It's The Two 50's Weekend
Not to be confused with the race weekend up the road, this is the only place this weekend that you will see two 50 lap races in the same night.
Before we go anywhere, I want to step back for a moment and look at what happened on Lap Ten of the first Chickenburger Thunder heat race on Friday night.
My stomach sank when Cory Myles went into the Turn Four wall, along with Stephen Farrell, on Friday night coming to the checkered flag in the first Thunder heat. The two were racing hard for what was second place in the heat race after Andrew Lively had made a late move on the pair to seal up the win. Behind, the two make contact, which sent Farrell and Myles into the wall. Myles hit the wall at a bad angle, full throttle and would be wedged up against the wall to his right front and Farrell’s #28 on the left front.
Nearly three years ago, an incident eerily similar between former Rookie of the Year Kirk Mullane and Ross Harvie all but ended Mullane’s racing career. The two were racing hard for a heat win and it ended with both cars in almost the same spot Myles and Farrell ended up in Turn Four. Mullane suffered a neck injury in the wreck, and while he has known to pinch hit for drivers on occasion in the Thunder class (he ran a heat race for his brother Kyle MacMillan earlier this season), a lot of the drive and the “No Fear attitude” he had was lost in Turn Four on August 3rd, 2012.
When the dust settled on Friday night after that heat race and seeing how crumpled that race car was, I was hoping the best but knowing what happened three years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. You can look at Mike McCarthy’s photos, the damage to that car is extensive. The right front corner of his Civic is pushed in pretty far. The windshield is broken. The shell of the car is twisted.
Cory Myles climbed from that race car under his own power Friday night. Minus some scrapes, some bruises, sore muscles and a tiny spot on his tongue that he bit when he went into the wall, Myles is fine.
When they were loading what was left of the #92 car last Friday, one of the first things Myles told me is that he was thankful for Scott Williams. While many will know Williams as the driver of the #0 or #00 in the Thunder division over the past few seasons, he has built or worked on many of the cars you see on the track in the Thunder division, including Myles. Scotty was behind the work on the roll cage in that #92 car, and while everything moved around it, the cage did not move. It goes to show the quality craftsmanship of the piece Scotty put around Cory, not to mention the speed that it had prior the wreck. Hey, Cory Myles had three races under his belt and he was working on his first heat win.
To sum it up, the composition of the car did its job. The clean up crew and safety crew did their job. Lawrence Hopper, Jason Morash, Justin Payne and the entire tech crew did their job. Cory Myles is still around to race again, something he says he will be doing in the near future.
Now, Myles might not be back for the 50, but his comrades are ready to put on a show.
We should see a healthy field of Thunder cars for their end of the Twin 50s. We’ve had 16 drivers contest at least 80% of the first five races and that doesn’t include guys like JR Lawson, Farrell, Jeremy Hallett or even Nic Baker who was rumored to return last week. Harvie has yet to field a car this year, and Williams had one on the build. Long story short, we could have the potential of 20, or more, Thunder cars take the green flag on Friday night.
This race could potentially make or break the championship run of Dave Matthews. Okay, maybe that is overcooking the goose a bit, but think about it. This race is double the length of what we usually run, which means there is double the chances for something to happen, whether it is on track or something mechanically breaking on the car. If you dig into the statistic book, while Matthews was on a big second place streak at this time last year, Matthews is only five points ahead of where he was last year after five races. In 2014, at this point in the season, Matthews had 528 points compared to 533 in 2015. The #31 car, last year piloted solely by Matthew Warren, had 524 points compared to 503 this year for brothers Warren. The difference there between our top two teams from the last two years is 26 points. Last year, the gap between the leader and second in the standings was four points. This year, same time, same players, it is 30 points. That’s a 26 point difference, or 13 positions in a main feature.
