It’s one of the race nights that I’ve been waiting for since May 23rd.
Sure, it’s $20 Carload Admission Night. That’s awesome. We’ll get back to that in a bit. Ever since we rained out main features on May 22nd though, we knew at some point we would have double features for the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division.
That night is coming up Friday night and if you’re like me, you cannot wait to get this show underway.
The intensity of the Legend features this season has been through the roof. Sometimes, that intensity has boiled over to a few caution periods, bent race cars and tempers that are bent worse than the race cars. At the end of the day, it is short track racing and with valuable track and national points on the line, these drivers have a ton of reasons to be up on the wheel every single lap.
Nicholas Naugle has taken the point lead by two points over Jarrett Butcher heading into Friday night. Naugle has told us many times he is not thinking about or looking at points. That doesn’t mean we can’t though. The #88 car, whether driver by Naugle or Cole Boudreau, has yet to miss a podium but is still looking for that elusive victory, though he’s come within inches of one already this season. Butcher has a win, as does his older brother Cole.
The other two wins belong to Cory Hall this season. For Hall, it has been feast or famine, either victory lane or nowhere near the podium at the checkered flag. One of those subpar nights was destined to be a podium run, only to spin late in the race which resulted in a sixth place run. With his second feature run, he’ll have to pick his way from the back in every regularly scheduled feature from here on in, but he has shown in the past he is fully capable of doing so.
I mentioned in this space earlier this season that Adam Meehan and Craig MacDonald had been the pleasant surprises early in the season and that still rings true. Sure, MacDonald had a blip on the radar in the 50-lapper, he is still only 18 points out of Hall and Meehan, who find themselves tied for third. Meehan, the sophomore driver, has really impressed so far this season with consistent speed, being up front and charging hard at the end when it counts. It would surprise me if the kid does not win a race before the season is out and while he is in tough, he has proven he belongs at the front of the field in this competitive class.
A part of this battle up front is reigning Canadian Masters champion for the 40+ age group in Paul Goulden. To run competitively with these kids less than half his age and be in the hunt for the championship is pretty neat to see. Sure, less than 10 years ago we were talking about Scott MacLean, Cy Harvey and Paul Blenkhorn taking the track title at Scotia Speedworld, but that was prior to the boom of youngsters moving up the ranks from Bandoleros to Legends. For perspective, in 2010 when Blenkhorn won the championship, your “young guns” were comprised of the likes of Matt Moore, Justin MacNeill and Kyle Campbell, and we’re talking “kids” that were just at or in their early 20s. Now we have five teenagers in the top six along with Goulden. Heck, Emily Meehan in seventh in points is a “veteran” when it comes to half the field and she’s just a shade over halfway to Masters classification. It just goes to show how the guard has changed in this division over five years.
“Rational” Richard Drake made quite the mark on the Toursec Lightning class last week. Rational Richard won both ends of the Toursec Lightning features on Canada Day, the makeup from May 22nd and the regularly scheduled feature. The two feature wins put him up to third in the standings and well within the championship discussion as we near the halfway point in the season. Yes, Deven Smith and his consistency will be tough to top and Scott Thibodeau seems to have this thing figured out too, but Rational Richard proved last week that with two good races you can put yourself back in the thick of things.
Give a tip of the cap to Jamie Dillman on his run last week. Dillman was lightning quick, no pun intended, throughout the evening and was poised for a feature win in the second race before a late restart shuffled the deck a bit at the finish. “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper even showed some speed, which included a heat race win last Friday. Someone in that group, between that pair, Tom Stewart, Marc Macmillan, the Bezanson boys and even Steve Matthews, who found mechanical problems last week, will find themselves winning a feature race before this season is out. It’s only a matter of time before someone “breaks out,” it’s just a matter of when.
The Shriners Classic was a fantastic race, one of the best I remember in recent years. Sure, there were some wrecks, some tempers flaring and some incredible saves but there was some excellent side by side racing by the best Late Model drivers in Nova Scotia. Russell Smith Jr did an excellent job wheeling his #44 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Dodge through the field to his second consecutive Classic win but it was far from easy. While the scoring sheet will say he led the final 20 laps, he was hounded by Pete Miller for those laps and Miller kept the Affordable Fuels Sportsman champion on his toes. At the end, Travis Roma got up on the wheel and drove back up to a second place finish.
Throughout the field, the Shriners Classic lived up to its legacy and was a fantastic show by all 19 drivers that took the green flag.
The Affordable Fuels are halfway through their 2016 season when it comes to points. They have eight races left, including the Affordable Fuels 100 which pays a flat 100 points to all competitors. If you factor in a rainout or two that is sure to happen, we have five or six point paying races left. The Shriners Classic did the job of shaking the landscape of the standings and now four drivers, Jordan Veinotte, Miller, Aaron Boutilier and Matt Moore, find themselves within 15 points of each other. Not far behind sit Roma, Alex Johnson and Brentley Pirri, who are battling right now for fifth but could be higher if one of the top four shows a sign of weakness. Of the seven, only Miller, Roma and Moore were in the top five at the end of the Classic. Sure, the other four in the battle were in the top ten except for Pirri, but two points per position could go a long way when we talk about the championship chase on Finale Friday in September.
After last Friday, Kevin Clark Jr is the only driver in the top five in the Coors Light Trucks yet to win a feature this season. That’s a hard fact to believe and maybe the other fact is that there has only been one repeat winner in Jason Fenton after winning two of the first three features of the year. The top two, Dan Smith and Clark are trying to break away, but with the way Fenton, Vaughan and Parrott have been running, do not count out anyone in the top five in the standings as we work towards the halfway point in the season. Oh, and that Adam Carter guy, he’s been fast too and is on the cusp of his first win. Talk about a close field!
It was great to see another first time winner last week in the Toursec Thunder class. Merle Corbin has done his homework and it finally paid off for a feature win over two of the best in the business in Dave Matthews and Stevie Lively. The aforementioned Matthews and Lively are still fighting it out up top for the lead, with the #99 now having one point on the #32, but Corbin has moved to third in the standings. Andrew Lively has slipped to fourth while JR Lawson, still looking for that first Speedworld triumph, holds down fifth. Question is - who wins their first career feature at Scotia Speedworld next, the hard charging Chris Hatcher or the smooth multi-time New Brunswick track champion Lawson? It wouldn’t surprise me one iota that both do it this year, but who will be the next to kick the door to victory lane open wide?!
It will be a great night of racing this Friday. Call your friends, co-workers, family, in-laws, the girls from your yoga class, whomever is on your contact list, pack them into the vehicle and come out to Scotia Speedworld on Friday for $20 Carload Night. The admission price on a regular Friday night is still the best in Atlantic Canada for a Weekly Racing Series show, but the management has continued to bring out the special admission nights for you to enjoy some incredible short track racing at an even lower price!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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