Five “Young Guns” To Watch in 2013
Believe it or not, we are less than 50 days away from throwing the green flag on the 26th season of racing at Scotia Speedworld! Are you as excited as I am for the Lucas Oil 150? I cannot wait to hear the roar of the engines and smell the rubber and fuel - but of course we’ll have to until May 19th to do that for the first time in race conditions at “Atlantic Canada’s Action Centre.”
But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about this upcoming season.
The inspiration for this piece comes from my most recent Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour article, where I spoke of the youth movement on the series, with four teenagers getting to slide in the window of Pro Stock cars on the Tour this season. Combine that, and the recent “Five Must See Events” column on Tim’s Corner, I bring you the Five “Young Guns” To Watch in 2013.
Yes, it would be easy for me to slap names of drivers under the age of 20 here who have already lit up the scoreboard at Scotia Speedworld with multiple wins. Names like Butcher, Meehan, Tanner, Langille and Smith among others would fit into this category. So, I’ve gone a different route on this. Below, you will find the names of five prospects who could easily break through this season for their first feature win. There are many others who deserve to be here as well, and I would love to get your thoughts on this subject by emailing in at firstname.lastname@example.org, but here are five names, in alphabetical order, to watch that may very well hit a winner’s circle in 2013!
LUKE ETTINGER - HYDRAULICS PLUS BANDOLERO #62
Would you believe it if I said Luke Ettinger was “the veteran” of this short list?
Ettinger came onto the scene in 2010 after running a trio of races the previous year to maintain his rookie status. In his first full season, Ettinger finished in the top five in the point standings, two points out of fourth place driver Braden Langille. In previous years, Ettinger has knocked on the door of victory lane, but the checkered flag has yet to answer the call of the Kennetcook driver.
Similarities can be made between the racing statistics of Langille and Ettinger. While Langille has a few more races under his belt, both have some pretty big accomplishments on their resumes. Langille won the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero Rookie of the Year Award in 2009, Ettinger pulled the feat a year later. Ettinger captured the Canadian INEX Bandits Championship in 2011, Langille won it in 2012. Both have raced down South, Ettinger at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Langille at the Winter Nationals in Winter Haven, Florida. Langille though has the small leg up on Ettinger in the win column after Langille broke through to victory lane this season at Scotia Speedworld. Does this mean that this is Ettinger’s year to do so?
This season will see Ettinger race a different paint scheme on his #62 car compared to the yellow fans are accustomed to. What is not expected to change is the persona that has made the youngster a fan favorite. Whether the team finishes near the front or the back, Ettinger is always a happy camper at the track and has a smile on his face. That doesn’t dictate how he drives on the track though, as he races with as much grit, desire and determination as any Bandolero driver out there.
The question remains though, could this be the year Ettinger breaks through as a feature winner? We’ll find out soon enough.
CRAIG MACDONALD - HYDRAULICS PLUS BANDOLERO - #9
Craig MacDonald was a rookie one season ago in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero division and turned some heads as a freshman in the class.
MacDonald learned the tricks of the Bandolero trade throughout the season, which resulted in heat race victories, competitive feature finishes and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. MacDonald also competed at Petty International Raceway and Speedway 660 in New Brunswick to get further seat time in his first year, after previously running karts. The Waverley driver has had the expertise of veteran drivers such as Brian Northrup, and the Eddys (Brad and Dan) among others, which shows when the driver of the #9 straps into his Bandolero.
MacDonald has shown that he has what it takes to not only run for the championship, but to shake the “sophomore slump” that may set in for other second year drivers and drive his car to victory lane in a main feature in 2013.
KIRK MULLANE - ACE LUMBERMART THUNDER DIVISION - #4
What could have been a trip to victory lane in 2013 for Kirk Mullane was cut short just past the halfway mark in the 2012 season. Three weeks removed from his first feature podium finish at Scotia Speedworld, Mullane’s ‘12 racing season came to a close when an accident during a heat race on August 3rd left him with a neck injury. The 2011 Wooden Door Bistro Rookie of the Year in the ACE Lumbermart Thunder class was beginning to show promise at his home track after heat race wins at the Speedworld and feature podium finishes at Shediac’s Centre for Speed highlighted his racing resume.
Mullane’s brother Kyle MacMillan went on to win the championship last season in the ACE Lumbermart Thunder class while division veteran Scott Williams finished the year in a rebuilt #4 Jarvis Construction Civic. Mullane is expected to return this year and we’ll quickly see what kind of impact, if any, the wreck had on the driving of the Hammonds Plains driver. If that drive and determination is still there, we may see Mullane as a first time winner this season at Scotia Speedworld.
NICHOLAS NAUGLE - HYDRAULICS PLUS BANDOLERO - #88
So, you may be scratching your head on this one. Why is Halifax’s Nicholas Naugle’s name on this list?
I’ll let you in on a little secret - experience and seat time goes a long, long way for a young driver.
Naugle has spent the winter racing. As of press time, Naugle, who was a rookie at Scotia Speedworld last season, has seven races and hundreds of laps under his belt in 2013, and we are still over eight weeks away from our first green flag. Naugle, along with his Brycon Construction Racing teammate Richard Salter and others from the region, took the chance to get a leg up on the season by racing at Auburndale Speedway in Florida for INEX Winter Nationals. More recently, Naugle, along with Cole Boudreau and Cory Hall, took a trip on Easter weekend to Concord Speedway in North Carolina to run a weekly series double header on Friday and Saturday.
Naugle should be able to take that U.S. experience, which is equivalent to over half a season at home, and translate it to Scotia Speedworld. Add that in to his rookie season in 2012 and the tips he picked up in his freshman season, the #88 car should be one to watch as he hits the track on Friday nights throughout 2013.
“RATIONAL” RICHARD PATRICK - ACE LUMBERMART LIGHTNING - #141
In a season that was overshadowed by Jorden Smith, one of the pleasant surprises from the 2012 season at Scotia Speedworld was the bright red Neon in the ACE Lumbermart Lightning division.
Under the watchful eye of one of the most successful four cylinder drivers in Atlantic Canada in the last decade, “Rational” Richard Patrick set out this season for his first full time season after a handful of starts in 2010 and 2011. While he was under the weather for a pair of races, Patrick turned heads by spending lots of laps in the top ten and even locked down a top five finish and a trio of heat wins in the Covey’s Auto Recyclers Neon before the curtain fell on 2012.
Like Ettinger, Patrick is the complete package when it comes to a race car driver. Not only is he a competitor that digs for every inch on the race track, he is a gentleman off the track and always has a smile on his face. Thousands of fans saw this at The Guy Show last November as Patrick displayed his Friday night ride while meeting fans that have seen him race and potential fans that will be out at the track this season to see him race.
With those top five finishes and experience in his back pocket, does he have enough to step up to the plate and dethrone Smith from victory lane? If we see a first time winner in the ACE Lumbermart Lightning division, I can see it coming from the #141 car.
You’ll be able to see all five of these drivers race on Sunday, May 26th at 2pm during the Scotia Speedworld Weekly Racing Series opener. The event tends to set the tone for the season, and with that said, if one or more of these five drivers comes out of the gate flying on the 26th, it could tell the tale for the season. If you haven’t made your plans for the opener, I’d suggest you’d do so now!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
|BACK TO ARCHIVES|