Bobby Mac was really impressed with Kyle Gammon last weekend, and rightfully so. Gammon won his heat race and finished second in the 25-lap feature for what was easily his best outing of the season. Kyle MacMillan returned to the podium for his first “official” top three finish to back up a fourth place finish the race prior. Drew MacEachern and Tim Webster are both former feature winners, have shown shades of brilliance, but have yet to win this season. Same can be said for a lot of the field, after all, only Matthews, Shane Lively and Stevie Lively are the only three to win features this year. Could we see a fourth name added to the list? I think we could, but if they do, they have to beat Dave Matthews.
In the Chickenburger Lightning division, there have been four winners but none more consistent than Deven Smith. Smith has finished no worse than third in anything this year, heats or features, and has a 25 point lead on the field. Scott Thibodeau, Richard Patrick and Darrell Sullivan also have one feature wins a piece and while their consistency over the first five events hasn’t been up to snuff compared to Smith, they are still dangerous threats for the win every night out.
Then, like the Thunder division, you have a handful of guys that have been close to winning but haven’t got there yet. Marc MacMillan, Jamie Dillman, Steve Matthews, “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper, even Tom Stewart has been quick this season, but all of them are still searching for their first feature win. A tip of the cap to Mitchell Hopkins as well. The second year driver put up a sixth place finish and a heat win last Friday night, and it appears that team has finally turned the corner.
Also playing support Friday night are the Coors Light Trucks and Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros.
Let’s start with the Coors Light Trucks. They are coming off their off-weekend last Friday night and they will return with a fire underneath them, that’s for sure. Kevin Clark Jr won our last feature we contested on track, and it was Jason Fenton who would wind up on the other side of the tech shed without a trophy. At the end of the night, Dan Smith is in control en route to his fourth championship, but anything can change over the second half of this season. Any mechanical failure or, who knows, a technical infraction one way or another could help or hurt that effort.
Smith, Fenton and Clark have done all the winning thus far, but guys like Cory Leonard and Matt Vaughan have been on the cusp in the first half of the season. Jamie Creamer has been on the podium once and Megan Parrott continues to gain speed every time she is on the track. Adam Carter, Terry Moore, Jeff Campbell and Taylor McLean are also sure to be contenders as well and you’ll have to keep an eye on them on Friday night.
In the Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros, the question continues to be - who can stop Braden and Josh Langille?
Josh Langille has a lot of competition behind him. Austin MacDonald and Nathan Singer joined Langille on the podium on Friday night, and both showed speed in that feature. Good on Singer for scoring his first podium finish of his career. Nathan Langille, Josh’s brother, has been on the podium a few times and a bad break sidelined Colton Noble from the main event last Friday.
I was really impressed by Austin Tanner last week. Tanner scored his first top five finish last weekend and even led some laps. He comes from a long line of successful race car drivers, it is in his blood and we knew it would only be a matter of time before he broke through. Question is now, how long does it take the youngest Tanner to win a race? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win one, or more, before the season is completed!
Danny Chisholm also had a great run last week for many laps. Chisholm spent many laps in the top five but had to rally late in the feature back to ninth. There’s another kid that loves racing, loves being at the track, his father Scott is a great guy, and this combination is going to find success and once it does, it’s going to turn some great results when we turn in the score sheet on Friday night.
Braden Langille has won all four feature races in the Outlaw class, sure, but he has had four strong competitors behind him in Wyatt McCulloch, Dylan Sutherland and Luke Ettinger. Nathan Blackburn and Michael Cormier have been strong, but it seems like Langille, McCulloch, Sutherland and Ettinger have really stepped up their game. At the end of the day though, McCulloch, Sutherland and Ettinger will have to step up their game even further in order to win one of these features.
Once again, a big thanks to Bobby Mac from Q104 for helping me out in the tower and in victory lane on Friday night. It was a complete blast, it’s been a while since I’ve had that much fun calling a race and I hope that bled over to the speakers for those sitting in the stands. Hopefully we can do that at some point real soon again.
Friday is going to be fun. It is a big night for our Four Cylinder guys and gal. They put in a ton of effort into these race cars and these extended races are like the Daytona 500 to these drivers. If you are in the area, please come out and support them. I’m sure they would appreciate it and I know I would too!
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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