Peterbilt 250 Preview
Hear the rumble off in the distance? That's the expected fifty teams and drivers gearing up and getting ready to head towards the Geary woods for the 9th annual late summer classic - the Peterbilt 250 at Speedway 660! The race itself is climax of not only SPEEDWEEKEND at the racetrack, but is the third jewel in the Triple Crown of Maritime Pro Stock racing and is set to be the show of the summer you will not want to miss for anything this Labour Day weekend!
Not to be overshadowed by the big boys in the Pro Stocks is the rest of the weekend. The SPEEDWEEKEND gets kicked off on Friday with a Corn Boil and Party in the infield of the tight 1/3-mile oval. After all the excitement on Friday, comes the on track variation as O'Leary Pontiac Excitement Sportsman 150 takes center stage along with the Atlantic Open Wheelers. The Sportsman event will see the local Martins Home Heating Sportsman class strap in and race again the best Sportsman competitors in the Maritimes.
Former Sportsman champ James Graves of Berwick, NS summed up the Sportsman 150 for me last week at Scotia Speedworld. "It's not just about loading up and going to the event, you have to be a bit worried about making the event. That event is one of those that they send cars home every year after qualifying because they didn't make the show. It's a big deal," Graves told me last Friday. The #28 Howard Little Excavating Pontiac, who is no stranger to winning big race events, including a 50-lapper with Ken Schrader in the field two weeks ago, will be one of those vying for a spot in the field on Saturday!
On Sunday it will be the Coast Tire Street Stockers playing support with a fifty lap event presented by Fredericton Hyundai. They put on a great show in the regular feature when the CARQUEST Tour was in town back in July and with a few extra laps tacked on it is expected to be a great appetizer for the 250. Also racing in front of the big crowd will be the Maritime Legends Tour racing in their feature brought to us by Cummins Diesel. The young guns the likes of Brad Eddy (Lower Sackville, NS), DJ Casey (Prospect Road, NS), Shelby Baker (Fall River, NS) and Kyle Campbell (Salisbury, NB) among others will be ready to roar against the veterans of the division, including former Canadian champs Ian Mollins (Berry Mills, NB), Justin MacNeill (Bedford, NS), Scott MacLean (Pictou, NS) and "The Legend" Cy Harvey (Elmsdale, NS).
Also on Monday of the upcoming long weekend, the racetrack is hosting their ever-popular Enduro Series with two features. This will be one of the events to check out before you leave New Brunswick's Capital Region after a big weekend of racing at Speedway 660!
With all this support racing going on through the weekend, you'd think that would be the main attraction. Naaaaaah. With fifty or so cars expected to roll into Geary on Sunday morning and only twenty eight scheduled to make the Peterbilt 250 field, the qualifying for the event will be worth the price of admission! With drivers coming from the CARQUEST and PASS North Tours along with the locals from the Irving Lubricant Pro Stock division and a couple of visitors from outside those sanctions trying to snag away the over $15,000 to win prize for first it is set to be a dogfight on track!
St. Stephen, NB's Grey Fahey was just crowned as track champ for the second straight year in Pro Stocks at Speedway 660 last Sunday. He had to hold off four time track champ and former Pro Stock Tour regular Glen Rasmussen (New Denmark, NB) to take the title down and did so in his #20 St. Stephen Guardian Pharmacy/Rexall ride to celebrate in Victory Lane as champ of the division. They, along with over a dozen other regular Pro Stockers from the track will be trying to defend their home turf against the Northeast's best to keep the big money and trophy at home in 2009!
Speaking of former Speedway 660 track champions, Brad Mann (Glen Livet, NB) has made it known that this is slated to be his final season behind the wheel of a pro stock vehicle. Mann, the multi-time track champ and former race winner on the CARQUEST Tour will be one to watch this weekend as he navigates his blue and yellow #3 through the Pro Stock field on Sunday as he hunts down his Peterbilt 250 crown!
