WELCOME TO SEASON #30
Check, check? Is this thing on?
Welcome to 2017 and welcome to the 30th Anniversary Season of racing at Scotia Speedworld. Sure, racing does not begin again until Spring and we have over five months until we see the green flag, but we are inching closer to the green flag in 2017 than we are to the checkered flag in 2016.
The 2016 season was a pretty exciting one and the racing at the end of the year was filled with lots of passion that provided us an entertaining product from top to bottom.
We had our banquet between the end of the season and now. It was a wonderful night in Truro celebrating our champions. Tyler Hutchison, Sam Rogers and Pete Miller celebrated championships for the first time in their classes while Dan Smith, Jarrett Butcher, Stevie Lively and Deven Smith returned to the podium at the Best Western Plus Glengarry at the yearend celebration. Congratulations again to all the champions and their teams on a great 2016.
Usually by this time we have a few teams making their announcements as to what they are doing next year and yes, while some have made those decisions, others are holding their cards close to them as we flip the calendar to 2017. We can explore a few of these changes though.
Maybe one of the biggest announcements has been Matt Vaughan and their team purchasing a Sportsman from NAPA Sportsman Series competitor Darren Price over the Holiday season. Some of our fans will remember Price when he finished on the podium (second place after post race technical inspection) in the 2013 edition of the Affordable Fuels 100. The Vaughan team had the car in a local parade with the #08 on it and has since began the teardown and rebuild process for 2017. With Matt’s grandfather Larry having many laps in Sportsman competition at Scotia Speedworld, the move is one that makes sense.
The Affordable Fuels Sportsman division might have a nice crop of rookies in 2017. Stevie Lively, our 2016 Toursec Thunder car champion, announced at the awards banquet that their team is looking at making the Sportsman jump. We’ve also seen on Facebook that Carter Brothers Racing have purchased the former HD Racing/Wade Slauenwhite owned Sportsman that was driven in select races by Mark Josey in 2016. The Carter team said via their Facebook page that they will run the car on a limited schedule with the Late Model this season.
The Coors Light Truck that Vaughan cut his teeth with has been sold and has “gone home” for the 2017 season. Two-time track champion and the first ever Truck champion at Scotia Speedworld in Gordon Ritchie has bought his old truck from the Vaughan camp. Ritchie won the final Hobby Stock crown at the track in 2009 and won the inaugural Truck title in 2010. I’m pretty excited to see if Ritchie can finally be the one to knock “five time” champion Dan Smith off the top of the mountain.
The Coors Light Truck division might see some new blood in 2017. From the drivers meeting, it sounds like we could have a couple new trucks out on the track for the new season. Alex and Paul Johnson have a truck they have been working on for a while and it sounds like their goal is to have it on track this year. Rumblings from the Carter Brothers Racing camp have another truck possibly coming out of their stable for 2017. JR Lawson has been sitting on a truck since midway through 2014 and we might see the cover come off that this year. Multi-time Thunder car champion Dave Matthews has also purchased the former Matt Gilby truck and plans on at least a handful of races in 2017.
Andrew Lively is making the move up the ranks, joining Shane in the Legend ranks. Andrew had a breakout season in 2016, winning a pair of features in the Toursec Thunder division and being in the championship hunt on Finale Friday.
Jarrett Butcher, our 2016 Strictly Hydraulics Legends champion, has the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in his sights for 2017. The younger Butcher brother ran a handful of races with the series last year and we look forward to seeing him back to being his Rookie of the Year run with the top touring series in Atlantic Canada in May.
With that though, it leaves a hole at the top of the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division. The Butcher Racing team has won the last five championships in the class - Cole won the title from 2012 to 2014 with Jarrett winning the crown in 2015 and 2016. With neither expected to re-offer in 2017, we might see a new champion this coming season. In fact, when you look back at champions previous to the Butchers, you find Dylan (2011) and Paul Blenkhorn (2010), Scott MacLean (2009, 2006) and Ian Mollins (2008). Those four drivers, unless something changes drastically between now and May, are also not offering to run for the championship in 2017.
To simply put it in perspective, only two champions outside the part time appearances by the Butcher brothers, are still active in Legend racing. That is Cy Harvey (2007) and Justin MacNeill (2005, tied for the championship with Eddy Hayden that year). This is a game changer and could open a door wide for a driver to etch their name into the history books at Scotia Speedworld in the 30th year of the track.
There will be at least one new rookie in the Toursec Lightning class with Riley Stewart, daughter of Tom Stewart, expected to run in the division next year. Tom had one podium finish in 2016 and will look to improve again in 2017.
There’s a brief look at what has changed in the last couple months. In the next few months things will start to get rolling. The 2017 Rules Packages were released prior to Christmas and it is now the time to register for the season if you are entering a car.
The schedule will be out soon and I am looking forward to penciling in some co-hosts for our Friday night shows. We’ve had some great feedback with some of our co-hosts late last year and want to thank Bobby Mac, Dylan Langille, Megan Parrott and Sarah McKay for adding to our fan experience. Here’s hoping we can bring some more of our CARSTAR Weekly Racing Series drivers out of their shells to give us insight on racing each week at Scotia Speedworld.
Some of our teams will head south to INEX Winter Nationals to run their Bandolero and Legend cars. Nicholas Naugle came within a whisker of winning the Semi Pro Championship in 2016 at Orlando but came away with a few wins and put Nova Scotia on the map again. Time will tell who will head to Citrus County Speedway and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled as to who will bring some hardware home.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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