the intensity of the battle though, nobody told the #53 or #67 driver, because they left it all on the table on that Saturday night.
Darren MacKinnon, the fourth factor in the championship chase, finished third and did as much as he could to contend for the title but at the end of the day would fall short of the ultimate goal. Third place at Scotia Speedworld in one of the biggest races of the season is nothing to shake a stick at though and is a perfect cap on the season for a team who celebrated in victory lane twice on the year.
While the battle up front was great and at times featured some guest appearances from drivers such as Greg Proude, who had a fourth place run to close the season out, there were battles all throughout the field. Every driver had something to race for, whether it was an on track position or a position in the point standing, meaning each driver was up on the wheel to not only obtain their goals but, in turn, it put on a show for our fans in the stands that night.
For example, Marty Prevost was well on his way to coming from last on the grid to the front of the field before crash damage put him behind the eight ball and ultimately to a 17th place finish in the race. That crash took out Craig Slaunwhite, who was a missile in the race like he had been on the tail of 2015.
Daryl Mahar was in the top ten at the end of the Dartmouth Dodge 200, finishing seventh in the race. He was one spot behind Shawn Turple, who put the Atlantic Cat 250 behind him with a sixth place run in the #0 Dexter Construction Chevrolet. Dylan Gosbee wanted more than a eighth place finish but it was enough to lock down the sixth spot in the standings. Steve Ross had his #24 car in the ninth at the finish of the Dartmouth Dodge 200, while John Flemming punctuated a dismal season following two title runs with a tenth place run.
Rookie contenders Joel Hickox and DJ Casey both finished their season on track at Scotia Speedworld and while Casey was sidelined with mechanical issues with 37 to go, he would be awarded the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award. Both drivers learned a ton over the year and their improvement was evident on track. It was great to see Alison MacKinnon on track as well to get seat time at Scotia Speedworld, a track vastly different from Oyster Bed Speedway and Petty International Raceway where he ran his two previous races with the series. It would be neat to see MacKinnon, a veteran of the sport on Prince Edward Island, run more races with the Tour in 2016!
The night did not go the way Sarah McKay, Terry Dougay, Kent Vincent, Brad Eddy or Shawn Pierce wanted it to go I’m sure, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Vincent ends the season as the Tour’s Ironman, being the only driver to compete in every series race in the 15 year history dating back to 2001.
Whatever way you slice it, there were 20 drivers in the field and 20 drivers with differing agendas heading into the season finale. Yes, the top two for a majority of the race put on a show, but so did the other 18 drivers in the race. Yes, there was a championship on the line for those four, but a handful of others had positions to race for. The track had two grooves. The moon was in the right place. However you add it up, the perfect storm was there to put on a great show and those 20 teams did not disappoint.
Now, just about a month away from the race and about seven from the next race at Scotia Speedworld, we’re all wanting more.
We’ll talk more about the championship chase on the series in the coming weeks as we get close to the banquet on November 14th at the Holiday Inn Harbourview in Dartmouth, NS.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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