Three Stars + Kiddie Night Preview
What an exciting weekend of racing at Scotia Speedworld!
Our Weekly Racing Series show put on some great racing on Friday night and Saturday’s Lockhart Truck Center 150 saw an incredible showcase of short track racing. We’ll look a bit more into our Weekly Racing Series in a few when we preview this Friday’s Kiddie Night festivities but first, let’s look back with our Three Stars. There are lots deserving to be here, but here are three drivers that turned some heads on the weekend!
#5 Cole Butcher - Strictly Hydraulics Legends/Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour
We’re witnessing something special here folks.
It’s not too often a kid comes along, absolutely lights up divisions, blazes a trail up to the big leagues and begins to do the same. We’re seeing that with Cole Butcher.
Butcher took his second win of the season in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division last Friday besting Cy Harvey and an impressive run from Matt Moore. Less than 12 hours later, the team was back in their Porter’s Lake shop replacing a motor on their #53 Atlantic Tiltload Chevrolet Pro Stock. Fast forward about another 12 hours or so and Butcher is not only shaking down the motor but giving it a run to the front of the field, finishing sixth in the Lockhart Truck Center 150 and recording his first career Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour top-ten.
This kid is going somewhere. He’s got the talent that could push him up beyond our regional boundaries. The question is, what’s next for the Strictly Hydraulics Legend car champion in the next few years?! Stay tuned.
#7 Andrew Starks - Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman
Sometimes it’s not about winning but about a performance that turns heads.
Andrew Starks went from sitting on top of the #95 car of Mike Banks to dodging wrecks in front of him en route to a fifth place finish in the class. Due to work commitments, Starks is unable to make most of our Friday night Weekly Racing Series shows, which is really a shame because the Debert driver has really shown he has the talent and car to compete up front on a weekly basis. Case in point, look at the finale last year when Starks was up front and led laps early before finishing ninth. The Weekly Racing Series opener this year had Starks finishing ninth after having a strong piece in the #7 Blueline New Holland Chevrolet. Starks also finished seventh in the NAPA Sportsman Series opener earlier in the month at Riverside.
I’ll call it now - watch for Starks to be a top five car at the Dartmouth Dodge 100 in August and if the team opts to run the Maritime Sportsman Challenge, expect him to be a contender for that top three money if they get a little luck on their side.
#67 Dylan Blenkhorn - Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour
I mentioned on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour Tim’s Corner in the off-season that only three drivers have won in their rookie season of Pro Stock racing. Gordie Ryan did it in 2001, Greg Proude did it in 2005 and Craig Slaunwhite in 2008. It’s been nearly five years since a rookie has won a Pro Stock Tour race and it almost changed Saturday!
Dylan Blenkhorn, in just his fourth Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race, qualified fifth in the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials, drew and finished second in the King Freight Dash for Cash and held that second place spot for a majority of the opening half of the Lockhart Truck Center 150. A restart put the #67 Blenkhorn’s Auto Recyclers Chevrolet back outside the top five around the mid way point but Blenkhorn didn’t give up as he would cross the line on Lap 150 in seventh place.
To back up his impressive Exide Batteries Rookie campaign, he not only leads all freshmen in the standings, he’s sixth overall and just 16 points out of third! Look behind him, you have three drivers directly behind him in the top ten (Donald Chisholm, George Koszkulics and Craig Slaunwhite) who have 15 combined wins between them. He’s got the edge so far on guys like three time champion Shawn Tucker and Jonathan Hicken.
He, along with Cole Butcher, Colby Smith and Denver Foran continue to strive to add their name to the short list of rookie feature winners on the Tour but when it comes to performance over three races, Blenkhorn has the slight edge!
Let’s look forward now, shall we?
Kiddie Night is Friday night which is always popular with our younger generation. The kids will be able to come down to the front straight at 7pm sharp and drive a few laps around the 3/10-mile oval with their favorite driver. The night creates long lasting memories and is one event not to miss, besides the fact that we have five divisions of great racing action as well.
This is also the “unofficial” kick off of Summer. I know, I know, for most of us, Summer began on May 19th with John Flemming taking the checkered flag in the Lucas Oil 150 but this marks the first weekend of freedom for those in the Nova Scotia school system. We mentioned the young talent on the rise at the Speedworld, I know of at least two of our drivers that are graduating high school this week in DJ Casey and Emily Meehan (more on them in a bit) but this weekend can also etch memories for those who are fresh off a walk across the stage. For example, Chantel Ackles missed her prom last year to drive her #30 car in the ACE Lumbermart Thunder division, which was instrumental in her capturing the Rookie of the Year Award in the class last year. Just this last weekend, Dustin Tucker wrenched on his father Shawn’s Pro Stock car on three hours sleep after attending Safe Grad events the night before. I can relate to Dustin, I ended up calling Kiddie Night on three hours sleep back in 2008 after Safe Grad the night before. Gosh, I don’t know about you, but I feel old now!
