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issue 222

Race Preview: Cummins 200 @ Petty Raceway

After a brief break, we are back at it for the Cummins 200 at Petty International Raceway.
This is a pretty special event. Not only is it a part of “Canada’s Oldest Stock Car Race” in the 53rd River Glade International but it is also our first 200-lap race as a Tour at Petty International Raceway. Sure, they have done 200-lap races before, but never at Petty International Raceway has it awarded a Maritime Pro Stock Tour trophy and championship points.

First of all, this race will feature a lot of strategy. It is a two-tire race, which means teams are able to only purchase two new tires for the event. What does it mean for our fans? It means teams will have to conserve their tires and drivers may have to pick their battles early. If you see a couple of drivers battle hard for the win early on, it might cost them late in the race.

Which brings me to the next point - remember the last time we were at Petty International Raceway in July?
That’s right, the back and forth battle between Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher that left fans on the edge of their seats. That’s what happened in July, with Blenkhorn taking the victory.

Between his win in July and the season he has had so far, you have to believe he is the favourite heading in. On the other hand, as much as Blenkhorn has had a hot streak this year, Butcher is coming off a big win at the Atlantic Cat 250. When you look at the standings, Shawn Turple is the middle man but he could easily be the one with the big trophy at the end of the night like was the case here in the spring.

Okay, I lie. With the way the season has gone, the top three in the point standings have to be the favourites heading into this race.

But wait, there is more.

The Island contingent is going to be strong here. Dylan Gosbee has been lightning quick in both of our races at Petty International Raceway and he is looking to turn around his second half of 2017 after a rough couple of gos in the last few races. Jonathan Hicken, who has three Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour wins here, is looking to take another checkered flag to give him momentum into the month of September. Kent Vincent has been able to put together a few top tens this year, including one here in July. Robbie MacEwen, like Gosbee, has been quick here in the past but is looking to turn his slump of a season around.

All four of our Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year contenders will be in attendance. Jarrett Butcher has had some great runs here in the past, including a fifth place run in July. Nicholas Naugle is looking for a top five run on the Tour and after his battle with Butcher at the Atlantic Cat 250, you know the two youngsters have a fire lit underneath them. If you remember back to the first race of the year here, Stevie Lively was in line for a top ten run late but finished just outside of those first ten to the line. Lively got his first top ten at Oyster Bed Speedway, a track similar to Petty International Raceway, and it would not surprise me to see him back in that territory again.

Lively’s stable mate in DJ Casey has been quick the last few weeks, but has struggled to “close the deal” in the most recent races. Casey had a great qualifying effort at Oyster Bed but his fourth place effort in qualifying did not show up in the finishing order. He’s in that same category as MacEwen and Gosbee of trying to shake the slump, but Casey has three top ten finishes at Petty in his young career. If he can shake the monkey, this is probably the best venue left on the schedule for him to do it.

We have two driver changes to note this weekend. Shawn Pierce, who darn near had a top five here in July but lost out by a fender to Jarrett Butcher, has to work this weekend. He has handed the seat of the #21 South Shore Speed and Sound Chevrolet to Phil Barkhouse Jr. Barkhouse has two career top fives and ten top tens to his credit on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and will look to add to that in his first MPST start at Petty Raceway. He has plenty of laps here since the track re-opened in 2011 in a Sportsman/Limited Late Model car.

Craig Slaunwhite is heading south to run the Oxford 250 with Crooks Racing, which means the seat of the #99 car will be filled by Russell Smith Jr. “The Bounty Hunter” is coming off a sixth place finish in Daryl Mahar’s car at the Atlantic Cat 250. Slaunwhite has won the last two Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour races at River Glade International and Smith has success in a Sportsman car at the track. If the Smith crew can get the #99 dialed in to the driver’s liking, it could be a dangerous combination and we could have our second first time winner of the season. I called Greg Fahey to win the Cummins 150 earlier in the year, could Russell Smith Jr score his first career Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour victory in the Cummins 200?

It will be a great day for racing outside of Moncton. The Leisure Days RV Bandoleros and the Maritime League of Legends Tour will open the show, which is fitting because a number of our drivers have come up the ranks from the US Legend Cars International ranks. The two divisions each have a few rivalries amongst them too, so the undercard could be a nice appetizer round to the Cummins 200. Be sure to get to the track at 6pm - because this racing card is going to be excellent!

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