Statistically Speaking, '16 Could Be Big
If you are like me, you are counting the days until Saturday, May 21st.
The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour is bound to see some change this season. With some new teams making their way to compete on the series and the off-season announcement of the most decorated champion of the 15-year Tour era in John Flemming stepping back to a part-time role, the changing of the guard continues to happen with the series.
In 2015, we saw youngsters Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher, in their third year with the series, contend for the series championship. For Butcher, last season marked his first two wins with the series, while Blenkhorn added three more wins to his resume to go with the trio of victories earned in 2014. Series veterans Darren MacKinnon and eventual champion Donald Chisholm fought for the title down to the end of the season as well, making the Dartmouth Dodge 200 one of the most intense races we have seen in the history of the series.
Where am I going with this?
I like looking at statistics and trends. In the 15 year history of the series, over 170 races, we have had 33 different feature winners with Butcher being the most recent added to that list. A total of 102 drivers have earned top ten finishes with the series, three of whom have finished in the top ten in our races 100 times or more. Statistics give us a glimpse into the past and let us look at the present drivers and what they have to do to create their own chapter in series history.
In these statistical categories (we have wins, podiums, top five and top tens tracked overall and by track in the Maritime Pro Stock Tour era), what are the stat lines that could be in for a big shift in 2016 if a driver steps up to the plate? Here are five that step out to me.
**Note, these statistics are for the Maritime Pro Stock Tour era only, which began when the series was formed in 2001. These statistics encompass the 170 races that have been contested from 2001 to 2015.
DYLAN BLENKHORN RACKING UP WINS
In the past two years, Dylan Blenkhorn went from a goose egg in the win column on our series to six. Those three wins a season have put him tied for seventh in career wins, tied with reigning IWK 250 champion Kent Vincent, 2015 International winner Craig Slaunwhite and Gordie Ryan. The three drivers he is tied with in the win column are stars of our sport and have come to their six wins in different ways. Ryan racked up his wins early in Tour history, running six full time seasons from 2001 and 2006 with one win per season. Slaunwhite’s first win came in his rookie season in 2008 at Riverside Speedway and he followed it up a few weeks later by winning the season finale in Halifax. Vincent has ran every one of the 170 races in series history with wins on the record at Oyster Bed Speedway, Petty Raceway and Riverside Speedway.
Obviously this sport can be kind or rotten to you from year to year. With the pace Blenkhorn has, he could be in the top five in wins all time with the series by the end of 2016. Standing in front of him, tied for fifth, are current champion Donald Chisholm and Jonathan Hicken with eight wins. Only four drivers (Wayne Smith - 25, John Flemming - 23, Shawn Tucker - 22 and Shawn Turple - 10) have double digit numbers in the career win column.
Here’s another statistic for you on Blenkhorn. Blenkhorn has 13 starts at Scotia Speedworld in his career in a Pro Stock car and has won four of them. If you are into numbers, a quick smash on a calculator will tell you he’s won about 31% of the time the Tour has visited Scotia Speedworld over the last 13 races. To put it in perspective, Flemming (9), Smith (7), Turple, Tucker and Ryan (5) are the only drivers to win more races at Scotia Speedworld in the Pro Stock Tour era than Blenkhorn. He is also one of three drivers (Hicken - 3, Tucker - 2) to win multiple Tour stops at Petty International Raceway.
In short, the stats line for Blenkhorn in three years is very, very impressive. He’s got a long way to go to be up with the “big three” of Smith, Flemming and Tucker in most categories, but I believe can be likened to Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series when it comes to racking up wins in a short period of time if he can keep up his pace. It will be interesting to see what Blenkhorn can do in 2016, but you can almost bet on a win at Scotia Speedworld at some point this season.
TURPLE, CHISHOLM, SMITH NEARING 100 TOP TEN MARK
Three drivers have the chance to join Tucker (123), Flemming (112) and Vincent (100) as drivers in Tour history with 100 or more career top tens.
The closest is Smith with 98 top tens, but with a limited schedule it might be difficult with the competition on the series to hit that mark with less than a handful of races per year. Smith’s last top ten came on International weekend in 2014, an eighth place finish in the 150-lap Pro Stock show at Petty Raceway. Since retiring from full-time competition in 2011, he has nine starts with the series.
The next drivers with a legitimate shot at 100 career top tens are Turple and Chisholm. Turple has 95 career top tens, eight of those coming in 2015. Chisholm enters with 90 top tens, which would mean he would need a top ten in 10 of the 12 races to get to 100 in 2016. While a tall order, it is not out of the question with Chisholm recording 11 top tens in his championship season in 2015.
These six drivers have some breathing room in the top ten statistical category, with the next drivers on the list, Hicken, George Koszkulics and Greg Proude all having 65 top tens in their careers.
Of note, Slaunwhite should enter the top ten in all time top tens with the series this season. Slaunwhite sits one top ten out of the mark of Maritime Motorsports Hall of Famer Mike MacKenzie, who has 56 top tens in the Pro Stock Tour era.
