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Race Notebook: Parts for Trucks 150 @ Petty Raceway

It wasn’t easy, but Shawn Turple is the third driver in history to win the first two races to open the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour season.

Wayne Smith won the first two races of our season in 2001 and 2003, John Flemming pulled the feat in 2004 and more recently it was Dylan Blenkhorn in 2015. Smith is the only driver to open with three wins (2001) but he could be matched Saturday - but we’ll talk about that in a bit.

There was a full moon hanging over Petty International Raceway last Saturday and as the old adage goes, that might have contributed to some of the wild and crazy racing we saw in the Parts for Trucks 150. At one point with around 50 laps to go, you had Turple, Jonathan Hicken, Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher, who comprised most of the top five at some point in the race, near the back of the field. It led the way for a top five on one restart that saw Terry Dougay, DJ Casey and Josh Collins in the first three rows fighting for their first top fives of the season. It seemed like for most of the race, the top five was not the place to be.

Unless you are Dylan Gosbee, who worked up to that top five club early and never left it once he cracked the front runners.

Now, Dylan and his crew were quite upset about how the race finished. Dylan was adamant that he took the white flag in the feature - and he did - but our procedures state that the race should end under the green flag and two laps under green decide a feature. We’ve had green-white-checkered finishes in the past that have pushed the finish past its scheduled distance, heck, the 2012 International at Petty went two extra laps. The team was angry, upset, frustrated about the finish, but that’s racing and the finish was conducted by the Maritime Pro Stock Tour procedure book.

It shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the #91 Greenfield Enterprises/Hynes Racing Ford has had their best ever start to a season. Gosbee is third in the standings with two top fives in feature competition. We’re heading into Riverside International Speedway that, statistically on paper, is his worst track with three top tens on his resume. On the flip side, it is a high banked race track and the #91 team usually steps up on this type of track. If Gosbee can finish well here, I can see that team fighting for their first championship. We’re still looking for our first Island champion, could this be Gosbee’s year to end the search?

Dylan Blenkhorn was quite frustrated after Saturday’s race too. He quickly addressed the run in with Cole Butcher, saying that he did what he had to do to not wreck both race cars after he and his six and a half foot race car was squeezed into a hole that was five feet wide. Blenkhorn had to run to the front after being set back early by officials and did a great job to balance not burning up his tires and methodically working his way through traffic on a track where track position was key. It is the run that tests a driver and Blenkhorn passed to get a podium run, something that could be pivotal when we crown a champion in September.

It looked like Jonathan Hicken was going to score a series best fourth win at Petty Raceway on the weekend but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, the #5 Castle Building Centres Chevrolet had to settle for fourth on the green-white-checkered. It looked like Hicken was going to have a run on Gosbee from third place on the final restart, but instead of sending it in and wrecking what probably would have been half the field, he pulled his foot out of it and let the battle play out from there.

We have to give credit to both Terry Dougay and Exide Batteries Rookie Contender Stevie Lively for their runs on Saturday night at Petty. Both drivers appeared to be on their way to top ten runs but had to settle for positions on the lead lap in the top 15, Lively 11th and Dougay 13th. Dougay started seventh after finishing second in his heat race and ran in the top ten all night long before spinning out of a top five spot late in the race. Dougay did receive the free pass but could not muster a run to the front that late in the race.

I keep getting fans and drivers coming to me asking about Stevie Lively’s background. For those who don’t know Lively are shocked to hear he hopped from Four Cylinders straight up to Pro Stock and it’s not that fact as much as he’s done so well for being completely green in Late Model racing. Through the revolving door of positions up front, Lively knocked on the door of a top five run and when the fast drivers ran back to the front, Lively learned and went to school as he drove side by side with them. While he might be overshadowed a bit by his rookie competition, Lively has done a great job keeping his car in one piece and gaining knowledge. I like what I see so far from the #30 camp!

In the statistical category, Chris Hughes scored his first top ten since 2012 on Saturday night. The finish is his 43rd top ten in his career, which moves him back to a tie for 13th all time on the series with Gordie Ryan. We’ll hopefully see Chris and the Subaru of Moncton/Tops to Floors team next at the IWK 250.

So, who do we watch Saturday at Riverside International Speedway? Obviously, your top three from Saturday night, who are also your top three in points, will be tough with the speed they have shown this season. Blenkhorn is the defending winner of the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet 150 and Turple owns a pair of wins at the facility.

Donald Chisholm, who had a rough night Saturday at Petty Raceway, leads the active drivers in the series with seven wins. John Flemming (5), George Koszkulics (4), Kent Vincent (3), Darren MacKinnon (1), Greg Proude (1) and Craig Slaunwhite (1) each have wins at Riverside if you want to pull for a previous winner in the field. Of note, Proude and Slaunwhite ran up front during the Parts for Trucks 150 last weekend and Vincent finished a strong sixth Saturday.

I always like to look at the statistical category of drivers that excel at a track without a win. Two drivers have more than 10 top tens at Riverside without a victory - Hicken and Butcher. Butcher has three podiums, five top fives and 11 top tens without a win while Hicken has posted three podiums, seven top fives and 18 top tens without a checkered flag at Riverside. Both had fast cars last Saturday and while Butcher had a hard time harnessing it in traffic he still came home with a top ten run.

If you are looking to go off the board a bit on your fantasy racing roster this weekend, I would put a guy like Robbie MacEwen on the team. MacEwen ran well in Halifax and looked good for a while at Petty International Raceway. He darn near won himself a couple IWK 250s in the last couple years and loves these high banked race tracks.

Jason Hathaway should be a threat to win as well. The former NASCAR Pinty’s Series winner on the high banks is making the trek from Ontario in search of a win to become the 34th driver in Tour history to win a feature since 2001. He, along with a lot of others in the field, are tuning up for the IWK 250 in July and this 150-lap event could be used as a key testing session heading into that crown jewel event.

Will we see more full moon fallout on Saturday night or do we see the wild and wooly left in New Brunswick?

I’m excited for Saturday to see what kind of race we get and who ends up in victory lane!

Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!