CARQUEST 100 PREVIEW
Let’s go racing boys!
The highly anticipated debut to the Maritime racing season goes green on Sunday with the CARQUEST 100 at Scotia Speedworld. Not only is this the first race of the season of our five month tri-province adventure, it is the first race for any track in the region – officially ending the off-season!
If the Tech ‘n Tune was any indication from last Saturday, I think we are in for the closest competition we’ve seen in years. Sure, it will be mighty tough to back up what our season long point battle and winner’s list brought us in 2010 but I would expect much of the same this year. Though less than half of the drivers had transponders on their cars, from the naked eye the over dozen competitors were pretty close to each other when it came to speed.
It was good to see Kent Livingston’s #16 Wendell Taylor’s Garage Impala out to the track. Kent was the only driver at the Tech ‘n Tune and is a former winner on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour (PFTPST). He could very well be a threat to add to his win total this season. Also at the test was former Scotia Speedworld Late Model champion Steve Ross. Ross was the champion on the Sportsman Tour last season and cashed in big at Lake Doucette Motor Speedway in August. At the Speedworld, Ross has recorded four Sportsman feature wins in the last three seasons – second in that category to Leonard Boutilier, who traded in his Sportsman wheels for a Pro Stock ride last season. Watch for the Waverly driver this weekend in the #42.
One camp who suffered a setback on Saturday was the #98 team. Late in the session, the team discovered motor problems with the Zutphen Contractors, Ideal Concrete Chevrolet. The team will be busy this week diagnosing the problem and preparing the car for Jerome Kehoe to drive this Sunday. After all, Kehoe paced the Parts for Trucks 200 field last September for sixty-nine circuits en route to locking up the EIT Race Radios Rookie of the Year championship.
Since the Tour kicked off in 2001, many drivers that call the Speedworld home have moved from the top ranked Sportsman division to the Tour. Just ask 2009 PFTPST champ Shawn Turple how the Sportsman ranks can be a stepping stone to the higher ground. Turple, along with Craig Slaunwhite are former multi-time Speedworld Sportsman titlists who have made a name for themselves on the Tour.
Also on the expected entry list for Sunday is 2005 PFTPST champ Rollie MacDonald. This will mark the first time since the 2009 IWK 250 Presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body that all five champions on the Tour are expected to be on the same track again. That race was won by ‘01 and ‘08 champ Wayne Smith. The last time the Timberlea native won the season opener on the Tour was 2007, which was the third time Smith has won the lid-lifter on the Tour (2001 and 2003 being the others).
Congratulations go out to Mike Stevens and his wife Sharon as they celebrated the birth of their son last week. Stevens is the defending champion of the CARQUEST 100 at Scotia Speedworld. The race was run in August last season after the event was pushed back in the schedule due to rain and was the first win for the #26 team from Riverview, NB. Stevens will be on the hunt for his second career win this Sunday.
In this race last year it was eventual 2010 champion Shawn Tucker chasing Stevens to the line. Tucker went winless last season on the PFTPST for the first time in his career. The driver of car #52 has fourteen wins to his credit – second on the winlist to Smith (23). Three-time champion John Flemming is third on the list with eleven and will look to inch closer to Tucker’s win count on Sunday.
The latest winner on the Tour is Jonathan Hicken. The Brudenell, PEI team ended the season on a high note by winning the Parts for Trucks 200 – to go with the Parts for Trucks 100 win on the Island and the Atlantic CAT 250 with Cassius Clark at the helm. The #5 will join former Speedworld race winners such as Greg Proude (Springvale, PEI), Marty “MEGA” Prevost (Fall River, NS) and Mike MacKenzie (Dartmouth, NS). Former Tour feature winners like Kent Vincent (Crapaud, PEI), Brad Mann (Glen Levit, NB), George Koszkulics (New Glasgow, NS) and Donald Chisholm (Antigonish, NS). Completing the expected entry list includes Dave Heino (Barrington, NS), Brad Brown (Halifax, NS), Darren MacKinnon (Sleepy Hollow, PEI), Shawn Pierce (Blockhouse, NS), Sandy Livingston Jr (Springhill, NS), Daryl Mahar (Hubley, NS), Dan MacKay (Halifax, NS) and “the King of the Road” Roger Miller (Kennetcook, NS) – each of whom will look to follow in Stevens’ and Hicken’s footsteps by winning their first features at Scotia Speedworld.
Meanwhile some drivers are already looking past Sunday’s opening race and pondering what the cards hold for the rest of the 2011 season. Brackley Beach, PEI’s Chris Hughes is one of those drivers searching for sponsors to complete his goal of being able to race full time this year. Hughes explained to me that there was a change of ownership at a business who was a key sponsor on the #32 Camry and the new owners had stepped back their involvement with the team. “I thought we were going to be able to run for the championship this year,” commented Hughes on the situation. “We still may be able to, but we need some extra backing to run the full season.”
Hughes is coming off a fantastic string of seasons on the PFTPST with the icing on the cake being a top five run in the IWK 250 Presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body – a race he was in contention to win all the way up to the checkered flag. “Almost winning the IWK 250 was huge for our team,” said Hughes looking back on the race at a track which will host the series’ third event of ’11. Hughes would follow that up the next week with the Dartmouth Dodge Pole Award at Speedway 660 which led to a sixth place finish after leading seventeen of the one-hundred laps. Hughes has also come within a whisker of winning at his home track of Oyster Bed Speedway on multiple occasions and is a prime candidate to finally pull off that prestigious first win on the Island in June – something that Brudenell’s Jonathan Hicken did one year ago next month.
Joining the Pro Stock boys on Sunday will be the Maritime League of Legends Tour. They are expecting a full field of cars from across the Maritime provinces and beyond to do battle for their first checkered flag of the season. Their feature will go green before the CARQUEST 100. The Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials will roll off at 3:10pm with the Fast Eddie Racewear Dash for Cash scheduled to roar to life at 4pm.
Until Sunday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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