Gearing UP For Friday Night Lights At Scotia SPeedworld
After a week and a half of no stock car racing at Scotia Speedworld, we are back at it this week for our first Friday night show of 2012. I know what you’re thinking, “hey Tim, you’re slacking, we didn’t have a Tim’s Corner from you last week!” I know, I know, so this week I’ve been able to put my thoughts down digitally on what I thought of the Opener and who needs to rebound Friday night (and the rest of the season) should they want to put up a fight for their respective 2012 titles. There are also some scattered motorsports thoughts here too, so bear with me as we go through this!
Let’s start with last weekend. While the stock car racing scene was silent at the Speedworld, the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour roared to life at the facility. Once again, every fan that took in one of the three shows I’m sure would like to thank FELD Motorsports and the Monster Jam crew and staff for the show they brought to our corner of North America. Three World Finals championship teams, including 2012 World Finals Freestyle Champion Cam McQueen and Northern Nightmare, were in attendance last weekend and with six trucks at the Speedworld, it made for one of the biggest fields of Monster Trucks to ever be assembled at the Speedworld. To boot, McQueen put Northern Nightmare off his wheels twice, including a roll over in the Turn One/Two area of the Speedworld during Saturday’s winning effort in Freestyle! I took in Sunday’s show after returning from the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race at Petty International Raceway and can tell you it was well worth the early trip home from Moncton! Be sure to watch out for 2013 dates for Monster Jam and mark your calendars when they are announced, because you’ll want to be there - I know I will be!
Speaking of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour event at Petty International Raceway, a congratulations goes out to Brudenell, Prince Edward Island’s Jonathan Hicken on a pretty convincing win on the high banks in River Glade, New Brunswick. His last official win on the Tour prior to last Saturday night was the Parts for Trucks 200 at Scotia Speedworld in September 2010. Hicken now leads the points by a single marker over 2006 + 2007 Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series champion and CARQUEST 100 winner Craig Slaunwhite of Terence Bay.
Okay, the Weekly Racing Series. The Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series and ACE Lumbermart Lightning classes had races on Opening Day that had lots of cautions. Most fans would say there were too many cautions. I’ve heard it from all sides - did those guys (or certain drivers) forget how to drive over the off-season? Where’s the patience? Why so many yellows?
The explanation for it? I don’t have one. When you look back at it though, history shows that each class usually has at least one “bad” race a year. My definition of “bad” may be different than yours, but you can look back at the Opener in those two classes for an example. The quick answer is that the races will become cleaner, the word patience will begin to surface and the drivers will put on the show we are all accustomed to as fans of Scotia Speedworld. Their next crack at the can comes up this Friday night!
Let’s stay with the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series. Besides the yellow fever at the Opener, there were many storylines that came out of Race One. Let’s start with the opening laps - the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series ran in the Missing Man Formation during the pace laps of the event, leaving the pole open for longtime Speedworld racer, champion and amazing man in Terry Roma, who we lost back in April after his courageous battle with cancer. On the outside of the front row was Noel Road’s Harry Ross White. HOSS and Roma battled many times throughout the years, including for the 2008 Sportsman championship all the way down to the final afternoon of racing that year with Terry getting the best of HOSS for the title. It was only fitting that the #18 made his return to the Speedworld after a year off to qualify on the front row for the feature with Terry to his inside. Though he was swept up in one of the cautions during the evening, expect HOSS to be up front and vying for many a feature win this season with the speed that he displayed two Sundays ago.
For a long time in the feature, it looked like Larry Fisher was going to be on the podium for the first 38-lap Sportsman feature of the season. The Porter’s Lake driver kept his #33 Ford in the top three until the final restart closed in Jordan Veinotte and Jeff Dillman, who got around Fisher before the checkers. Alex Johnson and Marie Brown also came home with strong finishes in fifth and sixth places respectively in the Sportsman class while Merigomish’s Joey Livingstone was seventh at the finish. Livingstone and team weren’t sure if the car would be quite ready for the opener, but it turns out it was as Livingstone kept the #01 Two Faced Tattoos Chevrolet up in the top five for most of the race before falling to seventh at the end. “It was the number change Timmy, it had to be,” Joey told me up at Petty Raceway last weekend. Livingstone and his team had previously ran #1 at Riverside International, but with that number not available this season, the team slapped a 0 in front of the 1 and will run #01 for 2012.
The Debbie Hallahan Memorial Rookie of the Year Award Presented by the Wooden Door Bistro in the Sportsman class will be a hot one this year. Both contenders suffered misfortunes on Opening Day with Tyler Hallahan taking the worst hit after slamming his #88 car into the front straight inside wall. When the points settled for the afternoon, John Poan only ended up four points ahead of Hallahan for the rookie lead. The THW team has a lot of work to do for the #88 to be ready for competition on Friday night, but with their dedicated crew surrounding that car, they should have Tyler’s ride ready for racing on Friday!
