Well folks, believe it or not, we are halfway in the 2013 season.
Okay, technically, we are over halfway, but with three rain outs, it evens itself out a bit.
The back half of this season has some pretty big events. For example, next week is the 14th Annual Atlantic CAT 250 weekend. The Thunder and Lightning boys and girl will take to the track in their Twin 50s event on August 16th. The Legends have a 50 lap point race on Strictly Hydraulics Night. We also have a huge end to the season in the Dartmouth Dodge 200 weekend.
Regardless of how big or hyped the races are, all of them (with the exception of the Dartmouth Dodge 100 for Sportsman on August 9th, which is run for show points) will be run for valuable championship points. One small slip could be the difference between the victory and the championship or finding yourself somewhere in the top five that is not the top spot.
Here’s a small nugget for you - of our six Weekly Racing Series divisions, the average point lead is seven points! It’s something special folks to have all six of our divisions so close and though any of these divisions could flip either way before we hit finale weekend, it is definitely something worth noting.
The Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series saw its second repeat winner of 2013 as Darren Wallage took a pivotal win in the 19th Annual Shriner’s Classic for Sportsman. Not only was it a key win with it being Wallage’s first Shriner’s Classic victory, it helped extend his point lead over Aaron Boutilier by eight points. Boutilier is the only other repeat winner in the competitive class, joining Chris Dingle and Russell Smith Jr as winners this season at the Speedworld. With three point races left (not counting the show points for the Dartmouth Dodge 100), this is a two horse race for the title unless something happens to both the #3 and #4. The margin between first place Wallage and third place Harry Ross White is 62 points and don’t get me wrong, that is far from an impossible number to make up in three races with an average of 20 cars showing up each week, but HOSS is going to need to be perfect in those three weeks and Darren and Aaron will need a couple hiccups to open this thing up.
The pleasant surprise this season in the top class at our track has been DJ Casey. The rookie who moved from Legends to Sportsman this year has caught on to the bigger powered, full bodied car quickly and it reflects with the #97 being fourth in points, just 18 points out of series veteran Harry Ross White. These next few weeks will put Casey, the 2006 Bandolero champion at Scotia Speedworld, to the test with his first 100 lap race at his home track and a hungry Brentley Pirri, Wade Slauenwhite and Owen Barkhouse behind him and within 22 points of his fourth place spot in the standings. Casey will have his work cut out for him, but if there is a freshman that is up to the task, you better believe it’s the driver of the #97 ACE Towing and Crane Impala!
Another driver that has come a long way in just under a year of racing at Scotia Speedworld is Travis Roma. Roma impressed last weekend by nearly winning his heat race to qualify for the 19th Annual Shriner’s Classic and coming home with a solid top ten in the feature. The team, led up by crew chief Chris Roma and a whole host of dedicated Roma Brothers Racing crew members, continue to learn the ropes of Late Model Sportsman racing and they continue to make gains on the car each week. With the way they are running, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Travis drive the #38 Doug Forbes Century 21 Classic/DSL Tire/Mike Rushton Snap On Tools Chevrolet to victory lane in a heat race or two!
The most intriguing battle at Scotia Speedworld and throughout the region for that matter, is in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division. The top seven in points are separated by just 19 points, which is the closest battle of any Weekly Racing Series division in Atlantic Canada amongst the top seven competitors. Cole Butcher, who is the defending division champion, opened the season with two wins and a second place finish but has had a couple stumbles in the last two races but still finds himself on top of the points by nine markers.
Matt Moore, who won the feature last week, is the biggest improver on the week, moving up to second in the standings from sixth and gaining ten points on Butcher in one week. Danny Harvey moved right with Moore, with a second place finish, it moved the #4 from seventh to third in the standings and now sits just 13 points out of the lead. Jeff Cruickshank and Emily Meehan are still tied for fourth in the standings after Cruickshank made up the two points that Miss Rawdon Rocket gained in the heat race. In the grand scheme of things, they are one point closer to the top then they were a week prior, sitting 14 points out of the leader after five races. Dan Michaud Jr fell from third to sixth in the standings and now sits 18 points out of the lead but in turn, the #2 is only five points out of third.
The big loser on the night was “The Legend” Cy Harvey. After bringing out the first caution flag of the evening and falling a lap down in the exchange, the former point leader goes from having a one point lead to being 19 back in seventh. The 2007 Strictly Hydraulics Legends champion has two wins on the Maritime League of Legends Tour this season but has yet to hold the checkers at Scotia Speedworld - something he could change Friday. Four drivers have won Strictly Hydraulics Legends features this season (Harvey, Cruickshank, Moore and Butcher), with Butcher being the only repeat winner in five races. The Strictly Hydraulics Legends have five races to go in their 2013 season.
