Race Preview: Lucas Oil 100 @ Scotia Speedworld
I’ve been waiting for this weekend since September, how about you?
On track action returns this weekend for the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour for the first time since the Dartmouth Dodge 200 about eight months ago and if you are like me, you’ve been hungry for more since the incredible action you saw in person or heard on Race Time Radio. That race had a bit of everything, from the two youngsters at the front mixing it up for the win to eventual champion Donald Chisholm having to march back to the front after an early spin to multi-car battles in the middle of the pack and everything in between. I don’t think you could have asked for not only a better finale, but a better race at Scotia Speedworld from flag to flag.
How do those drivers and teams on track top it? I’m not sure, but the answer will come to us on Saturday afternoon.
I know fans and those within the racing industry like to talk car count, and it appears as if we’ll be throwing the green flag Saturday with around a full field of 26 cars, give or take one or two. While quantity is nice, quality is the big thing within a show. The aforementioned Dartmouth Dodge 200 last year had 20 cars (18 were on track at the finish and the first retiree from the race was at Lap 163) and while it is nice to have 40 or 50 cars show up for a show, you’d be hard pressed to show me a series that continues to put on a show this series does week in and week out. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of racing over the past few seasons and there’s nothing that compares to the product on track that we have.
The talent at the top of the field will be difficult to beat on Saturday, but with the field typically being separated in practice by tenths of seconds and not full seconds, it will be hard to predict a winner. Spin a wheel, flip a few coins, throw a dart at a dartboard, whatever you want, it might be easier to do that to make your pick for a winner on Saturday.
So, to make it a bit easier, let’s break down this Saturday’s field like this.
SERIES CHAMPIONS - 2
With John Flemming stepping aside from full time competition, there are two former champions that will be on track with us on Saturday - Shawn Turple and Donald Chisholm. Shawn is a two time champion of our series while Chisholm is hot off his first title. Turple has five wins at his home track of Scotia Speedworld while Chisholm has seven podiums, 16 top five and 35 top ten finishes without a win. Essentially, Chisholm has done everything but win at Scotia Speedworld while Turple is one of the best active drivers statistically at the 3/10-mile oval.
Between the two, they own 18 wins on the series and both have a chance to eclipse the 100 top ten mark on the series, something only Shawn Tucker, Flemming and Kent Vincent have been able to do in their career with the series. Over the long haul, it will be difficult to beat these two for the 2016 title, but a strong run here could really get a title run off on the right foot for any driver in the field.
FEATURE WINNERS - 11*
Of the drivers looking to run for the first checkered flag, 11 drivers will look to be back in victory lane once again.
The current active feature win leader on the series is Turple with ten, followed by Chisholm with eight. Vincent has six wins on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, a mark shared by Dylan Blenkhorn and Craig Slaunwhite. George Koszkulics and Greg Proude own five wins on the series, Darren MacKinnon has four, Cole Butcher has two victories and Dylan Gosbee along with Marty Prevost each have won win on the series. In total, these eleven drivers represent 54 of the 170 features run in the 15 year history of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour.
FEATURE WINNERS AT SCOTIA SPEEDWORLD - 6*
Of those aforementioned 11 drivers that have won features on the series before, six of those have won races at Scotia Speedworld. Leading the way is Turple with five wins at Scotia Speedworld but is closely chased by Blenkhorn and Slaunwhite with four each and could tie Turple’s mark Saturday with another win. Prevost, Proude and Butcher have each won at Scotia Speedworld once in their career.
As a tidbit, Turple, Blenkhorn, Slaunwhite and Proude have all previously won the season opening event at Scotia Speedworld while Prevost and Butcher won their features in the mid-Summer stretch.
*Cassius Clark is not included in these numbers as the King Racing team has not officially entered the Lucas Oil 100, but in the event they do you can add Clark’s three Scotia Speedworld wins to these totals. His latest victory with the series came last year in the Atlantic Cat 250.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CHAMPIONS - 6
Six former Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award winners will be on track on Saturday, including Turple (2005), Slaunwhite (2008), “The Pride of Cape Breton” Jerome Kehoe (2010), Blenkhorn (2013), Sarah McKay (2014) and DJ Casey (2015).
Casey has made headlines over the offseason as he has been tabbed as the driver of the #97 Happy Harry’s Affordable Building Center car for Flemming Motorsports in 2016. Casey landed a podium finish last year at Riverside Speedway in the IWK 250 and showed promise in this race last year, his series debut, by running some late laps in the top five. When we look at drivers who are searching for their first Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour win, one would think Casey would be near the top of the list.
It’s great to see Kehoe and the team back with us on the series. They are a great bunch of guys and girls to have at the track and they have a lot of fun as they go about the business of stock car racing. Oh, and they have quick cars and a great driver at the wheel. Remember, this #98 team led a bunch of laps and darn near won the Dartmouth Dodge 200 in their rookie year. I’m excited to see the team from Sydney this weekend.
This could be the season that we see McKay break out. The team has been on the wrong side of the inch on a couple occasions in the way of untimely cautions trapping them a lap or two down or getting behind the eight ball with a starting position mid-pack or of the like and a little luck and circumstance could put them on the positive side of a few top ten finishes. While she excels at our New Brunswick tracks, I wouldn’t be surprised with the way some of openers have gone in the past to see McKay in the top ten at the end of Saturday’s feature.