Those two new high school grads we mentioned? They also have something else in common in the fact that they both hold down third in the standings after three races in their respective Weekly Racing Series divisions at the Speedworld. We’ll start with the impressive run out of the Prospect Road Rookie. Casey sits third after three races in the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman division with a pair of third place runs in those three events. For a driver who had never run a full bodied stock car at Scotia Speedworld prior to May 26th, to jump in and to be as fast as the leaders in your first month in the car, that’s impressive.
For Casey though, he’s got a big gap between himself and second, or, in this case, the tie for the lead between defending series champion Aaron Boutilier and Darren Wallage. When you look at the standings, it almost looks like the field from third on back has slipped on a banana peel when you see a 44 point gap. The difference? Boutilier and Wallage have yet to make a mistake. They have finished in the top five in all three races, unlike those from third on back where a blemish on their record with only three races recorded is going to show bigger so early in the season. Boutilier stumbled in a couple races last year and it took Wallage until the finale last year to show weakness. In a division that’s so competitive, you cannot rely on your competition to have a bad night though over a season with 10-12 races, it will likely happen at least once, you just have to be there to capitalize on it.
Only 35 points is the difference between Casey in third and Jason Brown back in 13th place. Within that pack are a bunch of veterans and younger guys who are hungry for a great run this week, including Wade Slauenwhite, Harry Ross White, Brentley Pirri, Jordan Veinotte, Tyler Hallahan, Owen Barkhouse, Larry Fisher, Bronson Shanessy and Alex Johnson. Of note, Johnson and Barkhouse both had solid runs last week and were knocking at the door of a top five run at the end of the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 46 while Fisher was well within the top five before he ended up finishing three laps down with a mechanical issue.
Tip of the cap as well to Shawn Thibodeau, who hauled all the way from Troy (Port Hawkesbury area) t o take home a top ten run. Marie Brown had a top five run going for most of the afternoon before a wreck took her out of what could have been a career run in the #93 Town and Country Auto Salvage Chevrolet.
After a week that saw their race shortened due to excessive cautions, let’s hope the Sportsman drivers got it all out of their system last weekend and we have a relatively clean 38 lapper on Friday.
The other new high school grad will look to capture her first win of 2013 on Friday in the Strictly Hydraulics Legend feature. As mentioned, Butcher has taken two of the three races so far while he finished second by inches in the other to Danny Harvey, who was kicked back to fourth in the standings on Friday behind Butcher, Uncle Cy and Meehan. The standings are pretty tight in the Legend class, especially from third on back to seventh, with only 13 points amongst Meehan, Danny Harvey, Moore, Jeff Cruickshank and Dan Michaud Jr. We’ll see who has what it takes to win Race Four on the season this Friday night.
Speaking of asking who has what it takes, who will be the first to snap Adam Meehan’s win streak in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero class? Meehan has been challenged in the first three races by Braden Langille, Craig MacDonald and Luke Ettinger in the late laps of races but no driver has been able to beat Meehan to the line in feature competition. The only driver to beat Meehan in a race this season at the Speedworld is MacDonald when the sophomore bested Meehan last week in the high point heat. Also in the mix is Cole Tanner, who is looking to get back to where he was in 2010. They may be one team to watch Friday as it appears they are just one slight change away from holding that checkered flag again at their home track.
“Rational” Richard Patrick backed up his win on Opening Day with a solid second place run on AMP Energy Night behind Richie Moore. After the Week One disqualification, Moore and third place finisher Mark Campbell will have to rally back to the front but keep in mind, Jorden Smith won this championship in the ACE Lumbermart Lightning class last year by a race and a half point wise. It can be done but Moore and Campbell cannot afford another hiccup.
Another pleasant surprise is JR Lawson sitting second in the standings and just six points out of the lead in the Lightning class. Actually, let me retract that, it shouldn’t be a surprise Lawson is running this well. After all, if it wasn’t for mechanical problems (most of them being motors) last season, Lawson would have easily been in the top five in the standings with the way he ran when it held together. Completing the top five after a pair of races in the class includes Jamie Dillman, Chevy MacDonald and BJ Nicholson.
If you want a tight point battle, look no further than the Coors Light Truck class. Ryan Goldsmith went back to the lead over Dan Smith last week after Saturday’s Lockhart Truck Center 150 undercard race. The gap is just two points, which is subsequently the gap between Smith and last Saturday’s winner Jason Fenton, who has four points on Robbie Watts after three races. Was great to see the debut of Chris Ainsworth and Jamie Creamer last week and we are also expecting the debut of Jeff Campbell, Cale MacMillan, Jim MacMillan and Chris Smith sometime in the month of July.
With three winners in three races in the Coors Light Truck class, who’s next to head to victory lane? Could it be the veteran Larry Vaughan? Maybe Vernon Brown, who won the most races in the class last year but has been held winless so far? The champion Smith has yet to win as well. We’ll find out Friday if we have our fourth different winner or see our first repeat winner in the class for 2013.
The ACE Lumbermart Thunder class is off this week and we’ll preview their racing next week heading into the July 5th Weekly Racing Series show.
That about wraps it up for this week. Be sure to make tracks to the Speedworld Friday for Kiddie Night, you’re in for a great night of racing!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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