Until five laps to go, it appeared as Wayne Miller was going to have the biggest night of his racing career.
Miller was leading by a wide margin in the Affordable Fuels Sportsman feature on Friday because a caution came out. Whether he ran something over or whatever had happened, Miller’s left rear tire was flatter than a pancake coming to take the green on the ensuing restart, forcing him to the pits with a two lap loss in the balance.
Those first wins are hard to come by. Some drivers run their whole careers without winning a feature. Some, once that first win comes, make it look easy by doing it again and again. This is Miller’s first full time season back in a Sportsman after dabbling in some Pro Stock stuff with his brother Pete over the last few years. From the look of Friday, the win will come, likely sooner rather than later and with the Miller boys having some fans in the stands, you best believe the place will come unglued.
A Travis Roma win is always popular with our fans and he had to earn it as he battled with the Miller brothers, eventually passing Pete on a restart with three to go to win the race. Remember, you can lead all the laps you want, but it’s the last one that lifts that pay window wide open and on Friday, that is the one Roma left.
We’ll talk more about the Sportsman point picture in a bit because we are heading into their off week, but let’s dive into what we are expected to see on AMP Energy Night.
The last feature of last week might have been the best one as the top three in the Toursec Lightning put on a phenomenal show. Scott Thibodeau walked away with his first win of the year, with the Smith brothers side by side on his back bumper, one of whom, Deven, is running for a point championship with Scott and “Rational” Richard Drake. Drake had three straight wins coming into the Nitro Circus Pre-Party but could not muster anything better than sixth, which goes to show the strength of the division at the front of the field. The top three go into Friday night with 12 points between them, with Thibodeau and Deven Smith tied for the top spot.
While Thibodeau is a new winner on the season, I would not be surprised if he is joined by two more before we are all said and done. Jamie Dillman has let two slip away, ironically both to “Rational” Richard, after leading the most laps but failing to convert a win. Joey Holland has stepped up his game as well. The #133 car for “Fentonator Jr” has really improved over the last couple seasons and has shown in recent weeks that he is finally ready to win a race. The Greg Snelgrove and Tyler Hallahan combination has been quick, so has the #171, along with the Bezanson brothers. Are they ready for victory lane though?! We’ll find out as we are closing in on the end of the season.
That’s hard to believe, right?! We are into August now and nearing the end of the racing season within a month and a half. For the Coors Light Truck drivers, they are slowly running out of time and races to catch Dan Smith.
Kevin Clark Jr and Jason Fenton have proved they are the two prime championship contenders for Smith and the train that could potentially derail the “Drive for Five.” The downside for the pair is that they have been fumbling the ball over the last few weeks. After what was a single digit point deficit three weeks ago for Clark is now a 30 point hole that Clark needs to dig himself out of. Fenton, after a bad week last week, is only two points back of Clark. It means the two have to gain about five or six points a night on Smith. While obtainable, with events clicking away (no more than six scheduled left), they cannot waste any time.
Oh, and you best believe Matt Vaughan and Megan Parrott will be putting on a show for fourth in the standings. Parrott looked like she was going to victory lane last week before a three wide move and eventual kiss with the wall ended that. Keep an eye on these two because they have the potential to win every week.
Nicholas Naugle put on a very impressive performance in the Legend feature, but it still wasn’t enough to make a huge dent in the championship standings on Jarrett Butcher. Heat racing is key at Scotia Speedworld, we are one of three tracks in Atlantic Canada that pays points for qualifiers and with our championships coming down most times to single digit point totals, a championship can be won or lost in a heat race. With Naugle finishing fourth to Butcher in the high handicap heat on Friday, he only ended up with a single point gain on Butcher when the dust settled.
Butcher is going to be tough to beat because he is just so gosh darn consistent. In seven races, Butcher has two feature wins and has not finished any worse than fourth. Compare that to the other drivers in the top five and you’ll quickly see blemishes on their record on the season thus far. Sure, the #53 is not bulletproof, we saw that on the Upper Clements Parks Maritime League of Legends Tour, but with time running down on this season, Naugle and the rest of the field needs to be up on it every week and Butcher might need to make a mistake or two before this year comes to a close.
Not far behind Naugle still sits Paul Goulden and sophomore drivers Cory Hall and Adam Meehan. There are 29 points between the four and with each of them having pretty stellar seasons minus their small missteps, it is anyone’s guess who will come out on top of this. If you had to pick a favorite, Naugle and Hall each have wins and in the case of Hall he has a trio of victories. Goulden and Meehan each have a second place run as their best finish of the year and will look to crack victory lane before the season is done.
