Tim's Corner
What's under the tree?

The Holiday season is upon us!

This is about the time where all those plans for 2014 begin to get tied together. I say begin, because even some of those best laid plans for the season really don’t get knotted down until weeks, days or even hours before our Weekly Racing Series opener. There have been a couple of drivers talking about moving classes, which we will tease below, but most are keeping tight lipped about their 2014 plans.

Some drivers though wished the season never ended. Some wanted to continue going on the wave of momentum they closed off 2013 on, some were looking to finish some business that eventually was left unattended to when the checkered flag flew on 2013. We’ve included a bit of a look back and a bit of a look ahead in this piece. Call it a Holiday Wish List if you will, as we look at what some drivers and teams may be looking to receive this coming race season.

It’s been documented a few times at the end of the season, but one driver that didn’t want to see the season end was West Chezzetcook’s Travis Roma.

Roma was on a roll at the end of the year, darn near winning the August 2nd 38-lap Sportsman race if it wasn’t for a sway bar breaking at the halfway point of the race after leading to that point. In fact, when you take the last half (five races) of the season, Roma scored the sixth most points of any driver in the class. Only Harry Ross White, champion Darren Wallage, 2012 titlist Aaron Boutilier, Marie Brown and Larry Fisher scored more points than Roma in those final races.

Roma could easily continue the trend by becoming a first time winner in 2014, which twelve drivers did last season in the Weekly Racing Series, two of them (Chris Dingle and Wade Slauenwhite) coming from the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series. He’ll be joined by Brown, Mike Banks, Alex Johnson, DJ Casey and Fred Schofield, among others, who will also be trying to accomplish that first Sportsman feature win. It’s easy to say that the competition going to be deep in our top class in 2014!

You read that right, 2013 ACE Lumbermart Lightning champion Marc MacMillan is making the move to the Coors Light Truck class.

Shortly after The Guy Show Halifax, MacMillan made the announcement that he had bought a truck and is planning on going tailgating in 2014. Sure, the learning curve will be steep for the Glenholme driver. A four cylinder has a bit less power than the eight cylinder truck MacMillan is about to slide through the window of, especially when that power can have a habit of kicking the rear end out. If anyone is up to the task though, you best believe it is MacMillan.

Remember that “never give up even if your back is against the wall” attitude that won him the Lightning championship about four months ago? That will go a long way in a very, very competitive class of drivers that aren’t afraid to swap paint every Friday night.

What’s happening to the #192 car though? According to the team’s Facebook page (M&T Racing #192), Jonathan Guy will be driving the car in 2014. We know one thing, this “Guy” is going to have big shoes to fill in the Lightning division!           

One of the coolest moments of the 2013 season for me was to call Mike Brown down to his first feature win at Scotia Speedworld, in his only start of the season!

Following a 2012 season that looked so promising to it ending with a third place point finish, Brown was slated to enter 2013 as one of the favorites to win the overall crown with Jorden Smith slimming back to a part time schedule. Plans changed during that off-season, and other important things in life took priority over racing, which led to the incompletion of the rebuild of his Neon.

Brown had been offered at the end of 2012 after a couple of rough races to drive one of JR Lawson’s Neons to finish out the year. Determined to finish the season out with his own car, Brown declined the offer and continued on racing to that aforementioned third place finish.
Mike wanted to be out on track for Kiddie Night though. Ask mostly anyone and they’ll tell you Kiddie Night at Scotia Speedworld creates lasting memories for drivers, fans, everyone involved. He had fans that he wanted to make smile, but without a race car, it would be hard to do.

Enter JR Lawson.

Lawson lent Brown his spare car for the event and not only did he give him a car to drive, Brown drove it to the front. Brown captured second in his heat and backed it up with the win in the 25-lap feature for his first career victory. What made the July 5th victory that much better? His car owner for the night, Lawson, came home right behind him on the podium. It was also one of the biggest fields of the season, with 21 cars answering the call to the green.

