Race Preview - Atlantic CAT 250
A quick glance at the past champions of the Atlantic CAT 250 and you have a who’s who of racing legends in the North East. Another name will be etched to the list this Saturday night as the 12th edition of the Speedworld’s marquee race goes green!
With only two former champions expected to vie for the title, the door is open for someone else to write their name into the history book. Ben Rowe, a two time winner of the event from Turner, Maine will look to win his first 250 under the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour banner while the most recent winner on the Tour, John Flemming will look to win his second 250 after winning the first event back in 2000. With Flemming on a role with two top two finishes in as many starts and with Rowe having a fantastic season going in the PASS North Series, the two should be at the or near the top of your favorites list leading into the Saturday evening festivities!
Drivers who have won extended races at other tracks will look to take their lessons learned and transfer that into a victory at Scotia Speedworld. Darren MacKinnon, Kent Vincent, Wayne Smith, Craig Slaunwhite and Shawn Tucker come to mind as IWK 250 and Speedway 660 250 champions who are yet to strike gold in the Atlantic CAT 250.
I have the feeling we could see someone shock the field this weekend with a great finish. These extra distance races lend themselves to those looking to make a huge statement on a big stage. Take MacKinnon for instance; though he was on the radar before the IWK 250, the Charlottetown driver had his stock rise in a huge way after the big win. Hometown favorites the likes of Mike MacKenzie, Marty Prevost, Leonard Boutilier or Daryl Mahar would fit this role quite nicely as well.
Drivers looking to point their seasons in the right direction could do it here in a big way. Greg Proude has a 200 win under his belt at Oyster Bed Speedway and is a proven winner here at the Speedworld. Mike Stevens got his first win about a year ago at the 3/10-mile oval and is due for another trip to victory circle. Remember though, it was the #5 car who went to victory lane here last season and regular pilot Jonathan Hicken will look to make it back-to-back 250 wins for the Chapman Brothers Construction/Castle Building Centres Chevrolet!
Shawn Turple is the most recent winner at the Speedworld and will be one of many favorites on Saturday. Donald Chisholm has said before that one of the biggest items on his racing bucket list was to win at the Speedworld and this would be the perfect chance to scratch one off the list. Jerome Kehoe ran strong here in the Parts for Trucks 200 last season and could be one to watch in the closing laps of the 250. Veterans like Brad Mann, Cy Harvey or George Koszkulics would also be fitting champions of the Atlantic CAT 250.
Also joining the ranks of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour this weekend will be Sportsman standout Russell Smith Jr. of Lakeside. Smith, a two time Lumbermart Lightning car champion at the Speedworld will be driving a car out of his Uncle Wayne’s stable with the familiar #33 on the side. The Chevrolet, sponsored by Petty International Raceway and Signs by Chris will serve as the chariot for Smith’s first Pro Stock start about a year following his first foray into Sportsman competition in which Smith won in his first ever start, then hopped into his Lightning car to nail down that feature as well. Keep your eye on the youngster as he takes the green on Saturday!
Don’t overlook the point race heading into the CAT 250 either. With four races to go, Tucker only leads Smith by four points. MacKinnon is well within striking distance of the leaders with just 20 points between he and the leader. Flemming moved to within 33 points of the leaders with his win while Vincent and Turple are 50 and 53 points out of Tucker respectively. Mathematically speaking, all of our regulars are still within a shot of the leaders but with the competition we have in this series, it looks like we may be down to a six horse battle for the championship.
The drivers mentioned above will be joined by many others looking to run for glory in the longest and richest race on the Speedworld schedule. The Maritime League of Legends Tour will also be in attendance for their 50 lap event, which always sets a fast paced tone for the Pro Stockers to do battle afterwards. Friday night’s race is one not to miss either as the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series will go at it for 100-laps in the Sportsman 100 Presented by Dartmouth Dodge. The Scotia Speedworld Truck class will play support on Friday. For more information on that event, check out ScotiaSpeedworld.ca and be sure to watch for my preview on that race on Thursday night!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
FAST FACTS – ATLANTIC CAT 250
The Track: Scotia Speedworld, 3/10-mile oval located minutes south of Enfield, Nova Scotia at Exit 6 on Highway 102.
Last five winners: Shawn Turple (July 2nd, 2011), Shawn Tucker (May 23rd, 2011), Jonathan Hicken (September 12th, 2010*), Mike Stevens (August 21st, 2010), Cassius Clark (August 7th, 2010*)
*Denotes extra-distance race (Parts for Trucks 200/Atlantic CAT 250)
Hometown advantage?: As you can see above in the last year, only one winner has hailed from Nova Scotia. It shows the competition in this series with two out of the last five race winners from New Brunswick while one each represent the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the state of Maine.
Past Champions: Atlantic CAT 250
2000: John Flemming, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2001: Louie Mechalides, Tyngsboro, Mass.
2002: Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine
2003: Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine
2004: Johnny Clark, Farmingdale, Maine
2005: Mike Rowe, Turner, Maine
2006: Johnny Clark, Farmingdale, Maine
2007: Mike Rowe, Turner, Maine
2008: Travis Benjamin, Belfast, Maine
2009: Lonnie Sommerville, Saint John, New Brunswick
2010: Cassius Clark, August, Maine
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