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Race Preivew: Lucas Oil 150 at Riverside Intl Speedway

After a week off after the Cummins 200, I hope you are all ready to get back to Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour racing.

Regardless of the post race outcome at the River Glade International, the 200 lap event sure put on a show. With the threat of weather in the area on our fifth show that had to be moved due to rain on Saturday, our drivers put on an excellent show front to back. I say that almost every week but find me another field that can race for 200-laps in a two tire race and showcase short track Late Model racing like our guys can.

The friendly folks on Facebook reminded me I forgot Greg Proude in this space two weeks ago and while nobody is perfect and I rarely mention every driver in this space, I will lead off with the Springvale, PE driver. Three top five finishes have the Big Red Dodge in third in the point standings and while the hill will be a big one to climb to the championship, anything can happen in this sport. Watch for him to be good at Riverside and Scotia, places where he has won before, and possibly lead into 2018 on a streak of five top five finishes.

Dylan Gosbee’s team worked hard at the Cummins 200 to finish a strong second place. Gosbee had to pass more cars than anyone at that race and potentially more than anyone has had to pass in a single race in a while, to get back to second. Some quick thinking got Gosbee back out on track when the rear end wasn’t quite tracking right late in the race. The No. 91 Terra Vista Seafoods/Greenfield Enterprises ride caught the free pass and Gosbee absolutely drove his rear end off at the end to second. Give credit to Jody, Joel, Steve, Tom, the Hynes family and the entire team, runs like that will have them knocking on the door of Proude in the standings in the final two races.

If there was a heartbreak award from Petty International Raceway, it would go to Darren MacKinnon. MacKinnon appeared to be on his way to his first win of the season before a restart with 20 to go saw a fuel pick up issue end the day for MacKinnon. Darren pitted early in the race and while we thought the team was playing potential weather, he emerged in the second half as the leader. The team is strong and could be the choice to win Riverside International Speedway for the first time since their IWK 250 win in 2011.

Craig Slaunwhite is back in the seat of his No. 99 car this weekend at a track where he owns one win and five podium finishes. Speaking of podium finishes, give a call out to Russell Smith Jr, who recorded his second career MPST podium the last time out during the Cummins 200. I keep saying Greg Fahey is probably one of the best talents not racing on our Tour, but I put Russy up there too after what we’ve seen over the last two years in fill in roles. I’m not sure when we’ll see him again, but he is certainly a contender every time he rolls onto the track.

When it comes to Riverside, Dylan Blenkhorn has virtually owned the place. He has an average finish of one in two races or put simply he has won both times we’ve been there this year. Obviously you have to place the No. 67 Quinn Flooring Chevy at the top as a favorite, though he will be challenged by about two dozen other teams gunning for the same goal.

Everyone is talking about Matt Crafton and his return to Riverside International Speedway. It says a lot for a driver of Matt’s stature to be coming back here for the Lucas Oil 150 and he is coming for one reason - to win. He’ll be in the No. 88 car for Nova Racing, which means he will have big shoes to fill as George Koszkulics will be watching over the numbered car he usually pilots at Riverside. No pressure for Matt, eh?

Braden Langille will slide into the window of the No. 17 car for his second Parts for Trucks Tour start at a track he’s been to victory lane at during Legend competition. Donald Chisholm is always one to watch at his home track, after all he is the win leader in MPST competition (dating back to 2001) with seven wins.

In addition to aforementioned Chisholm, Blenkhorn, Proude and Slaunwhite, former Riverside Speedway winners including John Flemming, Kent Vincent, Darren MacKinnon and point leader Shawn Turple will be in the field on Saturday looking to pad their win total. Of the two dozen drivers entered, we have a one third chance of seeing a repeat winner with two thirds of the field looking for their first victory at the track.

We mentioned Gosbee as running hot looking for his first win there, but I like a guy like Cole Butcher or Jonathan Hicken as potential candidates for a first win at the track. They have come close, they collectively have 32 top tens and 14 top fives at the track, but not a win between the pair. I think that could change Saturday and while victory lane is only big enough for one car, they might be able to squeeze one in with a 5 on it.

Speaking of five, I see the five six on the entry list. Josh Collins has run strong in his two Riverside International Speedway appearances this year and will be a threat for a front running spot if the ECC No. 56 car is in the field Saturday.

The Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Battle looks to be Jarrett Butcher’s in the late stages of the season, but lets give a call out to Nicholas Naugle. Naugle enters off a top five run at Petty International Raceway in the Cummins 200 and was in the top five all night during the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 at Speedway 660 last weekend before an oil line ended their night after a scheduled pit stop. Remember last year when Harry Ross White had the rookie title all but sealed up but Nevin Scott poured on the pressure late in the going? I’ve got that feeling about this battle too.

The point battle is now between Turple and Cole Butcher heading down the stretch? Is it over? No. Is it weighed in one side? I would think so. Turple controls his own destiny right now. With a 44 point lead, he can either go into Scotia Speedworld after Saturday night with a comfortable lead or if the train comes off the rails Saturday, we could have ourselves a point race. Yes, not to stir up bad vibes but Turple has gone into the finale with a lead before and lost a championship to Shawn Tucker in 2007 because of an early wreck. Since then, Turple has won two titles and is looking for a third.

We have also seen championship contenders go into Riverside International Speedway’s final race of the year with comfortable cushions, only to lose a ton of points exiting heading to Scotia Speedworld.

Both Butcher and Turple are strong here at Riverside and while Turple’s resume both on the total 2017 season and in career stats at Riverside might favor the No. 0, don’t count out the Porters Lake bunch this weekend as they strive for their second straight championship.

While he is not making the haul to Riverside International Speedway, a tip of the cap to Mike Rodgers for winning his heat race at Petty International Raceway, which was one of the most exciting we’ve seen in a while. Rodgers and his Moncton based crew are a great addition to our series and I look forward to seeing them at more races down the road.

So, who ends up in victory lane Saturday? Only time will tell.

If you cannot make it Saturday, be sure to tune us in on Race Time Radio as they will be making a special appearance at the Riverside finale!

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