Let’s recap - after last Friday night, we have a new feature winner, two drivers who haven’t been in victory lane in a little while and two drivers who continued their early season dominance in their classes. If that wasn’t enough, we have two drivers on top of their respective divisions who have never led the standings before. Honestly, and I heard this from many others in the grandstands and pits after the event, the racing last Friday night was one of the best nights of racing across the board (as a full show) I’ve seen out of a Weekly Racing Series show in a while. From a roll over to hard, clean racing, that show had it all. Every driver that ran last week should give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done.
Have to start this week’s column with a driver who didn’t get to start last week’s race. JR Lawson can’t seem to buy a break this year at Scotia Speedworld. After winning a heat race on Opening Day, Lawson tore up an axel early in the feature which forced him to the pit area. This week during practice, Lawson’s #181 Blakie’s Dodge Neon erupted in smoke after the motor blew, ending his day before it really began. The #181 team is one of the hardest working and dedicated teams we have in the pit area and you have to feel for them after seeing two mechanical failures this early in the season. It can only go up from here though, right?
Sticking with the Lightning division presented by ACE Lumbermart, wasn’t it great to see “Crazy” Craig Cordeau leading the most laps in the feature last Friday night? After a wheel leaving him in Turn Three during the feature on Opening Day, Cordeau wasted no times getting his #199 to the front of the pack. He didn’t roll over either when Jorden Smith and Mike Umlah got to him either as he kept tough and made them earn their spots in front of “Black Betty 2.” Behind him in the order, it was car #166 of Jeffrey Breen. The Antigonish driver has really established himself as a perennial favorite in the division after two top five finishes to start off the season. Hats off to the #166 team, your time with the checkered flag has to be just around the corner!
Mike Brown in the #118 also put up a solid top five run on Friday. When I talked to Mike in the lineup prior to heading into the track, he was optimistic about the night after a rough start to the season. “We had to replace a lot on this car over the last week,” said the Urbania driver before the day started. “The green is still on the back of the car from last week too,” referring to the green paint left by another competitor after Opening Day. Great to see Mike get the top five!
It’s a racers instinct to not quit. It’s instilled in every driver out there on that track each race day to some degree. That instinct was very evident on Friday night after Jamie Creamer’s #194 car went for a flop in Turn Two, rolling onto its roof. After a few anxious moments, Creamer emerged from the car and the Scotia Speedworld clean up crew towed the Neon off to the pit area. Moments later, that same car returned to the track to finish the main feature! Albeit three laps behind the pace of leader Jorden Smith, Creamer still needs to get an “atta boy” for returning to the track after the tumble in Turn Two!
What a run by Derek Sutherland in the Jack Daniel’s Truck class last Friday! Sutherland went from finishing outside the top five on Week One to setting the world on fire in Week Two by winning the heat and feature. Whatever they did to that truck over the week certainly paid off and now the division drivers are aware that Sutherland could easily be a threat for the championship after two events! He will still have to catch Dan Smith, who will take a five point lead over Jason Fenton into Strictly Hydraulics Night.
I said it Friday night and I’ll say it again - it was good to see Phil Barkhouse Jr back in victory lane last weekend. Phil was one of those drivers I watched “growing up” (we’re only talking ~10 years ago or so keep in mind) in the Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions and was cool to see him strap the helmet back on again late last season. The team, which is led up by Robert Hage, has experienced more than its share of mechanical failures since returning last season but now those can be put behind the team with the first place trophy in their hands. Great effort guys!
In fact, the top five each had something to be happy about at the end of that feature. Mike Alexander was two laps shy of picking up his first ever Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman main feature victory last Friday after going side-by-side with Barkhouse in the final five laps of the race, handing the lead over to Barkhouse for good on Lap 36. Mike, a former Hobby Stock champ at Scotia Speedworld, has come close sooo many times to winning a feature and you have to believe that this is Mike’s year. He may even get a championship here this year as well. The team was in the point hunt last year sticking to a part time role in the series and was in the fight for the title with Colby Smith for the championship back in 2010. With two races in the books, you’d be crazy not to have the #15 R&R Kinsman Auto Salvage/Speed Signs Inc. Ford Fusion in your favorites for not only a couple feature wins but also that points championship as well.