I’m pretty excited to see the Toursec Thunder cars return this week. While we may only have ten full time cars, each of them has something to fight for as we head down the stretch run.
Obviously, the tightest battle in the class is the one up front with Dave Matthews and Stevie Lively tied for the top spot. The last time they were on the track, Matthews had the upper hand, finishing a spot ahead of Lively in the feature while the roles were reversed in the heat. It meant a one point advantage for Matthews on the night, which put us back to a tie game in the standings after eight races.
The two first time winners on the season that sit third and fourth only have one point between them in Andrew Lively and Merle Corbin. Last week, Lively closed the gap and even took the wheel in this battle with a heat win and a second place finish in the feature. Now, these two are not out of the championship hunt by any means, Corbin is 25 points out of the top spot, but Andrew Lively and Corbin will need to be on it and Matthews and Stevie Lively will have to crack under pressure with six races to go. An average of just over four points is needed from either of Andrew Lively or Corbin to get to both point leaders over six races.
The closest Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie of the Year battle across the eight classes is in the Toursec Thunder division as well, with Mitchell Hopkins only having eight points on the #42 car of Greg McKay and Justin Rowe. Hopkins put three of those points on the #42 car the last time they raced but it wouldn’t surprise me if the two can earn that right back as this battle has been close all year.
Tyler Hutchinson “evened the score” on one aspect in the Beginner Bandit class presented by Hydraulics Plus, but on the other end he also pulled away after his fourth feature win of the season. Hutchinson tied Malcolm Jollimore’s win total, the two are the only ones to win features this season in the class, but in the balance, he gained points on Jollimore and now it is 18 points between the two following an early exit from the heat for Jollimore.
The other drivers in the class are doing well in their evolution and development as race car drivers. Morgan Mosher has been consistently improving and was on the podium once again next week. Mosher is one point away from statistically becoming the third best driver in the class, which is currently occupied by Brooke Dowe. Dowe has a 13 point advantage on the next rookie on the list in Dylan MacMillan. Chase MacKay has also shown vast improvement over the last month or so and will be one to watch as we come down to crunch time in the season.
Nathan Langille has company in the Hydraulics Plus Bandit class. After a fourth place finish in the feature and a fifth place run in the heat by Langille, Owen Mahar has pulled into a tie for second with Colton Noble, sitting just three points behind Langille after eight races. Noble has won four races, Langille has won three and Danny Chisholm, who is fourth in points, scored his first feature win one week ago. Mahar has been a great model of consistency and that win is just around the corner for the #66 car.
The top three in the Outlaw class continue to go back and forth, though Sam Rogers did tack on three points on his lead over Nathan Blackburn. The gap is now six points between the top two. A last place finish in the feature for Josh Langille has put him to ten points behind Rogers. Austin Tanner was up on the wheel as well. Tanner was fourth in the Outlaw class (fifth overall) last week in just his second race back.
We close this week with sending our well wishes to Austin MacDonald. MacDonald, who scored his first win of the season at Scotia Speedworld last Friday night and had appeared to turn his on track performance around at the track, was involved in an off track accident on Saturday in preparation for a race at another venue. MacDonald suffered a head injury that will force him off the track for the completion of the year and will put him on a long road to recovery. Our thoughts are with “The King Commander.”
Also want to give a brief thank you to Sarah McKay for joining me as co-host last Friday night for the Nitro Circus Pre-Party. For her first time on the mic, she did pretty well, though we miss her behind the wheel of the #32 A.E. McKay Builders Chevrolet on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. I’ll have to gear up though, Bobby Mac from Q104 will be joining me on a Friday night this August!
It’s the calm before the storm as the next week is the 17th Annual Atlantic Cat 250. Here’s a couple of notes for next week before we get to racing. Like Atlantic Cat on Facebook for your chance to win tickets to a Friday night show at the Speedworld and if you want to win tickets to the Atlantic Cat 250, come on down to our annual Meet and Greet on Wednesday the 10th at Atlantic Cat in Burnside. There will be lots to do, including a BBQ, face time with the cars and stars of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour and a chance to meet the cast of the Curse of Oak Island show.
Before we get there though, it’s AMP Energy Night. Hope to see you out there!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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