RIVERSIDE CAREER STATS SHOW LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
The driver statistics at Riverside International Speedway, combined with three races a year at the high banked oval, leave me to believe that we could see a shift one way or another in 2016.
Five drivers have a share of the, or sole possession of one or more of the, statistical categories at the track over 41 races at the track. Follow me here. When it comes to wins at the track, Tucker and Smith each own six victories, with Chisholm and Flemming just behind at five wins. With Chisholm still active and Flemming scaling back to a part-time schedule, those five win drivers have a potential to tie or possibly surpass those two six win drivers.
While Chisholm sits one win back of the mark for most career wins at Riverside in the Tour era, with his win last September at his home track, he took the lead in career podiums and top fives at Riverside Speedway with 16 and 21, respectively. In both, he took the lead from Tucker, who has 15 podiums and 20 top fives at Riverside.
The mark for career top tens at Riverside is set between Vincent and Koszkulics with 31 each. The two seem to go back and fourth in a season but both somehow find a way to keep it tied at the end of the year. No active driver will touch their mark in 2016 as Chisholm is the closest with 25 top tens at Riverside.
STATISTICALLY, IT’S DARYL MAHAR’S TURN TO WIN
When you look at active drivers on our series without a feature win, Daryl Mahar is near the top statistically as the best driver to not win a race on our series.
Yes, youngsters like DJ Casey and Robbie MacEwen have put up some impressive numbers without going to victory lane but when it comes to career stats of drivers that have been around for a while; Mahar is one of the best with a goose egg in the win column.
It is not without effort though. Mahar was exceptional at Scotia Speedworld in 2015 with a top five run in the rain shortened Atlantic Cat 250 and was poised for at least a top five run in the Nova Truck Center 150 before a late caution set him back in the field. He has also had some strong runs at Riverside in the past few seasons but one would have to believe with the way the #66 team ran at Scotia Speedworld last year, a victory is within reach in Halifax for Mahar.
Mahar has 32 top tens with the series, second to Chris Hughes when it comes to drivers who do not have a win on the series. His six top fives is third to Hughes and Scott Alexander (who has a PASS win, but no MPST wins) when it comes to drivers with no wins in the Tour era.
While the youngsters might race him to the mark, no pun intended, Mahar looks as ready as any driver, on track and on paper, to become the 34th different winner in Tour history.
SPEAKING OF BREAKTHROUGHS..
On the same topic as Mahar trying to break through into victory lane on the series, we have some drivers who are looking to get to victory lane at tracks they have come close to winning at.
Here are a few examples of statistically strong drivers at each of our five host tracks that haven’t cracked victory lane.
Scotia Speedworld: Donald Chisholm and Kent Vincent
Chisholm leads all drivers in podiums (7), top fives (16) and top tens (35) at Scotia Speedworld that also have zeros in the win column at the tough track. Vincent has similar stats with four podiums, 11 top fives and 27 top tens. Both are proven winners at Oyster Bed Speedway and Riverside Speedway with Chisholm owning wins at Speedway 660 and Vincent at Petty Raceway, but both veterans are winless in Halifax.
Riverside Speedway: Jonathan Hicken
Hicken is such a versatile driver and is a threat at every Tour stop, but has yet to win at Riverside International Speedway. He leads all active drivers with three podiums, seven top fives and 16 top tens without a win at the high banked oval.
Petty Raceway: John Flemming and Greg Proude
While Flemming is near the top of many statistical categories all time on the Tour, this one is surprising. Yes, the #97 team won an open Pro Stock show at Petty Raceway a few years ago but never a Pro Stock Tour feature. He leads all drivers with 13 top tens at the track and has four top fives and a podium in Pro Stock Tour competition, but no win.
His Dodge cohort in Proude has been close many times without a win on the high banks. Proude has four podiums, six top fives and nine top tens and would be one you could look at putting money down if you are looking at drivers scoring wins at Petty that have yet to do so.
Oyster Bed Speedway: Shawn Turple
Turple has won at four of the five active Pro Stock Tour tracks in his career with Oyster Bed Speedway being the only jewel missing in his crown. The two-time champion has three podiums, five top fives and 12 top tens at the track and is only second to Chris Hughes in those stats categories that do not have a win. With Hughes focusing on a Late Model effort weekly at the Oyster Bed oval, Turple is statistically the best active driver without a win at the track.
Speedway 660: Kent Vincent and Greg Proude
When you look at the statistics at Speedway 660, the drivers that are good there are really good. Vincent and Proude have yet to land on the podium in a Tour race at the track but each own top fives (two for Vincent, four for Proude) and top tens (11 for Vincent and nine for Proude) at the tight bullring.
There are some numbers and thoughts to chew on over the next couple of weeks. Once our registration office opens in the next week or so, we can start analyzing the season. There are new teams coming to compete on our series and there are established teams that have new cars. At the end of the day, they are all looking for victory lane in a chase to re-write the history books on the Tour.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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