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Tim's Corner
Issue 215

Wandering Up To The Woods

The Nova Truck Centres Make-A-Wish 150 was quite the event, even if we had to wait an extra day to see it unfold.

We had a pretty intriguing race up in front. Craig Slaunwhite led laps, so did Dylan Gosbee. Dylan Blenkhorn came to the front and ultimately battled with Cassius Clark at the end. It was great to see the two battle it out up front in the final 25 laps or so. The two ran a dozen laps or so side-by-side, back and forth for the lead. While the transponders only count two official lead changes, in that time, one fraction of an inch or another would have resulted in a lead change each lap.

There was a lot of respect between the two drivers. They may have touched once or twice but nothing to completely move or body check the other out of the way and in the end, Clark was able to out maneuver, or out school as Blenkhorn called it after the race, the driver of the #67, for ultimately the win.

You had some intense battles throughout the pack as well throughout the 150-lap feature. We had seven cautions sprinkled through the event, which let us have a 40 or so lap run in the middle of the race. We also had some big wrecks that took out cars like Josh Collins and Robbie MacEwen. All the safety equipment did its job in both cases but both teams will be wrenching on their cars to get ready for the IWK 250 and will miss this weekend’s event.

Two drivers made their Maritime Pro Stock Tour debut, bringing our count to seven drivers that have made their first Pro Stock starts with the Series in 2017. We knew about Brandon McFarlane making the trek. McFarlane drove a car that was last run a number of seasons ago by “The King of the Road” Roger Miller and the dormant time showed with an early exit from the Nova Truck Centres Make-A-Wish 150. McFarlane probably had the biggest smile on his face of any driver at Scotia Speedworld though after making his series debut and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Torbay, Newfoundland driver.

Mike Rodgers surprised us by making his debut in the #41 Lawns Unlimited Chevrolet and making his first Scotia Speedworld start. Rodgers had fun, completed over three quarters of the race and brought the car home in one piece in 18th place.  

The Rodgers car had a lot of success at our next venue on the series at Speedway 660. He told me prior to technical inspection last Sunday that the car he bought is the former #20 car driven by Greg Fahey. That car took Fahey to a second place run in 2011 and nearly put Fahey in victory lane on the series. Like the car McFarlane bought, the car had sat for a number of years prior to Rodgers picking it up and the Nova Truck Centres Make-A-Wish 150 was the first race laps on it since Fahey traded it in for a Sportsman car about five years ago.

Both Rodgers and Fahey will be with us this weekend and it would not surprise me one iota to see Fahey become the 34th different winner in Tour history on Saturday. Yes, we run a different shock package than the McLaughlin Roof Trusses team does at Speedway 660, but they have experience on our rules package at the IWK 250 and they have the knowledge of Tucker Performance Parts and Shawn Tucker to draw from. After winning on Week One in the Speedway 660 weekly division, Fahey and the team have had their share of ups and downs, but I believe the St. Stephen driver is one of the best in this region and easily one of the best Pro Stock drivers not on our Tour on a weekly basis. How will be stack up against our regulars on his home turf? Only time will tell.

This is one of our “wild card” races of the year per say. We only visit Speedway 660 and Oyster Bed Speedway once, so trying to predict a winner is hard because you don’t know who is going to be fast out of the box. In fact, only three drivers that have won here in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour competition will be in the field on Saturday night. Shawn Turple has won here twice and our last two winners of the Cummins 150 in Greg Proude and Cole Butcher will be looking to get back into victory lane for the first time in 2017.

Here’s the cool thing about our top five in points now and their records at Speedway 660. Turple has won two races at Speedway 660 as mentioned but he also has two race wins in the current year. Shawn loves this track, has had great success at it even dating back to his Sportsman days and should probably be about even odds on the proverbial betting sheet on Saturday. The aforementioned Butcher and Proude have shown speed this season and this could be a great place for them to not only score their second Speedway 660 triumph but to give them momentum heading into the biggest race of the year, the IWK 250.

