BRING ON THE CLASSIC
Ask any one of our Weekly Racing Series drivers, and they will tell you the Shriners Classic is one of the biggest races of the year.
Sure, it is a 50-lap race compared to the Dartmouth Dodge 100 next month. It doesn’t pay any extra money, but at the end of the day, it is the longest actively running annual race in Atlantic Canada. Yes, there are other races in this region that have ran longer, but have taken breaks in their time or have switched race tracks. This race has been at Scotia Speedworld for the last 20 years, raises funds and awareness for the Dartmouth and District Shrine Club and all the work they do, and will create a 21st chapter on Friday night.
If there is any time we are to see a new champion to this race, this could very well be the year.
We have the potential to see four former champions out at the track on Friday, with two drivers for sure looking for another Classic crown. Multi-time champion Harry Ross White has been running well this season and will be looking to take away another win in this race. Tony Leonard, a winner of this race when it was still contested in the Street Stock division, will also be in attendance after shaking down his Sportsman car two weeks ago.
We haven’t heard from Darren Wallage this season, but you’d have to believe the 2013 titlist of this event would be at the track if he wants to compete against the best Sportsman drivers on the mainland. Jeff Dillman will be at the track, whether it is in a car or not is still to be determined. The four time winner and last year’s champion gave the seat to his Sportsman car to Dylan Blenkhorn last weekend at Riverside International Speedway, who put a shine on it over 100 laps on the high banks. When I spoke to Dylan Saturday night after the IWK 250, he said they will be fixing the car, but whether it would be ready for Friday or not would be a tall task.
Then there are a handful of drivers who have competed in this race for years, but still have come out empty handed. Aaron Boutilier made it crystal clear on Q104 Night how badly he wants to win this race. The 2012 champion is missing this event off his resume and would love to add it on Friday night. The point leader, Russell Smith Jr., has been tough to beat this season and while he’s won a few Dartmouth Dodge 100s, he has never won a Shriners Classic. Phil Barkhouse will be bringing out his best bullet for Friday night and you best believe a guy like Jordan Veinotte will be digging real deep to win this thing.
You know though, I got a feeling that this could be the night for Travis Roma. Obviously, this race means a ton to that team with his father Terry winning it three times, but Travis has come so close this year to winning a race. How awesome would it be to see Travis win his first career feature by putting the #38 car into victory lane during the Shriners Classic?
As much as those guys want to win this race for the first time, there will be well over a dozen others gunning for the same goal. We’re likely going to see some fresh faces for the first time this year as well, drivers who chase big races in search for the glory of grabbing a big win. Wade Slauenwhite, a former winner at his home track in the #12 CSS Insurance Chevrolet, will be one of those to watch on Friday night as he tries to add his name to the prestigious list of winners in this race.
Not to be overshadowed by the Shriners Classic are four other divisions looking to make their marks as the season rolls on in what is now the second half of 2015.
The Strictly Hydraulics Legends return to continue their impressive battle. Coming into the night, Cory Hall leads by five points over Nicholas Naugle, six over Paul Goulden and eight over Jarrett Butcher. Hall and Naugle have done some feature winning while Goulden and Butcher have been excellent models of consistency over the opening five rounds of the season. Danny Harvey, who has a feature win to his credit, is fifth in the standings, ten points out of fourth and 17 points up on sixth place Cole Tanner.
When you look back to Tanner, Emily and Adam Meehan, Jeff Atkinson and Jeff Cruickshank, whom complete the top ten thus far in the season, it is anyone’s race. Heck, one slip by the guys up top and a strong stretch run by anyone in the top ten and the landscape of this championship chase changes drastically. A 49 point cushion in a division this competitive is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Don’t be surprised to see Emily Meehan, or maybe a Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie like her brother Adam or Cole Tanner win on Friday night and tighten up the point standings one more time.