ROOKIE CONTENDERS, SERIES DEBUTS AND BYRON - 5
There are five drivers I want to group together here because they all have something in common - this season will be a first for these drivers in some way.
Harry Ross White and Nevin Scott will be running this season full time and contend for our Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award. This battle reminds me of the Casey/Hickox battle we had last year, with one driver coming from a rich history of racing at Scotia Speedworld and the other having honed his talents at Oyster Bed Speedway. The Leonard Boutilier/Kehoe battle from 2010 comes to mind, where you had two drivers from opposite ends of Nova Scotia competing for the top freshman honor.
What I’m trying to get at is that this battle should be excellent to watch unfold all season.
HOSS should have the upper hand on Scott at Scotia Speedworld on paper. The Speedworld is a tough race track and much different from Oyster Bed Speedway. When we hit the high banked race tracks including Petty Raceway and Riverside Speedway, the scale should tip into the favor of Scott having the experience weekly at Oyster Bed. Oh boy, this is going to be some tilt for the rookie title!
From what they tell me, Byron Bartlett’s full time MASCAR endeavors in the late 90s make him ineligible for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award. Much has changed in 20 years but if there is a driver up to the task it’s Bartlett. Bartlett spent last season racing in the Sportsman division at Petty Raceway and select races throughout the region and was on Casey’s crew throughout the season, including his runner-up finish at the IWK 250. Bartlett will campaign the car previously driven by Ken Mackenzie and while we will miss Mackenzie when we go to Petty Raceway and Speedway 660, Bartlett making our series his home this year is wonderful and I’m excited to see the #7 car on Saturday.
Two drivers will look to make their series debut with us on Saturday and they have quite the resumes in a very short time. Jarrett Butcher and Nicholas Naugle call Scotia Speedworld home so it only makes sense they make their debut in the Lucas Oil 100.
Both have ran Legend cars in recent seasons and have history in Bandoleros with Butcher being a two-time track titlist in the class at Scotia Speedworld. Butcher is the reigning Scotia Speedworld Strictly Hydraulics Legends champion and Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends Tour champion while Naugle is the Canadian East Semi-Pro titlist from 2015. Naugle is also a six time winner this season in Legend car competition south of the border, his latest win coming weeks ago at South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway. Both are expected to pull double duty with their Legend programs on Saturday, joining Blenkhorn and Jarrett’s older brother Cole who will run both the Lucas Oil 100 and the 50-lap Legend feature on Saturday.
THE FIELD - 7
While they may not fit in a category above, these drivers are no slouches.
Daryl Mahar may be the one to watch out of this group on Saturday. Mahar’s program at Scotia Speedworld was pretty stout last year. Lost in the chaos of trying to beat the rain last year at the Atlantic Cat 250, Mahar finished fourth in the race. He was poised for a top five run at the Nova Truck Centres 150 before a late race incident put him back to 12th. He closed last year at the Dartmouth Dodge 200 with a top ten run in seventh. He’s got the credentials to be a winner at Scotia Speedworld, he just needs to kick that door down and one would believe he’s within leg swinging motion to do so.
Joining Mahar in the top ten at the Dartmouth Dodge 200 that is in this group is Steve Ross. Ross has had some really strong runs at Riverside and Scotia in recent years but it’s about closing the deal to get those runs on paper when we look back in times like this. Remember, Ross was fifth in this race three years ago.
Also in the top ten during the season opener in 2013 was Terry Dougay. Dougay is looking for a good run as a momentum booster for this season and the #14 team is due for another top ten run.
Joel Hickox did not start his rookie season out well last year at Scotia Speedworld but since we do not have Time Trials anymore, we don’t have to speak about that. Hickox looked poised to make a Kehoe-esque run at the Dartmouth Dodge 200 last year, making the Dash and looking like a veteran rather than a rookie at Scotia Speedworld but did not get the finish his run warranted. Watch for the double deuce to be in the mix Saturday.
Shawn Pierce is due for a good run at his home track and the Lucas Oil 100 would be a great event to do that in. Pierce has nine top tens at Scotia Speedworld and will look to add to that number this weekend.
Part time drivers also expected to make the trek to Scotia Speedworld include Allison Mackinnon from Oyster Bed Bridge, Prince Edward Island and Upper Kennetcook, Nova Scotia’s Vance Hanes.
There you have it, a small look at the 26 drivers that are expected to comprise the Lucas Oil 100 on Saturday. We’re going to miss John Flemming on a full time basis as well as Jonathan Hicken, who has scaled back after sponsorship woes have plagued the team over the winter, but we look forward to seeing them on a part-time basis throughout the summer on track and in the pit area at our events.
If you are staying overnight, be sure to stop into the Speedworld on Sunday before you depart for home. We have our Weekly Racing Series firing up with six divisions getting their championship seasons underway, including the Affordable Fuels Sportsman, Toursec Thunder and Lightning, Coors Light Trucks, Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros and Strictly Hydraulics Legends divisions. Post time is 2pm.
We also have the Race Time Radio crew in town for not only Saturday to cover the Lucas Oil 100 but on Sunday evening for their live SiriusXM show from 8pm to 10pm Atlantic. The show will come live from the Wooden Door Bistro within the Quality Inn Airport Hotel, which is the hotel you pass before getting to Scotia Speedworld on Sky Boulevard. The crew, led by Joe Chisholm, will be there talking racing, having a bite to eat and unwinding from a full weekend of racing. Be sure to stop by and say hi!
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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