Race Preview - CARQUEST 100
“If we keep getting the good finishes, we’re going to make things interesting.”
That was the quote John Flemming gave me at Scotia Speedworld during the Atlantic CAT 250 weekend. He’s continued to reel off those good finishes and is making things quite interesting as we head into International weekend at Petty International Raceway and the CARQUEST 100 on Saturday night.
Five drivers enter this weekend with a realistic chance to make something big happen in the championship picture. With his run in the Lucas Oil 100 last week, Kent Vincent has kept his chances alive for the title. Albeit he is 35 points back of the leader, he is still involved in the title hunt but will need two races like he had at Riverside to seal his first championship on the Tour and the $10,000 check that goes with.
Leading Vincent’s Dodge into competition on Saturday is Flemming’s #97 Roofing Connection Dodge. Flemming’s seventh place finish at Riverside comes on the heels of three consecutive top two finishes on the Tour, including a win at the Air Show Atlantic 100 (which happens this Saturday and Sunday in Summerside, by the way). Flemming is 23 points out of his fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour championship. That 23 number isn’t hard to gain back if John can gain the 10 bonus points (five for leading a lap and five for leading the most laps) at each event. Five of those at each race can only be gained by one driver, meaning there is at least ten points that no other driver can obtain if he does. If he can keep his competitors from leading a lap, that’s another five points per show the others can’t capture.
It’s just like we’ve heard a few times this season from many drivers – you really control your own destiny as a driver on the track. At this point, Flemming and Vincent need to go out and do their best and really hope for the top three to have a misstep to gain some points on them. With just nine points between the top three, more than one will need to falter in the final two races for Flemming and Vincent to really make the magic happen.
Speaking of making the magic happen, Darren MacKinnon has been lighting it up recently on the Tour. Second place last Saturday night comes after a fourth place run in the Atlantic CAT 250, a third place run at the Air Show Atlantic 100, the win at the IWK 250, third at Speedway 660 and the big victory at Oyster Bed Speedway in the Parts for Trucks 100. If you are keeping score, that’s six top four finishes in the last seven races, including two wins. That other finish? A sixth place run coming in the Lockhart 100 - not too shabby for a mid-summer run. The strength of that performance has put MacKinnon into the thick of the title hunt – just nine points out of the lead spot. MacKinnon has ran strong at both Petty and at Scotia, being up in the top two for a majority of the first two events of the year before being relegated to finishes not indicative of how the #18 ran in the opening events.
Shawn Tucker sits just one point out of his second consecutive and fourth overall title on the Tour. Only once in series history has there been a champion win back-to-back crowns, happening in 2002 and 2003 when Flemming pulled the feat. Tucker’s car was just coming to life at Riverside when the checkered flag flew on Saturday night and had to settle for the fifth spot in the Lucas Oil 100. Watch for Tucker to pour on the pressure these next two weekends as he looks to become the first four time champion in the Pro Stock Tour era (2001-present) starting this weekend at Petty.
At the top of the board is Wayne Smith. Smith who was the winner of the first event of the season at Petty and is also strong at his home track at Scotia Speedworld. Smith is looking for that coveted sixth Maritime Touring championship this season but with Tucker, MacKinnon, Flemming and Vincent hot on his tail with two races it will be far from easy to put that title in the bag before lap 200 of the Dartmouth Dodge 200.
The great thing about our sport though is that it’s not just about points. Around two dozen other drivers will be looking to take away the win in the CARQUEST 100 on Saturday. This race is special for many reasons, including the trophy that the driver will get to share with the winner of the Sportsman event on Friday night. The International event had been run for 45 years annually at the Riverglade Speedway. When that Speedway closed its door in 2009, the coveted race sat without a place to be run. Enter Smith, Brett Benoit and Craig McFetridge who bought Petty International and with that brought the event down the highway for a resurrection we will witness this weekend. The winner of the Friday Sportsman 100 and Saturday’s CARQUEST 100 Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race will be etched in history as the co-winners on the 46th running of the International.
Leading the way to take away the Pro Stock portion of the show may just be Mike Stevens. Stevens, who calls nearby Salisbury home will have a big cheering section at the race on Saturday night and will by far be the hometown favorite when the Pro Stocks roar to life. Donald Chisholm and Jerome Kehoe ran second and third respectively to Smith when we last visited the facility and both are looking for solid runs to end their season on a high note. Can’t count out Jonathan Hicken either in the #5 car as he runs well at every track we go to. He will lead a strong Island contingent including MacKinnon, Vincent and Greg Proude among others looking to make the tow across the Confederation Bridge.
Craig Slaunwhite carries momentum into the Moncton area as well as Slaunwhite ran a strong third in last weekend’s Lucas Oil 100. Leonard Boutilier and team have hit on something in that #45 NGH Industrial Services Chevrolet and that car has continued to get faster every race. Brad Mann, Shawn Turple, Marty Prevost, Daryl Mahar, Shawn Pierce and Brad Brown will also be looking to put their name on the International trophy this weekend among others.
Find out who will end up on top this weekend by heading up to Petty International Speedway with us on Saturday for the CARQUEST 100. Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials begin at 5:10pm with racing going green at 6pm. The Maritime League of Legend Tour will also be on hand for a 50-lap feature. Last time the Legends Tour was at Petty, it was Dylan Blenkhorn and Ontario’s Chad Windsor putting on a show in their 50-lap event.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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