Turn Up The Heat(s)
It may have slipped by you, but the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour has made a pretty big change to the way teams qualify for the main features on the series.
The series will now set their fields by heat race qualifying, meaning we will not see the traditional Time Trials and Dash since they were brought into procedures in 2004. Those two laps that comprised Time Trials will essentially be rolled into the heat races, as the heat race length moves from 10-laps to 15-laps in 2016.
From the drivers, teams and fans that I’ve spoke with, they love the change and here are a few reasons why.
What I really like about this format compared to the previous format is that the heat races will mean something, in more ways than one. Last year, 75% of the feature winners (nine of the 12) qualified for the feature through the Dash for Cash. Once a driver locked himself into the Dash for Cash, he was guaranteed a top six, seven or eight starting spot regardless where he finished in the 10-lap race following the Dash Draw. If a driver drew near the rear of dash, nine times out of ten, they wouldn’t be pushing to the front of the field in that short period of time as to not burn up their tires and risk the potential of a crash trying to get to the front. Sure, your top few drivers would still race hard to try and get the pole and the potential of five bonus points for leading a lap in the main, but you would see others “take it easy” in preparation for the feature upcoming.
In 2016, drivers will draw for their heat race starting positions in the drivers meeting. This is meaningful for two reasons.
With the talent we have in this series, we are more than likely have each driver draw a bad number at some point in the season. Picture a driver like Donald Chisholm drawing last in an eight car heat at Riverside, Jonathan Hicken pulling scratch at Oyster Bed Speedway or Shawn Turple having to come from the rear of his heat at Scotia Speedworld. In the past, these drivers would be able to get up on the wheel, whip off a fast lap and be in the Dash and, case in point above, would be guaranteed a starting spot in the top third of the field. With your heat finish determining your starting position, the heats become more meaningful.
Take our first race at Scotia Speedworld for example. Let’s say Turple draws eighth in the third heat. If Turple finishes fourth in that heat, he would start 12th in the feature. Yes, the first race is typically unpredictable and 12th might not seem like a big number, but it’s only an 100-lap feature and if that were to go green to checkered without a caution, Turple, or anyone in his situation, would be behind the eight ball.
Essentially, the potential is great to have some really exciting 15-lap heat races throughout the season.
On the other side of the coin, at some points this year it will give a driver who were mired in Time Trials under our old format to get a good draw and start up front at some point in a heat race. That draw could potentially get that driver a good starting position in the feature and they would have a chance to run up front with the guys who seemingly are there every week.
I had a chat with Maritime Motorsports Hall of Famer Mike MacKenzie at Radical Speedsport in Moncton last month and the qualifying format came up in conversation. One point he brought up and I agree with him on, is that this format will help further develop racers within this series. Under this structure, one of those drivers that might not be accustomed to running up front will get a shot at racing with race winners and champions up front in the heats and potentially the features. It will help further their skills and “racecraft” of racing with faster traffic, which will help bring them from a driver struggling to get top ten finishes to a threat each week. It might not seem like much, but it is sure to help with the progression of the learning curve of a driver and, at the end of the day, bring the close competition on our series even closer.
Yes, there is a potential to tear race cars up but at the end of the day it’s racing, cars will get damaged especially in the tight confines of the short tracks we race on.
If you are skeptical about this change, I invite you to join us for the Lucas Oil 100 at Scotia Speedworld on May 21st. Regardless of how the heats work out and who draws where, we will be in for an incredible season opener to the series. Do you remember the last time the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour was on track? It was a 200-lap feature that saw 26 lead changes with the top two running the better part of 180 laps side-by-side. Yes, now you remember I’m sure!
Speaking of Race Time Radio, Joe also made an announcement that every time the RTR crew is in town to cover a Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race, they will originate their two hour SiriusXM Sunday show from the Wooden Door Bistro, which is located behind Scotia Speedworld in the Quality Inn Halifax Airport. We invite everyone out to enjoy some great race talk and a bite to eat to close off the weekend in style. I will say, they make some really good burgers and I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve had at the Wooden Door Bistro.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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