Dylan Gosbee won a weekly point race at Speedway 660 earlier in the year and could be a nice bet to pay off with on Saturday. Gosbee has not won a Parts for Trucks Tour race since 2013 but with the way the team has gelled, I think this could be the race Gosbee returns to victory lane. He is third in points and I know this sport isn’t built on “coulda, woulda, shoulda” sort of scenarios, but if Gosbee did not have the power steering line pop off at Riverside, he could have easily had an extra 10 or so points from where he was running before to where he finished in 11th. The 38 point gap might seem like a lot but we have seven races to go and I think is Gosbee can find some luck, he’ll have no problem being in the hunt when we come down the stretch drive.

Dylan Blenkhorn, on paper, is probably the worse off of the top five in the standings in Geary, but hear me out. Blenkhorn has only had four starts here in a Pro Stock and has three top five finishes including one podium run. That’s not bad for a track he hadn’t seen prior to 2013 with the exception of a couple Legend races. Yes, the Vandoorn chassis he runs has seen struggles on flat tracks but he did finish fifth here last year with that car and look how strong he was at Scotia Speedworld.

Blenkhorn can also do something only two other drivers have done so far in their career and become a Maritime Pro Stock Tour winner at all five active tracks on our series. Yes, I understand John Flemming has an open invitational win at Petty International Raceway but it was not a Maritime Pro Stock Tour sanctioned event. Only Wayne Smith and Shawn Tucker have won at Scotia Speedworld, Petty Raceway, Speedway 660, Oyster Bed Speedway and Riverside International Speedway in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour sanctioned competition. Wayne has even won at the CENTRE For Speed, but we’re focusing on active tracks within our series.

For those keeping score, Shawn Turple has Oyster Bed Speedway left to strike off the list. Craig Slaunwhite has never won a Tour sanctioned race at Speedway 660 (his 250 win was not an MPST sanctioned event) or Oyster Bed Speedway. Kent Vincent still needs Speedway 660 and Scotia Speedworld, as does Darren MacKinnon. Donald Chisholm needs the monkey off his back at Scotia Speedworld and Petty Racway. Jonathan Hicken has goose eggs at Speedway 660 and Riverside Speedway. Cole Butcher is still winless at Oyster Bed Speedway and Riverside Speedway. Greg Proude is only missing Petty International Raceway. 
There are a lot of huge names on that list that are close, but still need one or two tracks in the win column. Needless to say, it is elite company to join if Blenkhorn can win this thing on Saturday night.

We’ll also see the return of Sarah Mckay and Matt Rodgers to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. Sarah has been running locally at Speedway 660 this season and sits sixth in their standings as they near the midway point of the year. Rodgers is a great young driver that knows how to wheel a car and I’m excited to see his name on the entry list. Ironically, both missed out on a top ten in this race in 2016, with Rodgers in 11th, one position ahead of McKay. We’ll also see Devin Snell in the field from New Brunswick and I’m sure he’s eager to try and shake the bad luck that has been chasing him since Petty Raceway in early June!

Remember the run that Craig Slaunwhite had here last year? He went from the back of the field to finish on the podium and was making strides on Proude as the checkered flag flew. He has a great run last weekend at Scotia Speedworld, leading over half the laps and finishing third. This could be the race Slaunwhite breaks back into victory lane for his first Tour sanctioned win at the track and what would be his eighth Tour win of his career heading into the race he needs to complete the Maritime Triple Crown in two weeks.

No pun intended, but Craig needed more laps last year in this race. Now that this race is a 150-lap feature, for the first time in history of the Tour I might add, he now has those laps albeit it is 365 days or so late.

Before we depart for the drive to Geary, I want to give a shoutout to Shawn Pierce for the run he had at the Nova Truck Centres Make-A-Wish 150. While he finished 12th, Pierce had a great qualifying effort of ninth and worked his way into the top five before fading in that aforementioned green flag run we had at Scotia Speedworld. Shawn and his crew, led by his father Dave Pierce and Kelly MacIntyre, should be proud of the run they had and while they haven’t had the best of luck in Geary, they have momentum and I’m sure a bit of confidence on their side.

Do your anti-rain dance now and get ready for a trip to the Geary woods on the weekend. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are too!

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