Race Preview: Nova Trucks Centres 150 @ Scotia Speedworld
What a fantastic race the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 was on Saturday night!
The race had a bit of everything. It had some really hard racing throughout the field capped by an incredible battle within the top five and for the lead position. There were some small scrapes over the 150-lap distance and two really big hits. At the end of the race, there was raw emotion, more than I’ve seen recently with our series. You had a driver who was thrilled to be standing in victory lane for the first time at Riverside International Speedway, you had a couple of drivers not overly happy with others, some were mystified on how their cars worked and we even had some drivers just plain upset.
The tilt up front between Dylan Blenkhorn and Donald Chisholm was pretty incredible to watch. The two went back and forth on the pursuit of each other and the checkered flag. Blenkhorn was genuine in victory lane and was quick to thank Donald for the race, calling him one of the best to race with. There was a lot of respect shown between the two and, in turn, it put on a great show for those fans in the stands on Saturday.
Behind those two, the battle for third on back through the top ten was pretty intriguing. Greg Proude, Darren MacKinnon and Cole Butcher each made spirited runs to get a top five finish, but were all thwarted late in the feature. Proude ran out of fuel on the last caution with seven laps to go which was brought about by apparent rear end fluid from the #18 car. Butcher’s car had a carburetor problem that would prevent the car from firing on the banking after the red flag period to clean up the rear end fluid. Once the car was on the flat of pit road, the car fired up, but because he was on pit road he had to give up his track position. Craig Slaunwhite was involved in this battle early but would end up laps down as the team chased brake problems after being involved in the accordion type caution early in the feature.
When the checkered flag flew, not one of that quartet mentioned above was in the top five. Point leader Cassius Clark ended up third at Riverside, with George Koszkulics and DJ Casey completing the top five. Koszkulics had to go to the back to start the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150 after what George said was a fire on the #88. At the end of the day, Koszkulics passed the most cars after having to go to the rear again after spinning from the top five around the halfway point. Casey had a spirited battle with Marty Prevost at the end of the 150-lap feature. Prevost, who finished seventh behind Butcher, drove a car from the Vance Hanes Auto Rebuilders stable after his primary was shortened up at Scotia Speedworld in May and got up on the wheel in an impressive run last weekend.
There were a handful of drivers that were having great runs spoiled by mechanical problems or accidents. Allison MacKinnon and Sarah McKay both ran well in their heat but were sidelined by brake and ignition system issues in the feature, respectively.
Terry Dougay started sixth in the 26 car field - the highest start in a Pro Stock field for the Albany, PE driver but took two very hard hits, one into the backstraight wall that threw him back into the Turn Three wall at an incredible impact. Laps later, Shawn Turple took a big hit into the wall coming out of Turn Two. I’m glad both drivers are okay and hope they can get their cars back in top shape before Saturday.
Daryl Mahar suffered a dislocated thumb during one of the cautions on Saturday night. With the way Mahar grips the wheel, when it snapped around when he spun out, it pulled his thumb quickly a way it is not designed to pull. From the indications I have, Mahar may attempt the race on Saturday but will have a stand by driver just in case he cannot run the race - and no, Owen is still too young to hop in the car. You can see Owen race 25-laps at Scotia Speedworld on Friday night in his Bandolero though!
You really do not appreciate the speed of these cars at Riverside until you sit at the end of a straightaway as these teams throw them into the corner or at the exit when they’re fully on the throttle and hustling the cars out of the corner and onto the straight. When you come out of Turn Four and Turn Two at Riverside, it is a blind corner to the straightaway; you cannot see what’s coming up next.
It takes some guts to be able to run tracks like Riverside Speedway and Petty Raceway with the finesse these drivers do. If you want a small taste, I recommend getting a package to drive or ride along with the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience coming up in July at Riverside. It will give you an idea of what these drivers go through as they sink down into the corners and come up the hill off the turns.
Now as for what to expect this weekend at Scotia Speedworld and the Nova Truck Centres Make a Wish 150? There are two trends I am looking at. The first one comes from Dylan Blenkhorn. Blenkhorn now has seven wins on the series. When he won his first race of his career, which came at this race two years ago but we’ll get into that in a bit, he won the next week at Petty International Raceway. When he won his first race in 2015, he followed it up the next week with a win.
The trend: when Dylan Blenkhorn wins his first race of the year, he typically follows it up with a win the next week as well.
It would be hard to bet against Blenkhorn this weekend. Blenkhorn has four wins here, but so do Clark and Slaunwhite. The only active driver that will be in the field that has more wins than this trio is Turple, who has five. Other past Scotia Speedworld winners in the field Saturday will include Prevost, Proude and Butcher.
I mentioned Blenkhorn’s first career win came in the Nova Truck Centres Make a Wish 150 two seasons ago. Last year it was Cole Butcher putting it all together for his first career victory, which happened at his home track. You have to look back to 2013 to find John Flemming as a winner of this event that did not score his first Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour victory in this race.
The trend: a driver will score their first career Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour win this weekend at Scotia Speedworld.
If the trend continues, who will be the one that carries the flag around Scotia Speedworld. I think the obvious choice would be DJ Casey. Casey has won the first two King Freight Future Winner Awards for being the top driver in the field to have never won a Tour race, which would put him in prime contention to break through to victory lane.
He’s not the only one that could become a first time Series winner on Saturday. Sarah McKay had a decent run going at Riverside before ignition problems sidelined “rainbow fish.” Steve Ross was quick on Saturday night and would have been in the top ten if he wasn’t trapped two laps down. Joel Hickox was quick here last September and hey, Nicholas Naugle is on the list for Saturday night. How cool would it be to see Naugle go to victory lane in only his third “big car” start?
You also have a group of drivers that have won on our series before but never at Scotia Speedworld that will be hungry on Saturday. Darren MacKinnon has 14 top tens and eight top fives here - but never a win. Kent Vincent has 28 top tens and 11 top fives here - but no checkered flags. Dylan Gosbee and his team have been impressive here in the past with six top tens and two top fives - but first place finishes. Donald Chisholm is the most successful driver on our series statistics wise to never win a race here, with seven podiums, 17 top fives and 36 top tens but never a win.
Keep in mind; Blenkhorn won his first race at Riverside International Speedway last weekend, so a driver that has won on our tour before but never at the host venue’s track could be a trend that continues to flourish on Saturday.
Either way you slice it, the Nova Truck Centres Make a Wish 150 at Scotia Speedworld will probably resemble the last round at Riverside - a furious pack of cars up front looking to make it to the podium which will result in some exciting racing all the way throughout the field.
Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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