Speaking of that point championship, after the rear-end troubles experienced by Aaron Boutilier in the feature, it handed the point lead over to Jordan Veinotte. Even with brake troubles, Veinotte finished fifth in the #11 Veinotte’s Truck and Auto Ford Fusion last Friday and now has a nine point lead on Mike Banks, who finished third in the feature. Mike and Fred Schofield put on an incredible battle late in that race for the spot and it was fantastic to see two good guys battling for a podium spot late in the feature. They now enjoy an off-week prior to getting back at it on Media Night.
The Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros put on an incredible show on Friday night. For a couple moments, their feature resembled a Jack Daniel’s Truck feature with some of the racing and leaning on others that was being done, but it made the action exciting and kept fans (and this announcer) on the edge of their seats throughout the 15-lap feature. Cole Boudreau was out front of the excitement in the feature and took his second consecutive win. I’m impressed by the Chipman, New Brunswick driver, not only can the kid drive, he carries himself well in interviews and him and his pit crew and a good bunch of guys. The combination is one that is hard to root against and will be one to watch as Boudreau comes up through the ranks in the Maritime racing scene.
As said before, this Bandolero class is really a stepping stone to bigger and better things for most of these drivers in the division. We’re seeing the maturing and progression of drivers like Boudreau, Cole Tanner, Jarrett Butcher and Adam Meehan among others who I’m sure will be stars at the top levels of our sport in this region sooner rather than later. You have young drivers such as Luke Ettinger and Braden Langille that continue to get better with every lap they turn. Keep Craig MacDonald, who won his first heat race last week, on your radar too when you look at big picture as well. When you add in drivers like Dylan Sutherland, Joshua Langille, Nicholas Naugle, Nathan Blackburn and Megan Parrott (who came close to a heat race victory last Friday), you have the future of our sport right here folks! These guys and gals are going places - mark my words!
Tylor Hawes also showed us that “never give up” attitude on Friday night after making a sound statement following a motor going sour on his during Opening Day. Hawes made some breathtaking two and three wide passes to take the lead and sliced his way through lapped traffic to take the victory. Behind him was Kyle MacMillan, who went in for a root canal on Friday morning and came out with a second place finish and a share of the point lead with fourth place finisher Stevie Lively. As mentioned before, and as in the case of Jordan Veinotte, MacMillan has never been a point leader in his division. How will he react from the pressure? Only time will tell and the clock is ticking down until we get another green flag on Friday.
The Strictly Hydraulics Legend cars highlight the night on Friday and they are led into action by Shelby Baker. Baker will have some stiff competition by way of Cole Butcher, “The Legend” Cy Harvey and over a dozen others. Mentioned Cole Butcher last week in the ‘corner, another driver who has come on strong to open the season is Scott Cunning. The #14 car was a solid top five car at the last Maritime League of Legends Tour race at Petty International Raceway and comes into Friday’s racing fifth in the standings, just a dozen points out of the lead. If you are looking for a possible driver to surprise us this year, look no further than the #14!
While we head into what is expected to be an action packed Friday night, I’m already getting excited for next weekend! Our first double header is on deck and is it ever a big one! Friday night we have the Media Race, featuring many big media personalities from the Halifax Regional Municipality along with features for the Strictly Hydraulics Legends, Jack Daniel’s Trucks, ACE Lumbermart Thunder and Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros divisions. Then on Saturday, the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour returns for the Lockhart Truck Center 100 while the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series will serve as the undercard for the evening. It is sure to be an exciting weekend that you will not want to miss at the Speedworld. But again, don’t overlook Friday night - because if last week was any indication, we are in for a show you will not want to miss on this, or any Friday night throughout the season!
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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