Kevin Clark has won two straight races in the Coors Light Truck class and while his heat race last weekend did not go as planned, he still sits second to Dan Smith in the standings. If Clark, Cory Leonard or Matt Vaughan want to catch Smith though, they have to get on the horse and begin to chase the #39 down. Smith is just so consistent when it comes to rattling off finishes that Smith might need to slip up to open up the party up front. We’ve seen it before though, Smith isn’t bulletproof, it can very well happen.
The Chickenburger Thunder division is so close in competition that it is hard to predict a winner each week. Okay, on paper, it shows Dave Matthews dominating, he has a big point lead, but last week it could have been any one of five or six that could have took the Thunder 50. Stevie Lively dominated the race, leading more than 80% of the laps before his car shut off with two laps to go and again on the next circuit, enough for Matthews and Gammon, who had shadowed him all race, to move by.
Not far behind you had Tim Webster, Matthew Warren and you had guys like Brandon Watson, Drew MacEachern and Kyle MacMillan looking to pounce as well. Heck, Chantel Ackles darn near won herself a heat race last week. The Thunder division continues to be some of the most exciting and competitive racing on our oval every week and I cannot wait to see what the guys and girl can put on this week for a show.
The Chickenburger Lightning class put on a show last week with nearly 40 laps green to the end of their race. Like Lively in the Thunder class, you have to feel for Richard Patrick after leading the most laps in the race and doing a masterful job at keeping Scott Thibodeau and Deven Smith at bay before breaking with 14 laps to go in the Lightning 50. The exciting three car battle became a two car battle with Thibodeau hitting every mark en route to the $250-to-win and the checkered flag in the big feature. As strong as those three, and Darrell Sullivan, have been this season, it will be a storyline to see if veterans like Marc MacMillan, Jamie Dillman, Kenny Hopper or any others can step up and compete with these four in the stretch run to the end of the season.
The Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros are off this week but I want to give a quick tip of the cap to two drivers - Wyatt McCulloch and Sam Rogers. McCulloch was excited to break back in victory lane in the Outlaw class after the Lap 24 wreck happened in front of him. Behind him were Ettinger, whose team has turned the corner after leading 24 of 26 laps in that feature (with the addition of the green white checkered finish, it added an extra lap) and Nathan Blackburn, who was on his first podium run at the Speedworld. The Outlaws put on a pretty good show, and while McCulloch was happy, Ettinger was a bit frustrated he wasn’t in McCulloch’s shoes, I’m sure they’ll be back as eager as ever next weekend.
I’ve said it a couple times that Sam Rogers has had an impressive rookie season, but some of the finishes were not indicative of how he has been running. Last Friday night, the rookie from Lower Onslow finally got on the podium with a third place finish after leading the most laps in the main feature. There are kids that come along that turns heads in their first season, right out of the box, and continue turning heads throughout their racing careers. Cory Hall comes to mind when I think of that, so do Cole Tanner and Adam Meehan, just as a few more recent examples. I think Sam Rogers is cut from the same cloth and could be a kid that will contend for wins and championships for years to come.
Before we close, a big tip of the cap to Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman runner-up from 2014 and 2006 Hydraulics Plus Bandolero champion DJ Casey for finishing in the second spot in the 2015 IWK 250 last weekend at Riverside Speedway. The kid who cut his teeth at Scotia Speedworld and isn’t afraid to tell anyone where he grew up racing led laps late in the prestigious Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race and finished second to veteran Kent Vincent, who won the race for the second time in his career. We’ve groomed drivers like Cole Butcher, Dylan Blenkhorn and Brad Eddy through our Friday night ranks and DJ Casey proved again how getting your start at Scotia Speedworld in a Bandolero can turn into big things. Talk about inspirations for the kids that are racing in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero divisons!
We hope you can get out on Friday and enjoy the 21st Annual Shriners Classic racing card. It’s a big one with lots to follow throughout, and the best way to do it is to live it live!
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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