Race Preview: Cummins 100 @ Speedway 660
If you missed the Petty 100 last weekend at Petty International Raceway, you missed one of the most intense final 15 laps to a race this season we’ve seen so far.
In short, it appeared that Shawn Turple, Cassius Clark and Craig Slaunwhite each had control of the race at one point or another but it was Blenkhorn who took home his record tying third career win on the Tour at Petty Raceway and eighth career win with the Series.
Slaunwhite appeared to be poised to get back to victory lane for the second straight race on the high banked bullring after winning the International last August. As he was working lapped traffic on Lap 87, a brake bleeder broke on his car. Yes, something as small as that can cause a major failure. When it broke, it caused Slaunwhite to spin in Turn One and hit the wall. The lead of almost a straightaway he had built through lapped traffic had been gone and it had handed the top spot to Blenkhorn.
Blenkhorn raced hard with Clark on restarts but after a lap or two would begin to stretch his legs over the field and away from a torrid battle for second. Heck, in that battle for second, Jonathan Hicken’s #5 resembled a yo-yo, going from fifth to second and back to fourth through the shuffle. Cole Butcher, who appeared to have one of the fastest cars in the middle green flag portions of the race, got by Clark for second at the end to finish as the runner-up to Blenkhorn.
With the quick pace, many good cars got caught a lap down, some of whom got trapped on the wrong side of a caution period and was one car shy of a free pass award. In fact, all four of those who finished one lap down - Nevin Scott, Sarah McKay, DJ Casey and Kent Vincent - each showed speed and were battling for a top ten spot but at the end it was Scott taking the final top ten spot as the first driver one lap down.
Jarrett Butcher finished in the top ten in only his second Tour start. He and Kent Vincent battled very hard early in the race and while Butcher ended up spinning in the second half, he still managed to finish on the lead lap and in ninth as he was another beneficiary of Slaunwhite spinning when he did. If it wasn’t for Slaunwhite spinning, he was the next driver to go one lap down. Timing can be everything in this sport and Butcher surely had it working on his side on Saturday.
It was a great run by Dylan Gosbee on Saturday night at Petty International Raceway. While he was a bit silent compared to previous races, Gosbee put his head down and marched his way to a seventh place finish. On the other side, Shawn Turple, Terry Dougay and Greg Proude each had misfortunes and finished in the garage before the event was over.
Long story short, there were a lot of drivers coming and going throughout the race on Saturday night. When it was over, Clark and Blenkhorn were both on the podium and their point battled tightened a bit more heading into this weekend’s round at Speedway 660.
What do we expect out of Speedway 660 on Saturday night for the Cummins 100? Well, only three drivers on the entry list of just over 20 cars have won a Tour race there before. Shawn Turple has won a pair of races, as has Donald Chisholm and Cole Butcher is the defending race winner. Only three active drivers have ten or more top tens at the track with Turple, Chisholm and Kent Vincent having double digit top ten totals while Greg Proude can join them this weekend with nine top tens going into the event.
Cassius Clark has yet to compete with the Tour at Speedway 660 but has taken the last two major open invitational races at the track and will be one to beat on the weekend. Dylan Blenkhorn only has two tracks to scratch off his list to win at, here and Oyster Bed Speedway. Slaunwhite is a former Pro Stock 250 winner here and had a strong car last week before the failure.
I wouldn’t put it past McKay or Casey to have top five runs as these two have had good runs here in the past. Nevin Scott and Harry Ross White will both make their first Speedway 660 starts on Saturday and with the rookie battle having only a ten point gap between the two, this race could be big for either driver.
I’m hoping we see Joel Hickox this weekend. Joel was at the track last week after what was a head turning run early at Scotia Speedworld but his car was not. The team found a rear end issue with the car in the shop prior to Petty and they could not get parts in until this week. Let’s hope they get that car together for Geary this weekend and we see the #22 Hickox Service Centre Dodge on Saturday.
I’m excited to see what Matt Rodgers can do on a track with lots of experience. I’ve been told we might see Devin Snell and Braxton Stafford in the field as well. Snell is driving a car that Blenkhorn drove in his rookie season and had quite a run with, so the car knows the series well. It was great to see Michael Kyle last weekend as well and I hope we see him again this weekend.
At the end of the day, the Cummins 100 is a wild card. We only go to Oyster Bed Speedway and Speedway 660 once and while each event on our series plays the same amount of points, a driver could make a statement this weekend with a big run and momentum heading into the IWK 250.
Speaking of the IWK 250, this is the last chance for drivers to make a move in the point standings. With a limited amount of point provisionals for the event and 35+ cars already pre-registered, some drivers will be going home early in a couple weeks at Riverside. A good run here could help a team’s cause if they struggle in qualifying for the IWK 250 in a couple weeks.
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