Mike is hard at work for the 2014 season, which should see him return on a full time basis, which is a great thing for our sport and our track. We need more guys like Mike. Regardless what has happened at the track, even at the start of 2012 when I remember him showing up on Week Two after thrashing all week to get his car back together (it wasn’t pretty, but his #118 was together), he has always had a smile on his face and is always willing to take time out to talk. But now, he comes in off a “perfect” season when it comes to winning main features - no pressure, Mike!

If you’ve been keeping score at home, the last four years have produced four different, first time, ACE Lumbermart Thunder champions at Scotia Speedworld.  Those four, Matthew Warren, Kyle MacMillan, Dave Matthews and Stevie Lively, are still at the top of their game and if the Vegas odd makers were setting a gauge on the 2014 season, you’d have to believe they’d be favoring one of those four to repeat. Keep in mind, ’13 third place finisher this season Tim Webster is a former two-time champion of this division in 2005 and 2006.

So, if the trend continues, who extends it? Who will become our fifth first time champion in the class if it continues this way at the end of 2014? I think the prime candidates have to be the Darkside Racing team.

Kyle Gammon joined Drew MacEachern in 2013 under the Darkside Racing banner and the two former main feature winners in the class had pretty respectable seasons. MacEachern has seen vast improvement in his driving ability in the past few seasons with 2012 being his breakout year by winning a feature and finishing fifth in the standings. Gammon has won a number of features in the class over the past decade or so and finished in the top three during each of Derek MacCallum’s championship seasons in 2008 (second) and 2009 (third). Their 2013 season goes to show how competitive this class is as Gammon and MacEachern finished fifth and seventh, respectively, without a feature win to their credit. With a little bit of luck on their side, this could easily be their season!

The other two drivers that could also end the trend if they decide to run full-time in 2014 are Andrew Cluett and “Mr. Honda” Scott Williams. Like MacEachern and Gammon, both are competitive drivers and know how to win races in a Civic. In fact, and I know this is a hard judge, but with only four races under his belt, Williams had the eighth best handicap in the division. Is it a gauge at all? Maybe if he had more races, that number could have been higher. Also like MacEachern, Williams acquired a Legend car over the Winter and both drivers, at this point, are planning a few races in that class in 2014 with eyes on a full time assault in 2015.

Keep in mind though, we are in December and that could change before we get to May.
Cluett, a former main feature winner at Scotia Speedworld, has ran part time in two of the past three seasons since returning to the ACE Lumbermart Thunder class. In his full-time 2012 campaign, he finished third in the points behind the MacMillan/Lively showdown for the title. Cluett can wheel a race car with the best of them and he’s a sure bet to be a title contender if the #94 car is full-time in 2014.

For those wondering where the #20 is in this debate, the car should return in 2014 but possibly not with Jordan Pirri at the helm. Rumors have been swirling that Pirri is going Legend racing this coming season, but the Civic will return to the Thunder ranks with Todd Cousins at the wheel. As mentioned before, rumors and plans change in the winter as much as I change microphone batteries during the summer, so this could change before we get to May but it has been consistent since the banquet in November.

That Legends rookie crop? Now, that’s a whole ‘nother story we can get into sometime during this off-season. Cy Harvey thought he had his hands full with the group of youngsters that came on board in 2013, this could be a whole new chapter to that “youth vs experience” battle that has been brewing in that class.

I want to know what you think about this Thunder car trend. Will we see one of the previous four champions repeat for the first time, can Tim Webster take a third championship in the past ten seasons, or will we have a first time champion?! Cast a vote here, I’m interested to see what you think!

Want some ear candy as you sit at your desk?! I have a new segment up on TimsCorner.ca called Hot Laps, which puts drivers under the gun with ten quick questions ranging from what music they listen to, to who they would want to be three wide in a corner with and everything in between! You can listen to “Miss Rawdon Rocket” Emily Meehan, Travis Roma or CAT 250 winner Craig Slaunwhite by clicking their names.

If we don’t talk prior to the calendar change - have a Happy Holiday season and a great New Year and we’ll see you in 2014!

Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!