No driver has ever won multiple Peterbilt 250 crowns in the eight editions of the prestigious race. With seven of the eight former champs in the field, could this be the year a driver repeats as a winner? Kirk Thibeau (Fort Fairfield, ME/2001), Dave O?Blenis (Boundary Creek, NB/2002), Shawn Tucker (Fredericton, NB/2004), Scott Chubbuck (Dresden, ME/2005), Lonnie Sommerville (Saint John, NB/2006), Johnny Clark (Farmingdale, ME/2007) and Craig Slaunwhite (Terence Bay, NS/2008) have all entered the event trying to win a second crown. The other champion of the event is the late Scott Fraser from Shubenacadie, who won the event in 2003.
The Fraser team returned to Victory Lane last season with Slaunwhite behind the wheel as the '08 EIT Race Radio Rookie of the Year champ made a late pass on the "Oval Outlaw" Wayne Smith (Timberlea, NS) in the late stages of the event to win the race.
Johnny Clark is the current Pro All Stars Series North point leader and as he goes for his fourth championship in that series this month he will go for his second Peterbilt 250 first place trophy in the Clarks Car Crushing #54 Chevrolet Impala on Sunday. Clark blew a tire in the IWK 250 Presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body earlier this season after being one of the fastest cars at Riverside International Speedway!
Sommerville has big race momentum heading into the Peterbilt 250. Lonnie piloted his #23 A.E. McKay Builders Chevrolet Impala to victory in the Atlantic CAT 250 Triple Crown race at Scotia Speedworld in August - a nail biter over another former Peterbilt 250 titlist, Dave O'Blenis. Lonnie will have a teammate in the event as Travis Kittleson (Mooresville, NC) will be behind the wheel of a Lonnie Sommerville Racing entry with a number #30 on the side. Kittleson sat on the pole of last season?s 250 and led many laps before fading back in the field to finish eleventh. Sommerville finished sixth last year in the event and is looking to better that this Sunday with another win in New Brunswick's biggest stock car race!
As mentioned, O'Blenis came within a whisker of winning the Atlantic CAT 250 in August at Scotia Speedworld. The #48 Burger King/Acadia Toyota Toyota Camry has been getting stronger as the season pushes on and could end up in Victory Lane before the checkered flag is displayed on the 2009 season - could the Peterbilt be the race we see the Boundary Creek driver back on top? Be at the Speedway on Sunday to find out for yourself!
Along with Clark, there are two other American winners of the event that will be back this season as they attempt to route the trophy back to the state of Maine. Kirk Thibeau was the inaugural winner of the event and will look to put his Red and Black #28 back to the top of the board during the Peterbilt 250 weekend. Dresden's Scott Chubbuck will also look to take the title south of the border as he will once again be behind the wheel of the Corey Hight owned Hight Motorsports? #77. The team last tried their hands at the event in 2007 and are ready to attack the track this weekend!
Shawn Tucker is the only CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour champion since its inception in 2001 to win the CARQUEST Tour crown and the Peterbilt 250. Coincidently, the driver from Fredericton did both for the first time in 2004! Since then, Tucker has won another Tour championship ('07), but that second 250 has yet to be won by the stock car veteran who is a former regular at the track. In a showcase of his talent at the last Tour event in July, Tucker came from the rear just over a dozen laps into the Parts for Trucks 100 to take the lead in the late stages to win the 100-lap event! If Tucker and his Rockico Truck and Trailer/AL Gullison Disaster Kleenup Impala can repeat that performance again on Sunday with an extra 150 laps tacked on the event - Tucker will become the first two time event champ!
There are plenty of talented drivers who have yet to win the Peterbilt 250 and they will look to keep history going by being the 9th different winner of the event in nine years of the race. The aforementioned Wayne Smith finished a strong second in the event last season after leading the most laps in the event. Smith, like Tucker in July had to rally back from the rear of the field early in last year's 250, taking the lead just shy of the 100-lap mark and was a contender the rest of the way. With Smith knocking on the door of his third CARQUEST Tour title (sixth Maritime championship) and being the victor of the IWK 250 Presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body, Smith could very well be seeing dollar signs and checkered flags after 250-laps!
