What a way to kick off the season!
If you missed the season opening race this past Sunday at Scotia Speedworld, you missed one of the most memorable lid-lifters in the Parts for Truck Pro Stock Tour’s eleven year history! Many stories developed throughout the afternoon and into the early evening and though I won’t be able to recap all twenty-six sides of the grid, here is a small portion of what happened.
Though it was dry at the Enfield oval on Sunday it was far from a summer day. The overcast conditions combined with a chill from the light wind threw some of the teams a curveball. Drivers described the track as “greasy” and “very slick” on cold tires and those who could handle their cars on the Hoosier slicks the best would likely end up in victory lane. Which reminds me, we have the best fans in the region for braving the chill to come out and watch the best short track drivers in Eastern Canada battle it out!
When John Flemming came through the pit gate on Sunday he was all smiles. There was a lot of work done in the off-season to the #97 Roofing Connection Dodge but it was well worth it. “We weren’t happy with the car the last couple of years,” Flemming said. “We tore it down, every single piece and part and put it back together for this year. We have a really strong car this year and should be a contender every week.”
He was certainly that on Sunday. Flemming was quick in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials and would get the draw in the Fast Eddie Racewear Dash for Cash to propel himself to the victory in the qualifier. From the pole in the CARQUEST 100, Flemming dominated the first three quarters of the race until a restart with twenty to go brought the field, specifically Shawn Tucker back to Flemming. Tucker wrestled the lead away from Flemming held off the Dodge Charger in the waning laps – including a green, white, checkered finish to cap off the race. Even though the Halifax driver had just come up short of victory lane at his home track, he still managed a smile at the end like a true champion would.
Speaking of champions, Tucker worked through traffic after finishing ninth in the Dash to win the first race of the season. Tucker methodically worked his way through the field until finding second place Darren Mackinnon. Tucker and Mackinnon battled nose to tail for many laps until a restart in the final third of the race opened the door for Tucker to come through for the runner-up spot. He and Flemming battled side-by-side with the #52 A.L. Guillson Disaster Kleenup Chevy, finally getting the best of Flemming. The win was the first since the Parts for Trucks 200 in 2009 at the Speedworld.
When Tucker got out of the car he thanked his crew for putting in hours on the car and his sponsors including Rockico Equipment Limited, who came on board this season. It was great to see so many new sponsors on the cars and signage at the track for the first event of 2011. There are many teams that are looking to fill blank panels to continue their quest to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour crown, be sure to check in with them at Petty in two week’s time if you are looking to advertise!
Comeback kids during the feature – and there were many of them! A lap five incident sent Greg Proude and Shawn Turple to the tail at the next restart. Thirty laps later, Donald Chisholm found himself at the back after a spin off the second corner. As the laps clicked off, all three made their way to the front of the field with Turple and Chisholm coming home in sixth and seventh respectively. Chisholm and teammate George Koszkulics spent two days at the Speedworld last week and kept gaining on their cars to get them to where they wanted them for Sunday. Chisholm is still chasing that elusive win at the Speedworld, which he’ll have another shot at July 2nd during the Lockhart Truck Center 100.
Wayne Smith finished third after starting fourteenth in the CARQUEST 100. An issue with the rear axel prevented “the Oval Outlaw” from making a pass on the clock in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials but the five time Maritime titlist rebounded to finish second in his Dartmouth Dodge Heat Race. “We didn’t have a third place car today,” said Smith after the race. When asked about the altercation in front of him that set up the green-white-checkered finish, Smith replied, “I feel bad for those guys but that’s racin’ and those things happen.”
Darren Mackinnon was en route to his best ever career finish on Sunday during the CARQUEST 100 at Scotia Speedworld until he and Craig Slaunwhite made contact with two laps remaining. Mackinnon was sixth in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, drew seventh in the Fast Eddie Racewear hat draw and slotted into sixth on the CARQUEST 100 after the ten lap dash. MacKinnon dodged the first caution on lap five and found himself on the outside of Flemming for the ensuing restart. He found himself battling with Tucker for second place for a majority of the 100-laps before Tucker got by for second with just over twenty laps left. A late race restart found Mackinnon battling with Slaunwhite for third until the two made contact in the second corner, sending the #18 Shaw’s Towing/First Choice Hair Cutters car around and hard into the back straight wall.
I had mentioned off-air on Sunday that the Speedworld has seen drivers step up their game to the next level in recent years. Mike Stevens finished second to Tucker in the ’09 finale and came back the next year to best the three time champ in this very race we speak of today. Mackinnon showed us that he means business and like Stevens could break through for his first win before this season concludes at the very track it began at on Sunday.
Speaking of Stevens, the Salisbury, NB driver had an up and down day. Stevens cracked the dash and worked his #26 Artic Cat-G. Bourque Chevy up to third at the end of ten laps. After the lap five caution which sent him around in the third turn, the night got worse. “We had carburetor issues after the spin,” said Stevens after the race when I caught up to him in Stewiacke, NS. “The thing wasn’t working right and would shut off. When it did, it sent the car sideways. That wasn’t the way we wanted to start off the season but there’s always the next race at Petty.”
Jonathan Hicken and Kent Vincent put on a show for the fourth place spot for most of the CARQUEST 100. It was as if the two had magnets on their cars as the #5 and the #8 were never too far away from each other after starting the race nose to tail. Hicken got the best of Vincent for the spot when the checkers flew.
Dan Mackay and Dave Heino deserve a tip of the cap after their near disaster in their heat race. After Art Steeves dropped the green on the ten lap affair, Mackay spun the tires and fishtailed his #71 The Auto Store Chevy down the front straight. Mackay’s veteran instincts kept the car off the wall as he spun it down to the inside just as Heino’s #1 DC Huskins and Sons Trucking Chevrolet was coming through. Heino slammed on the brakes and the two somehow avoided each other. It left this announcer speechless and I’m sure it made a few hearts skip beats after the dust settled.
Congratulations to all the teams and drivers who made the CARQUEST 100 one of the most action packed hundred lappers we’ve seen in a while. They’ll be back at it in under two weeks at Petty International Raceway. Can Wayne Smith take the win at the track he co-owns or can Shawn Tucker continue his quest to become the first four time champion in the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour era (2001-11)? Find out when we throw the green flag for the Lucas Oil 100 on June 4th at 6pm (with Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials rolling at 5:10pm)!
Next week, we preview Round Two of the Tour. Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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