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Analyzing the Blenkhorn and Butcher Show

After what we saw at the IWK 250 and the shots that flew in the post race interviews, you had to expect something to happen between Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher.

That something was a show for 150-laps of exciting short track stock car racing between two of the best young talents in our region.

The two drivers went back and forth for the complete distance at Petty International Raceway. The race was similar to the Dartmouth Dodge 200 in 2015 when the two swapped the lead 26 times over the 200-lap race at Scotia Speedworld. Now, after the last few weeks, the battle was a bit more cordial, there was no leaning into each other as hard as they did in Halifax two years ago, but they did swap the lead eight times. Like that race in Halifax, Butcher edged Blenkhorn for the Linde Most Laps Led Award and also like that race in Halifax, the last lead change at Petty went to Blenkhorn.

When the two got out, instead of dropping jabs at one another, they complimented the others and said that’s how racing should be.

They’re not wrong.

Now, does it mean the “ugly side” of the rivalry between the two is over? Ultimately, that’s for those two to answer, but as we’ve seen, if you race hard and someone feels like they are done wrong, those tempers seem to heat up a little quicker. We’re going to Oyster Bed Speedway next weekend, where real estate and track position are at a premium, maybe more so than any other track we run at. We’ll see what happens, but if I was contemplating plans for next weekend, I’d plan on heading over to the Island.

But, we’ll talk more about that next week, let’s focus on last weekend.

The Irving Blending & Packaging 150 was a bit cleaner than our first stop at Petty International Raceway back in June in the amount of caution flags. Saturday presented us with only three yellows and a race high 79 lap green flag run in the first half of the race. Sure, that battle up front presented us with a great show, but there were battles throughout the field during the race. You had a lot of comers and goers in the first 84 laps leading up to that second caution of the evening to watch.

Jonathan Hicken returned to the podium at Petty International Raceway, a track that has been statically the best for him in recent years. He’s got three Tour wins (now second in that category to Blenkhorn) and another trio of wins in open competition, but this race was special because it was his first podium run in his new Fury Race Car the team has worked hard on over the last 24 months or so. We all knew once the Hicken/White team got a handle on the car it would be bad news for the field, and I’m sure they are on watch heading into Oyster Bed next weekend.

While the top two put on a show with Hicken and others hot on their heels in the waning laps, how about that battle for fifth? Six cars under a blanket going hard for a top five spot, side-by-side at the end. Shawn Pierce and Jarrett Butcher, both drivers who received the “Back in the Race” award under the two yellow flags on the evening, went tooth and nail for fifth with Butcher edging out the veteran by less than a car length. Pierce picked up new sponsors in Quinn Flooring and Blenkhorn Racing heading into Petty and he made sure that everyone knew the #21 car was there to party. Pierce has run well before at Oyster Bed Speedway and with the momentum on his side after the last two races, it would not surprise me to see him up there mixing it up again.

Let’s give Jarrett Butcher credit on his run as well at Petty. It seems like the #54 car and the young driver love that race track and in the end it rewards him with his second career top five. He and Pierce put on a show for that position as the field lined up behind them waiting for a mistake, one that the rookie would not make. He’s established himself as a top ten point driver and if he can keep up these runs in the final five races, he will be knocking on the door of the top five.

While he was one lap off the pace at the end, Kent Vincent scored another top ten run on the Tour. I like looking at numbers and when we look at career top tens, the Ironman of our Tour and Shawn Turple, who was fourth on Saturday night, have one top ten between them in their career. Vincent has 111 top tens to Turple’s 110. Of note, John Flemming has 114 top tens in his career, second only to Shawn Tucker with 123. Five races remain on our schedule, Flemming plans on running three of them with Vincent and Turple looking at all five. We could have ourselves a little battle in that category before we throw the flag at the Dartmouth Dodge 200 and if they keep it up, it should put Turple and Vincent both in contention of taking over first overall in that category by the end of 2018.  

If you’re keeping score on statistics for Tour races at Petty Raceway, Blenkhorn now has the lead for most wins (4) and most podiums (8) at the track since the series started going there in 2011, accounting for 18 races. Darren MacKinnon still leads in the way of most top fives at the track (10) and shares the lead for most top tens at the track (14) with Craig Slaunwhite and Shawn Turple.

Overall series statistics now have Blenkhorn tied for fourth in series history with 12 career wins, the same amount Turple has. Blenkhorn is tied with Gordie Ryan with 21 podium finishes on the series, good enough for ninth overall. Butcher (20) and Jonathan Hicken (19) also moved closer to the top ten in that regard with their podium finishes. Shawn Turple’s 71st top five finish on the series has tied Wayne Smith for third overall and Jonathan Hicken’s 33rd career top ten ties him with Craig Slaunwhite for 11th overall, one behind Darren MacKinnon and George Koszkulics for the ninth most top fives since 2001.

Up next for the series is Oyster Bed Speedway for the Lucas Oil 150. It’s our only stop to Prince Edward Island on the year and it sounds like we’ll have at least one and maybe two drivers making their Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour debut next Saturday. We’ll talk more about that and what to expect next week, but if you are on the fence on what to do with your long weekend, make plans to head to the Island Saturday evening. With 50-lap Legend and Street Stock features on the card and the absolutely jaw dropping racing the Street Stocks put on combined with the unpredictability of the Legends, it is not only the best card you’ll see anywhere in the region on that Saturday it has the makings to be the best top to bottom single day card of racing you’ll see all year. If you’re not there, you will be missing out.

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