The man he has to beat for the Tour title though will be a driver to beat as well! Shawn Turple (Enfield, NS) is the most recent winner on the CARQUEST Tour and is the point leader looking to tie down his first championship next weekend at Scotia Speedworld. Turple drove his Dexter Construction/Municipal Group Chevrolet Impala to a fourteenth place finish in the event one year ago. Through his racing career Turple has amassed wins at Speedway 660 in a CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour racecar as well as big wins in a Sportsman vehicle and this weekend he will take aim at the Peterbilt 250 crown!
Three-time CARQUEST Tour champ John Flemming from Halifax will once again look to put up a strong performance on the Speedway 660 oval this Sunday. John was the top finishing Canadian (3rd overall) in the PASS SLM 200 event held at the track in June and was second in the Parts for Trucks 100 in Geary during the month of July. So with a 3rd and a 2nd in big events at the facility this season should mean that Flemming will end up on top after 250-laps this Sunday if the simple number system works out. Flemming is always a contender at the big events in the Maritimes and comes off a third place run in the last Triple Crown race at Scotia Speedworld in August! Watch for The Roofing Connection Dodge to put up another solid run this Sunday!
Keep a half eye on PASS North standout Travis Benjamin as well. The driver from Morrill, Maine broke through for his first PASS win last season at the Atlantic CAT 250 at Scotia Speedworld and has come very close to that Peterbilt 250 victory. Last year he sat on the outside pole and was in contention all the way to the line, eventually settling for third. Benjamin is as hungry as any driver to win the event that has eluded him for the past number of years and will set his sights on Auto Pride Victory Lane in his familiar #17!
Oh, and there's another American attempting to make the 250 his on Sunday night and that is two time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin. The Franklin, Tennessee driver will be driving the #40 car out of the Hal O'Neal and OGC Racing Team stable. With Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday, Terry and Justin Labonte racing in the Speedway?s Marquee event in previous years, Marlin adds to a great list of drivers to take green in the event. Though the previously mentioned drivers who have ran in the event have had solid runs, they haven't came away with a trophy in the event - something Marlin will look to change on Sunday as he will drive the car co-sponsored by Auto Pride/Auto Value and Gatorade. Can Marlin pull off a big win like Regan Smith did last year at the IWK 250 or Kevin Harvick did last season at the TD Bank North 250 at the Oxford Plains Speedway? Be there Sunday to find out!
The thirteen drivers mentioned in this article will be among the nearly fifty drivers expected Sunday at Speedway 660. For the complete entry list and more information on the event, check out the track website at Speedway660.com. The racing action will get under way around 2pm with the 250 set to get the green around 7pm on Sunday evening. You will not want to miss this event as it is set to be one of the greatest races the Maritimes has seen this season! I know I won?t miss it, I'll be in turn one enjoying the action!!!
Also, before we sign off for this week, RacingSpectator.ca has their annual Driver of the Year voting fired up! Fans had the opportunity in the past two weeks to nominate their favorite driver for the award. Up in the CARQUEST Tour category include Shawn Pierce (Bridgewater, NS), Wayne Smith, Greg Proude (Springvale, PEI), Lonnie Sommerville and Craig Slaunwhite. Go to RacingSpectator.ca to check out the vote and all the Maritime Racing news and info Bruce and Bea have put together!
Next week we'll be taking a look back at the Sunday that was at the Peterbilt 250 and we will dissect the Parts for Trucks 200 Championship race for the tour and do a little math to try to arrive at a prediction for a champion. I know, my math hasn't been that great in the past season - but I've brushed up! Come back next week to see!
Who do you think is going to win the Tour championship and the Parts for Trucks 200 next week at Scotia Speedworld? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and you might see some of your predictions at the end of my column next week. Then you can brag to all your friends when your driver pulls into victory lane on September 12th!
Until then, enjoy the Peterbilt 250 and remember to keep the hammer down and we'll see you at the track!
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