Race Preview - Petty 100 at Petty International Raceway
Scotia Speedworld provided some heart stopping action from the drop of the green in the first heat race to the checkered flag in the Nova Truck Centres Make A Wish 150.
While a crash between Sarah McKay and Dylan Gosbee was the only major incident during the actual racing itself, following post qualifying heat race inspection, four cars were found to be “too low” on their ride height. Now, I don’t like dwelling on technical infractions, but it is a part of racing and when it costs a driver or drivers their starting spots, it is kind of hard to ignore.
One of those drivers that started at the back was Cassius Clark, though he did not stay there for long. Clark used the top side on many occasions, something he said he found in practice, to make passes throughout the 150-lap feature. By the 30 to go mark, he was working on Shawn Turple for the top spot and would ultimately make the pass with just 27 to go to go on to his second win of the season.
Shawn Turple and his team rallied last week to get their back up car ready for Saturday’s race. The car was last run during last year’s Atlantic Cat 250 when Cale Gale was in town. Turple did not look out of place and the hard work from the Dexter Construction team paid off to a second place finish after pacing the field for a race high 104 laps.
Russell Smith Jr finished third at Scotia Speedworld and turned a lot of heads in doing so. Substituting for Daryl Mahar after he dislocated his thumb at Riverside Speedway, Smith hung out just outside the top five for most of the race before turning the wick up in the last 50 laps. At the checkered flag, he was third and was working on reeling in second when the laps ran out.
Statistically wise, it was a big night for two drivers. Smith Jr. not only scored his first podium finish with the series, he scored his first career top ten with the series. The 10th place driver in the race, Harry Ross White, also scored his first career top ten in just his third start on the Tour. They join 102 others before them to score a top ten with the series over 173 races. For Smith Jr., he is the 52nd driver in series history to appear on a podium in a race.
Also, if you are into stats like I am, Shawn Turple and Donald Chisholm, who was seventh last Saturday, inched their way closer to 100 career top tens with the series. Only three drivers - Shawn Tucker (123), John Flemming (112) and Kent Vincent, who scored his 103rd top ten last Saturday after finishing ninth, have amassed triple digit top ten totals in their career. Wayne Smith has 98 top tens, but just behind sit Turple with 96 and Chisholm with 93. You would have to believe those two will end the season in the top five all time with the most top ten finishes in the series and both could join the “100 top ten club” by the time the series closes the 2016 season in September.
While they did not get the finishes they desired, give it up to Joel Hickox and Terry Dougay for their stellar qualifying efforts on Saturday. Dougay had his best qualifying effort of his career by starting fourth while Hickox rolled off sixth. Both drivers ran many early laps in the top five with Hickox and the #22 team running a strong third before the handle went away on his car and ended up being freight trained as he tried to hold on the high side. Both drivers grew up at Oyster Bed Speedway and with Petty Raceway holding many characteristics that the Island oval does, these two could be in for big things on Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, what should we expect during the Petty 100 on Saturday night?! If you read what was in this space last week, I had two trends heading into the Nova Truck Centres Make A Wish 150 that ultimately were spoiled by Cassius Clark’s win, so throw trends out the window for now. Clark was strong at Riverside with a top three run but when it comes to Tour competition and his five wins, they have all come at Scotia Speedworld. With that said, he has run well in open competition at Speedway 660 and I fully expect him to lead laps and contend for the win when we go there in two weeks. What Clark will show up at Petty Raceway - the one that was lights out in our two Scotia Speedworld races or the one that carried a top five capable run at Riverside Speedway. Either way, Clark will factor in to the final equation on Saturday night and the Moncton fans are in for a treat to see Clark race, the question is where the #13 will land after 100 laps on Saturday.
Two drivers who finished in the top five last week at Scotia Speedworld that I fully expect to do the same on Saturday night are Craig Slaunwhite and Greg Proude. Statistically speaking, both run exceptionally well at the high banked oval, combining for 9 podium appearances and 20 top ten finishes between the two. Slaunwhite has the only win of the duo, winning the International last August in our last appearance at the track. Considering the way these two have ran this season, expect them to each have a piece that could win on Saturday.
Jonathan Hicken will return on Saturday to Petty International Raceway. Hicken is the winningest driver at Petty Raceway in the Tour era with three wins on the high banks. Dylan Blenkhorn and Shawn Tucker have two wins and the trio are the only ones to win multiple races since 2011 at Petty. Hicken’s maiden voyage at Riverside was a successful one in his new LFR Chassis, finishing eighth in the 26 car field.
Since Petty Raceway picked up a third race on the Tour schedule in June, there have been three different winners in this event. In the inaugural June race at Petty Raceway it was Dylan Gosbee winning his first career race on the series. In 2014, Blenkhorn followed up his first career win at Scotia with a win at Petty Raceway. Last year, Darren MacKinnon snapped a winless streak by winning his first race of the season at Petty. I know, I wasn’t going to talk about trends, but there could be a fourth different winner in the June race but on the other hand, these three have been stout in the first three races of this current season. While MacKinnon and Gosbee have had finishes that are not indicative of how they have run (both got swept up in accidents last weekend at Scotia), they have made some noise so far. Blenkhorn has won a race this year already and will look to also take the second race of the season at a high banked oval on Saturday.
I’ll close this week with the excitement and anticipation over Matt Rodgers debut on our series. Rodgers and his family have a rich history of stock car racing in the province of New Brunswick and Rodgers has had lots of success in a Sportsman car over the last few seasons. Rodgers and his team are a great addition to our series and we will see them at both of our next two races in New Brunswick.
It will be a great race on Saturday night and I hope you can join us at River Glade!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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