Dan Smith, Ryan Goldsmith and Jason Fenton are trying to make this Coors Light Truck Division championship fight a three way dance. While he did not score the win last Friday, Fenton sent a statement by coming back up through the field after an early feature altercation with Robbie Watts to take second and close to within six points of new point leader Smith, who took the advantage back from Goldsmith by two points. Watts was delivered a crushing blow for his championship chances Friday and while the crash does not take him out of the championship hunt, he’ll have to get up on the wheel in the final six races to close in the 28 points he needs to gain on the leaders.
With Vernon Brown’s win, we now have five different winners in as many races in the class, something no other class on the Weekly Racing Series at the track can lay claim to. It could easily be six this Friday with Larry Vaughan running as strong as he has been. The team has been switching drivers nightly now, with Matt Vaughan at the helm for heats while his grandfather takes the wheel for the feature. Matt has shown some real promise in his short time behind the wheel and will fit in well in our Weekly Racing Series family of drivers!
When you add in the recent additions of Chris Ainsworth and Jamie Creamer, combined with the possibility of Kevin Robar, Chris Smith, Jim MacMillan and Cale MacMillan being ready by Atlantic CAT 250 weekend, we could be seeing double digits in this class within the next few weeks.
The ACE Lumbermart Lightning drivers are excited to get back to racing. Like the start of the season, with a rainout and an off-week, it’s been a few weeks since they have raced. “Rational” Richard Patrick is on top of the standings by three points over J.R. Lawson. Lawson has raced in the time since we’ve been off as he debuted a new ACE Lumbermart Thunder car ride last week at the Speedworld. With only four races in, they also have their two scheduled off weeks in, meaning the Lightning cars will be on our remaining seven Weekly Racing Series cards this season.
The happiest to hear that statement have to be BJ Nicholson, Jamie Dillman, Jamie Creamer, Earl MacDonald and Marc MacMillan. MacMillan, seventh in the standings, is 60 points out of Patrick for the lead. If all seven races are run without weather issues, that’s an average of nine points a night MacMillan needs to gain to get to the top spot, barring anyone else getting there before him. The other statistic Marc and the others chasing Richard probably don’t want to hear - in the first four races, the biggest margin anyone has been able to gain on Patrick has been six points when Richie Moore won his second race of the season two weeks ago. With 23 points between Nicholson in third and MacMillan in seventh in the standings, this battle will be as entertaining as the one for the top spot - and should Patrick or Lawson stumble, you best believe the next five will be there to capitalize on their championship chances!
The Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros saw a turning point in the season last week after Braden Langille captured his first win of the season. While Langille was en route to the victory, Adam Meehan was driving the wheels off his Bandolero to fight from ninth to fifth in the final two lap dash to soften the blow in the standings after he and Craig MacDonald got together on the bell lap in Turn Three for the win. The contact sent a crushing blow to MacDonald’s championship chances as now the youngster sits 45 points out in fourth in the standings. Again, as we’ve said before, not an impossible number to gain, especially in six races (average of eight points a race), but with Meehan not finishing outside the top five yet this season, he may need a fault from Meehan and/or Langille to put himself back in the hunt.
Another driver who is quietly making his way back up into the picture is Cole Tanner. Tanner is one of the most versatile Bandolero racers we have in our midst with his ability to go anywhere to any track and be competitive. The team has missed the mark of victory over the last year and a half at their home track but they are proving that they should be taken seriously as a contender after finishing second last weekend. If Tanner can get up on the wheel in these final six races and gain 34 points, the championship may just be heading to Shubenacadie this season.
One driver who turned heads last weekend was Wyatt McCulloch, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise. McCulloch comes from a family bred in racing (his father Greg is a fabricator who has seen his cars win many races and championships) and he has caught on real quick to the Bandolero game. In addition to the podium finish, McCulloch also captured his first heat race victory of his career last Friday night. Watch for the #13 in these final few races of 2013 - he’s going places folks!
We’ll take a look at the ACE Lumbermart Thunder car battle next week as we’re running out of space here to do so. It’s setting up to be a replay of 2011 though, which came down to the final corner of the final lap and a one point difference.
I’ll also remind you here to pick up your tickets for the Atlantic CAT 250 if you are one who picks up your tickets in advance for events. You can find them at all Ticket Atlantic locations, or, since you are online reading this, www.ticketatlantic.com.
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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