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Waking Up In January

As Winter continues on, those anticipating Summer begin to prepare for the 2018 racing season.

I mentioned to a few folks that while December was relatively quiet, it seems like everyone has woken up in January. News begins to break as the calendar changes and schedules make their way out, rules are announced and teams, if they haven’t already, find their way into the shop to start building their race cars for the upcoming Summer.

Yes, it is still four months away from the season opener but it is never too early to think about or talk racing. At least talk about the pieces we know about.

The biggest piece of news came out just a couple weeks ago with the release of the 2018 Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour schedule. While a lot stays the same, including the continuation of all features being a minimum of 150-laps, two major changes came with the new year.

The first change comes with the first race. Petty International Raceway will host the season opener for the first time in the Maritime Pro Stock Tour era dating back to 2001. Only thrice has the Maritime Pro Stock Tour season opener been held somewhere other than Scotia Speedworld - in 2003, 2004 and 2010 all at Riverside International Speedway.

Events at both Scotia Speedworld and Petty International Raceway in late May and early June allowed the schedule shift in the first two weeks of the season. It also allows the Tour to remove a “four in a row” stretch the series saw in previous years from late June to early July. Four races in a row is demanding on teams, especially if an accident or a part failure happens creating an even longer stretch early in the season.

So while we have a change of scenery on the first long holiday weekend of the year, the second one also sees a change of venue, albeit a familiar one at the expense of a mainstay on the schedule.

Speedway 660 will not host a Maritime Pro Stock Tour event for the first time since Series inception. Without going to deep into things, at the end of the day while racing is a hobby and a passion for many it is also a business and that end did not meet in recent years. As Max Roy said at the Speedway 660 banquet, the two are parting on good terms and they wish each other the best in the future. As race fans, hopefully the future becomes brighter and we can see a return for the Series at a track that hosted 29 Maritime Pro Stock Tour features over 17 years and we hope all goes well with their 2018 schedule.

On the other side, we are making a return to Prince Edward Island on Canada Day weekend!

The last time the Tour visited Oyster Bed Speedway twice in a year was 2012. Ironically, the dates match up as Donald Chisholm won that last June race on PEI on June 30th, 2012. It is Chisholm’s only Prince Edward Island win - and it was an impressive one after setting fast time in Time Trials, leading the most laps and holding off the field late for the victory. If you can remember back, Donald had a great year in 2012 and left Oyster Bed on top of the point standings after that race, eventually finishing seventh in the standings that year to John Flemming.

Lots of new faces have moved up to the Pro Stock Tour to replace some of the veterans. Shawn Tucker and “‘Ole Seven Time” Brad Mann were still competing full time (and tangled in that race if I remember right), Robbie MacLean still flew around the track in his familiar No. 01 car and the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year class that year included Brad Eddy, Steve Halpin, Dylan Gosbee and the Rookie of the Race on that day in 2012 Terry Dougay. Dougay was 12th in that feature back on June 30th, 2012 while Halpin went on to the season long rookie battle.

Setting the calendar back to 2018, with Oyster Bed Speedway’s premiere division on their weekly point series becoming a Pro Stock class with rules very similar to the Maritime Pro Stock Tour rulebook, we could see some big fields in the two 150-lap features on Prince Edward Island. For Island fans, how cool would it be to see guys like Mark LeClair, Randy Millar and Matt Palmer, the local Saturday night heroes, race with the Tour when it rolls into town? On the opposite side, wouldn’t it be neat to see them cross the bridge with their cars they can now run on PEI and take a stab at the IWK 250 or the 250 in Halifax on an off-weekend?

While not heading to Speedway 660 is a loss for fans in the Capital Region of New Brunswick, the potential of a second date with more cars being able to compete from Oyster Bed Speedway’s Pro Stock class is huge for not only the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, but for this sport in the Maritimes in general.

Everyone asks me who will be running the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in 2018. With the registration office not open in the winter months, we cannot “officially” say who is signed up to run or not at this point. The Braden Langille and Nova Racing camp has signaled intentions they will run full time and campaign for the Exide Batteries Rookie of the Year Award and I have heard of one more young star looking to make that leap in 2018 but not sure if they’ve announced their plans or not yet, so my lips are sealed.

Speaking of up and coming young stars, Sarah McKay will return to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour full time in 2018 after a one year hiatus. I haven’t heard whether Sarah’s father Andrew will be running some races after running at Speedway 660 in 2017 but it would be neat to see Andrew try his hand at some Tour races.

The Kent Vincent Racing team has a new Port City car in the shop from Crooks Racing. Kent is the Tour’s Ironman, competing in every single tour event (194) since 2001 and has six wins to his resume including two IWK 250 trophies. Kent is also one of only five drivers to reach 100 career top tens, sitting second all time with 116 and only seven behind the mark set by Shawn Tucker.

A lot of our teams are beginning preparations as well. The annual Rules Meeting for teams was held in Amherst last month and around twenty teams were represented at the meeting. The next step for a lot of those teams is getting their cars ready, which will kick into high gear when the rules package is officially released.

 We’re rolling into what should be a very exciting 18th season with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and with most beginning to wake up and rub their eyes after an early winter’s nap, the news is sure to start rolling in now leading up to Saturday, May 19th.

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