MPST Goes Green Saturday
Eight months ago Scotia Speedworld hosted the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour finale for the '08 season. In a race that was delayed one day due to precipitation, the crowd saw one of the best Pro Stock races in recent years at the facility. There were fifteen lead changes among five different leaders, and in the end it was then-rookie Craig Slaunwhite from Terence Bay who stood as the race winner. Shawn Turple (Enfield) and Lonnie Sommerville (Saint John, NB) joined Slaunwhite on the podium as Wayne Smith of Timberlea locked up the 2008 crown with a sixth place run.
All those drivers will be back on Saturday afternoon to not only contend for the '09 Maritime Tour crown, but to win the first race of the season, the Lucas Oil 100. Smith and Slaunwhite both took part in the annual Tech N Tune at Scotia Speedworld last weekend and though no official times were released from the Tour, both cars looked fast on the 3/10 mile oval. Meanwhile, Sommerville and Turple have both taken green flags already this season South of the border and looked poised to take their first checkered flag this season North of the border at Scotia Speedworld on Saturday.
Prince Edward Island was well represented at the test last weekend as Kent Vincent (Crapaud), Chris Hughes (Brackley Beach), Kris Fournier (Charlottetown), Lowell Affleck (Summerside), Robbie MacLean (Winsloe) and Greg Proude (North Wiltshire) all had their racecars out on track in advance of the season opener. Vincent and his #8 team led the Island charge in '08 with a sixth place finish in the points — sixteen points in front of fellow Islander Chris Hughes. Hughes is hungry for a checkered flag on the Tour after two second place finishes last season at his home track in Oyster Bed Bridge. Fournier may be the driver riding the most momentum from the Island camp though, as he finished 3rd in the Atlantic Canadian Stock Car Championships for Pro Stocks last October in Shediac to Smith and Maine's Kirk Thibeau. Island registrations have also been received by Roger Crane (Montague), Darren MacKinnon (Milton), Darren Vanderaa (Milton), Scott Livingston (Charlottetown), '08 EIT Race Radios Rookie of the Year runner-up Jonathan Hicken (Brudenell), and Joel Hickox.
Joining PEI Modified standout Hickox as eligible drivers for the EIT Race Radios Rookie of the Year award are fellow Islander Allison MacKinnon, New Brunswick's Jason Carnahan and former Sportsman tour titlist Todd Tufts from Nova Scotia. They will try to join the likes of Slaunwhite, Sommerville, and Turple as former Rookies of the Year on the MPST.
The province of New Brunswick is also well represented this season and will once again be led by Sommerville and two time champ of the tour, Shawn Tucker. Fredericton's Tucker will try to become only the second driver to win three Maritime Tour titles since the series' inception in 2001. He sits tied with Smith with two titles since 2001, one behind three time champ John Flemming (Halifax). Boundary Creek's Dave O'Blenis is back for a full season on the Tour as is Riverview's Mike Stevens. Both drivers pulled off solid '08 campaigns (7th in points for O'Blenis, 12th for Stevens) and look to better their efforts this season. Former race winner on the Tour, Brad Mann (Glen Levit) is also registered to compete in '09.
Joining Smith, Turple, and Slaunwhite as registered drivers this season from Nova Scotia include 11th place points man from one year ago Daryl Mahar (Hubley), Roger and Pete Miller (Kennetcook), Sandy Livingston Jr. (Springhill), Marty Prevost (Fall River), Donald Chisholm (Antigonish), George Koszkulics (New Glasgow), Phil Barkhouse Jr. (Beaverbank), David Heino (Barrington) and Shawn Pierce (Bridgewater). Pierce is optimistic about the '09 season as he will be behind the wheel of a car that will be familiar to Tour fans. "This is a former Wayne Smith car," Pierce said following the test on the 9th. "It was one of the deals that I couldn't turn down during the offseason and it is a great car to drive."
Former MPST champs Rollie MacDonald (Pictou) and PASS North regular Flemming will also be flying the Nova Scotia colors in 2009.
With all the winter "bench racing" over with, all eyes turn to Scotia Speedworld for the Lucas Oil 100. Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials go green at 3:10pm with the CARQUEST Dash to go green at 4pm. The Lucas Oil 100 is race one of the twelve races scheduled in 2009 for the MPST. A race day schedule can be found at MaritimeProStockTour.com while tickets for the event can be purchased through TicketAtlantic.com and their box offices as well as at the door on the 23rd.
With all that said, there are only three more words everyone has been waiting for over the winter &mdahs; Let's go racing! See you Saturday.
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