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Stevie’s Surprising News and
Other Off-Season Rumblings

It’s been a long off season but we are finally getting ready to see the light at the end of what has been a snowy tunnel.
With the registration office opening at the first of the month, we will finally start seeing names rolling in as to who is running on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in 2017 and how many races they may be running.

If you keep tabs of social media and other news outlets, you may have picked up on some tidbits as to what has been happening. If not, let’s try and roll some of those into one neat little package.

Part time teams have made most of the headlines this winter. Leading the way is Chris Hughes, who will return on a part time basis in 2017. I’ve said it before in this space, but Hughes is one of the most successful drivers in the history of this Tour that has never won a race with us. His stats include 12 top five and 42 top tens from full time seasons in 2001 to 2010 and while he’s come close, he never held a feature checkered flag. Hughes comes to the Tour on a part-time basis after winning the Oyster Bed Speedway Late Model title in 2016.

Byron Bartlett has stepped back from Pro Stock competition and has sold his car to “The Thrill Maker” Craig Ward. Local fans in New Brunswick will know Ward from his Sportsman and Street Stock days with his most recent accolade coming last year when he won the Street Stock track championship at Petty International Raceway. Bartlett has a Sportsman car he plans on running part time in 2017 and we wish him all the best.

Jason Hathaway has stepped back from full time NASCAR Pinty’s Series competition but that does not mean he has hung up the helmet. In addition to starts at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in NASCAR’s National Series and some Late Model starts in his home province of Ontario, Hathaway will come east for two Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour events in 2017 - both at Riverside Speedway. Hathaway will run the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 in June to set up for his first IWK 250 presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body in July.

From chatting with the Farrell Racing team, we may see 2016 Maritime League of Legends Waylon Farrell in a Pro Stock car for select races this season in addition to his Legend schedule. The select races, four or five, would allow him to maintain his rookie status for the 2018 edition of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. He would become the third Newfoundland based driver to run with our Series.

Chances are we may actually see the other two Newfoundland based teams with us at some point this year too. Shannon Squires and the Islander RV team announced on Facebook that they are planning to race most of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour schedule in 2017. Squires purchased equipment from Vance Hanes at the end of 2016 and ran the Dartmouth Dodge 200 at Scotia Speedworld last September with the car.

While he is unsure of how many he will run, it appears we may see a return of Josh Collins to our series as well. While Collins did not run himself in 2016, his car did with multi-time champion John Flemming at the wheel. Flemming, who has yet to announce his schedule for 2017, put the Edward Collins Contracting car in the top five at the Atlantic Cat 250. Both Squires and Collins are top talents in the province of Newfoundland and will be welcome additions to our roster whenever they decide to pop in this year.

The Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year crop is quite impressive. Thus far three drivers have signaled intentions to compete full time on our series. Our fans will be familiar with two as Jarrett Butcher and Robbie MacEwen have both run races on our series in the past. In fact, both ran five races with the series last year and had two top ten finishes. MacEwen, a former Late Model champion at Oyster Bed Speedway, finished on the podium with Kent Vincent and DJ Casey at the 2015 IWK 250. Butcher was solid in his Late Model debut last year and comes to the series as a four time track champion at Scotia Speedworld between Bandolero and Legend racing.

The surprise entrant to the fight and, in most eyes, the underdog of the fight comes with Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia’s Stevie Lively. Lively is a two-time Thunder car champion at Scotia Speedworld and has struck a deal to drive as a teammate to DJ Casey in 2017. While coming from a front wheel drive four cylinder to a Pro Stock with big power is going to be a huge learning curve, but Lively has proven himself a smart driver in his Mini Stock days at Scotia Speedworld. He doesn’t over drive the car and takes what the car will give him, something that will pay dividends if he can transfer that to a Late Model. While Butcher and MacEwen will go in as the odds on favorites for the unique battery trophy, do not count out Lively at all.

Everyone keeps asking me about 2014 Rookie of the Year Sarah McKay and her plans for the season. McKay and the team have opted to go part-time with us on the 2017 season as other plans outside of racing have them sticking closer to home this year. We look forward to seeing “Rainbow Fish” when it does hit the track this Summer.

Full time teams are coming along well with their off-season work preparing for the season. The likes of Dylan Gosbee, Shawn Pierce and Harry Ross White, among others, have taken to social media to show off their rides for the season. In the case of HOSS, he purchased a new-to-him Port City car from Dylan Blenkhorn that the team ran prior to the 2016 season when they switched to a Vandoorn chassis. Nevin Scott is excited about coming back for his second full season and DJ Casey is chomping at the bit for another run at the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour.

Speaking of Blenkhorn, I spoke with him in March while in Truro. He and his team are committed on running the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in 2017 and, after unplugging from the racing world in the off-season while working and playing hockey, Dylan is more focused than ever on winning the championship and getting back to victory lane on a regular basis. The team will run the Vandoorn chassis they ran in 2016 that won races at Riverside International Speedway, Petty International Raceway and Oyster Bed Speedway.

Our champion has had a busy period over the past few weeks. Cole Butcher was accepted into the Kulwicki Driver Development Program and is the first Canadian driver to represent the organization since it was established in 2014. The program is in memory of the 1992 NASCAR Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki for the purpose of helping worthy drivers in reaching their dreams and keeping Alan’s legacy alive. Butcher, along with the other six finalists, will receive a $7,777US stipend to help with operational costs in 2017 and will compete throughout the season for the “Kulwicki Cup.” The drivers will receive assistance in fields such as publicity, marketing, sponsor development and industry marketing during the year. The winner will take home the prestigious trophy and a check for seven times the initial stipend amount of $54,439.

Needless to say it is a huge accomplishment for our champion to be recognized by a top United States based program. Butcher will be heading south of the border in April to run Pro All Stars Series races at Hickory, NC and Oxford, ME before coming back home to defend his Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour championship.

Finally, the biggest news we have heard in a long time. Mark Martin is coming to run the IWK 250 presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body in July. Everyone that I talk to is excited to see Mark run the event and from the interviews that Mark has done with local media, he sounds pretty pumped to run a Port City chassis out of Nova Racing. Upon the announcement, hotel rooms on the weekend were swept up and if they haven’t already (like they do every season), campground spaces are sure to sell out. Not to mention tickets will go quick when they go on sale through the Riverside box office. The IWK 250 races with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were highly anticipated but the hype and the electricity Mark Martin has created is seemingly bigger than both of those current Cup stars made in their years. This is absolutely huge for not only Riverside International Speedway, the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour but racing in this region in general. It’s been a long time since a track in Nova Scotia has made, NASCAR on FOX and NBC Sports, just to name a few.

If you did not catch our live interviews we did during the Atlantic Outdoor Sports and RV Show in March, head over to the Maritime Pro Stock Tour Facebook page and check those out. The sit down I had with Race Director Robert White was a blast and he told some great stories from days gone by as well. It is well worth the watch. Not to let the cat (or in this case, the dog) completely out the bag, but word on the street is that you might also see a Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour presence at the 43rd Annual Radical Speed Sport Show in Moncton, New Brunswick from April 21st to 23rd. I mean, I’ll be there to see Twiggy from Vegas Rat Rods, one of the many attractions at the show, but you’ll want to check out what the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour has up their sleeves.

Keep the countdown going because we are getting closer to the Lucas Oil 150 on May 20th at Scotia Speedworld. I can not wait to see this, and all the other, 150 lap races on the season. I’m coming out of my seat just typing about it and I hope you are too by reading this. Fans have a lot to be excited about in 2017!

Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.