FIVE THOUGHTS AS THE OFF-SEASON PASSES
It’s been a while since flagman Rob Bowness threw the checkered flag on the 2015 season at Scotia Speedworld. While September 26th seems so far from where we are today, it is just three months and change in the rearview mirror. In contrast, we still have four months or so before Rob has the green flag in hand for the 2016 season.
Everyone asks me, what is latest news on 2016? That question is usually followed by a conversation about where we left off in 2015 and what the future holds in 2016. While I can’t let everything out of the bag that I know, I can always give you an idea of what to expect in 2016 and what everyone has been talking about in these long winter months.
Here are five thoughts and topics of conversation, in no particular order, that have passed as the snow falls.
1 - The Dartmouth Dodge 200 is still fresh in everyone’s minds over this offseason. Sure, it was the last Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race of the season and the second last event for the season at Scotia Speedworld, but it was so good that fans are still talking about it. The Dylan Blenkhorn/Cole Butcher battle up front was dramatic and left everyone at the edge of their seat. To this day, I have fans coming up to me saying that is the best race they’ve ever seen at Scotia Speedworld. Add to that incredible battle, you have Donald Chisholm’s march to the front after spinning in the first 30 laps of the race to ultimately win the championship over three other contenders, the action from top to bottom in the field, overall, it was a great race.
2 - The Bandolero division was loaded with young talent in 2015 and with it brings the promise of a bright future for the sport at Scotia Speedworld and beyond. Drivers the likes of the aforementioned Blenkhorn and Butcher, Brad Eddy and DJ Casey have gone on to success on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour while six of the top 13 in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division in 2015 were former Bandolero alumni. Of the five Hydraulics Plus Bandolero Outlaw full time drivers in 2015, only one - Nathan Blackburn - will be sticking with the class in 2016. Braden Langille, Dylan Sutherland and champion Wyatt McCulloch will set their sights on moving up while fan favorite Luke Ettinger has hung up the helmet and put a hold on his racing career to focus on other hobbies.
Some of the older Bandit drivers, like Josh Langille, Austin MacDonald and Sam Rogers, will move into the Outlaw age group (12+ years) while it looks like we will have a couple more full time rookies. Brooke Dowe got her feet wet in the class last year, while Dylan MacMillan, son of former Chickenburger Lightning champion Marc MacMillan, found a former Ashton Tucker ride under the Christmas tree.
This is the future folks. Pay close attention to these kids as they continue to work their way up the ranks!
3 - The Chickenburger Lightning class should continue to have some stiff competition this season. Deven Smith had his hands full with the likes of Scott Thibodeau, Richard Patrick, Darrell Sullivan, Steve Matthews and Marc MacMillan, to name a few, up near the front of the class in 2015. I’ll throw a name in there that may be able to upset the apple cart if he can put together a full season - Marshall Bezanson. While I’m not sure I’m at liberty to say where he got it, but Bezanson has a new-to-him, turnkey race car that is ready for the track and has enjoyed success at the hands of a decorated Maritime Mini Stock division driver. Between Marshall and Garth, there is a lot of talent, it’s just a matter of stringing together some luck and good finishes and they will be in the championship conversation.
4 - The Coors Light Truck division had everything last year, from disagreements on track between rivals, close racing between friends and everything in between. At the end of the year, Dan Smith was the winner of a fourth consecutive champion by the biggest margin he’s achieved in the last four title reigns. You better believe that his closest competitors continue to learn and will be tough to beat in 2016. The Vaughan racing team is rebuilding their truck and the last time I spoke with Larry he said the team is “all in” after a runner-up performance in 2015. Obviously, guys like Jason Fenton and Kevin Clark will be hard to beat, while indications have Cory Leonard moving to Sportsman, that could leave a void for Tony Leonard to slide in the wheel of the #74 truck. Don’t forget the #18 Harvey Racing truck either when talking about contenders this season.
Megan Parrott learned a lot last year and while there is at least one rookie with intentions to run in 2016, I will step out and make the prediction that you’ll see Adam Carter win a race or two before the season is out. The improvement on track out of the #24 truck has been exponential since his rookie season in 2014 and I think you’ll see Carter in victory lane and maybe even running for a championship before this next season is out!
5 –Everyone is anticipating the 2016 schedule. Outside of racing, we have Nitro Circus and the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour coming to our track. I am still impressed by the way the Monster Jam drivers were able to slide those heavy trucks around on the wet pavement last year when the skies opened for the Sunday show. The Nitro Circus event will be huge and will bring a whole new audience of motorsports into our venue prior to the Atlantic Cat 250 weekend, which is pretty neat. Canada Day also falls on a Friday this year too, along with it being a leap year. This will be a great season and I can’t wait to fill in all the upcoming events on my calendar.
Before we close, congratulations need to go out to Braden Langille (Bandolero Outlaw), Austin MacDonald (Bandolero Bandit), Cory Hall (Legend Semi Pro), Paul Goulden (Legend Masters), Adam Meehan (Legends Young Lions) and Joey Lawson (Legends Pro) for winning their respective INEX Canadian East championships in 2015. For Langille and MacDonald, both finished in the top five in their respective Bandolero division with Josh Langille coming home seventh in the world in the Bandolero Bandit chase. Hall was seventh in the world in the Legends Semi Pro age group, Goulden is a repeat champion in the Masters age group while Meehan and Lawson won their respective division for the first time. Congratulations guys!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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