While the Strictly Hydraulics Legends do not race on Friday night, we have to give a call out to Cole Butcher in the #5 car. Butcher, in his first full-time Legend car season, has yet to finish outside the top five in his first three starts of the season, including a strong second place run at Petty International Raceway in the Maritime League of Legends Tour race last weekend. I’ve seen a lot of drivers come through the ranks in the last few years and it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out that Butcher has a great amount of talent and will be a name you’ll be hearing a lot more frequently in the coming years. In fact, his brother Jarrett had his first Legend car start last weekend at Petty and will also be a driver to keep on your radar in the coming months and years.
Jarrett will look to take the point lead this weekend in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero class, which is currently led by Chipman, New Brunswick’s Cole Boudreau. While Boudreau is racing full-time at Speedway 660 this season, they have an off-weekend upcoming and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the #00 at Scotia if their schedule allows. Boudreau, along with Cole Tanner have impressed me this season by their drive and inspiration to attack three different race tracks in Scotia Speedworld, Petty International Raceway and Speedway 660 as they set their sights on a National INEX Bandolero championship. Braden Langille and Luke Ettinger are looking to do much of the same as well by the way of packing in as many races as they can in an attempt to run for that big title. They will continue their run for the track championship this Friday night with Boudreau holding a five point lead over Butcher and six points over Tanner when the rag drops on June 8th.
One driver that impressed me on Opening Day in the Bandolero class was Craig MacDonald. MacDonald, in his first ever Hydraulics Plus Bandolero start, nearly won his heat race as he chased Langille to the line for the win in that race. MacDonald, who got his racing start by racing go-karts at the Speedworld on Saturday mornings, was running very competitive laps in the feature en route to a seventh place finish in the 15-lap event. Watch for MacDonald and his #9 Alpine Auto Glass of Bedford Bandolero to continue to improve in the class which has molded great drivers such as Cole Butcher, Dylan Blenkhorn, Shelby Baker, Brad Eddy, DJ Casey and “Miss Rawdon Rocket” Emily Meehan into the stars they have become in the regional racing ranks.
It was about scoring maximum points for five of our six point leaders after the Opener and those five divisions will be in action Friday. Slaunwhite summed it up pretty well for me when I asked him about the point picture on the Tour on Saturday afternoon. “You can’t not think about it, especially when you’re dealing with a 12 race schedule,” said Slaunwhite of thinking “big picture” last Saturday. He’s right, when you only have 10-12 races in a season; it’s hard not to think points, especially if you are close to the top. We’ve seen incredible comebacks before though. I think back to Stevie Lively a couple seasons ago when he was in a hole of about two dozen points after Week One to come back to win the ACE Lumbermart Thunder car
title. One of the pre-season threats for his title now sits 41 points out of the leader after Tylor Hawes had tough luck on Opening Day. Matthew Warren finished sixth in the first Thunder race of the season and the #31 car sits sixth in the standings, just 14 points out of Lively for the top spot while Ross Harvie finds himself tied with Warren after one feature in the books. From my recollection, those four drivers (Lively, Hawes, Harvie and Warren) are the only ones who have been involved in a Thunder car title hunt in recent years and know what the pressure of the “points” can have on a race night. I think we can add some more drivers to that list by the end of this season though if Kyle MacMillan and Drew MacEachern continue to run the way they did on Week One!
The ACE Lumbermart Lightning division continues to be the playground of Jorden Smith. The 2011 champion set the record last year by winning the title by 93 points, the biggest margin of victory by any Lightning class champ in Scotia Speedworld history. If he’s looking to raise that bar, he’ll have to step up his game as he only has a three point lead on Mike “The Outlaw” Umlah after Umlah shadowed Smith in Race One. Smith will be joined by two dozen others on the track Friday looking to snap the streak of Smith on top of the standings!
The Jack Daniel’s Trucks will also be on the bill for Friday night. Dan Smith, who celebrated a birthday on Wednesday, will look to go back-to-back to open the season but will have the likes of JP Arsenault and Jason Fenton on his tailgate chasing the #39 truck on Friday. JP and Dan had said in victory lane on Opening Day that it could be another 39/4 show for the title, but I wouldn’t count out the likes of Fenton or Vernon Brown, who held a hot hand at the end of 2012. We are also expected to be joined by some new trucks in the coming weeks, which will bring the count up to the double digits by the end of June!
The thrill of experiencing short track racing under the lights is one like no other. A friend of mine experienced her first taste of Speedworld racing during the Opener and needless to say she’s now hooked and has told me she’d be at the track anytime her schedule allows her to venture out to Exit 6. Do yourself a favor this week, invite a friend out to the track that may not have been here before. Better yet, if you have a friend that went to Monster Jam and has never been to a Weekly Show, tell them to come on up Friday (and bring their ticket stub from last weekend, they’ll get in for $5 on the Grandstand side). Let’s put some more people in the seats for our Weekly Racing Series guys and gals who race their hearts out each week for us!
Until Friday night, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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