“Almost But Not Quite Unless Mother Nature Interferes Again”
With a couple weeks of not having a weekly column on here, we have a lot to talk about, so this one will be split up into two parts.
We are four or five races into each Weekly Racing Series division championship hunt. In a typical summer, even though we have a dozen or so events scheduled for the Weekly Racing Series, we usually get one or two races rained out. With that said, five-ish races is typically just shy the halfway point or so in the season. We have three divisions that have completed four races and three that have completed five, so we’ll talk a bit about each of them here.
This article will feature the five divisions we have running with us on Friday night, with the Coors Light Trucks preview to come following their off-week.
HYDRAULICS PLUS BANDOLEROS
Lots to talk about here, so let’s start with the point lead. The championship battle took another turn last week when you factor in not only an Adam Meehan win, which was his first of the year, but also a ninth place finish by Cole Tanner, who came into the season on a roll of two consecutive feature wins. In the balance is now a 13 point advantage for Meehan, the defending champion on Week One winner Braden Langille. Tanner fell to third, four points behind Langille and 17 in the rear of Meehan.
The veterans of this class have proven that this will be a hotly contested battle, not only in the standings but also on the race track each week. When you look at the top eight in the standings, each have at least two top fives with the exception of Megan Parrott, who has one top five and has not finished worse than eighth all season. Each within this group have had glimmers of strength in the first four races and have proven that they should be the ones to keep an eye on. Of the top eight in points, three (Luke Ettinger, Dylan Sutherland, Parrott) are looking for their first career Bandolero feature victory while Cory Hall is looking for his first career win at Scotia Speedworld, with wins at Petty Raceway and Speedway 660 already on his Bandolero resume.
Hall got up on the wheel last week and won his heat and got up front early, led the most laps in the feature and was well on his way to his first feature win at the Speedworld before a caution bunched up the field. On the next restart, he and Cole Tanner ran some tight laps before the two made contact a lap after a restart, sending the two spinning in Turn One and to the rear for the next green flag. While Tanner struggled to get back to the front, Hall was on a mission, driving his #08 S. Hall Tire and Muffler Bandolero to fourth from 13th in six laps and could have probably easily been back battling for the lead if it was a 25-lapper by the way he was driving. You’d have to believe that win is just around the corner for the only full-time driver who hauls from New Brunswick each week to be with us.
Great to see new blood in the division as well. Austin MacDonald, Colton Noble, Nathan Langille and Nathan Singer have all made their first stock car starts with us this season and Danny Chisholm is embarking on his first full time season at the Speedworld. Each of our full time rookies (Singer has one start, the rest have made at least three) continue to show improvement with each start and I’m sure will be threats for victories in the class in the future.
These guys and gal have nine posted races left to go in the season not counting races that could get rained out if Mother Nature has a bad day. A lot can happen in that time, heck, a lot can happen Friday night. Question is, who makes the next move in the championship hunt?!
Four races, four different winners and a handful more waiting in the wings to extend that streak are making this Lightning class fun to watch each week.
Add into that a couple of wild races and a finish that was absolutely off the charts in Week Two, and the Lightning class has to be in the running for one of the most intriguing weekly divisions not only at this track, but across Atlantic Canada.
Let’s go back to that second race, because it defined some drivers. You had Donovan Gaudet, who came within a whisker of winning his first main feature of his career but it was Scott Thibodeau who hung the checkered flag out the left side window. Thibodeau has backed that victory up with two consecutive top five finishes and sits second in the standings by five markers to “Rational” Richard Patrick, who won his first feature of the season in the #141 Covey’s Auto Recyclers/Breast Cancer Awareness Neon.
An interesting stat Ken Zwicker reminded me of two weeks ago after Richard’s victory is that every feature race that the #141 has been on the race track to see the finish of in the last two seasons, he has finished within the top five. In those nine races, Patrick has not scored less than 100 points (combined heat and feature points) on those given race nights, with a handicap on those nights of 104.7 points.
The question is, when does he have bad luck? It’s stock car racing, bad luck is bound to happen sometime. Dave Matthews had it last year in the Thunder division by way of a mechanical issue when battling Matthew Warren for the championship. Unfortunately for the Lightning class, Patrick may have already burned up his gremlin. Hard to believe, eh?! The team thought they had an issue with the car two weeks ago prior to the feature and were fully prepared to putt around and get points until the Neon roared to life and ended up on top by the checkered flag in the 25-lap event.
With the top four only separated by 21 points with four races in, those guys behind Patrick, including Thibodeau, Mike Brown and Deven Smith will have to continue to be consistent if Patrick keeps up what he has been doing the last two seasons.
There’s a name that hasn’t won this season in Deven Smith, but he’s been close. In fact, the #194 has been on the podium the last two race meets, but is missing that first place run to go with his second and third. You’d have to believe that win is right around the corner with the way he is running and is well within title contention after four races.
Steve Matthews had a tough go the last time out. The Rookie of the Year contender won his first feature race as a part of the undercard to the Lockhart Truck Center 150, but was involved in a wreck the next week, relegating him to a 19th place finish on June 27th and setting him back in the points. While still in the lead for the top rookie, he has a slight hole to climb out of if he wants to get to the top of the overall standings. Just ask Marc MacMillan though, it can be done and if anyone is going to do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the driver of the #198 Fast Eddie Racewear Dodge Neon!
Another guy that is coming on strong is Darrell Sullivan. The driver from Harrietsfield is in his first full-time season and is impressing with a fifth place run in points thus far. Sullivan, like many of our drivers on our Weekly show, works hard on his car and always has a smile on his face at the track. You have to believe that win will be right around the corner for the #188 car!
Last season’s point battle was nothing short of wild and the racing this season has lived up to that title as well. It’s been a treat to watch this class so far and I can’t wait to see them return from their off-week on Friday!
The story at the start of the season was the new spec-tire in the Thunder class. The used Federal tires had a lot of drivers scratching their heads.
For the most part, that statement remains true.
Even when asked after his first feature win of the season last weekend, Stevie Lively said he still didn’t have it completely figured out. Lively had Dave Matthews closing in at the end, and you have to believe that he, defending champion Matthew Warren and two-time winner this season in “The Ironman” Drew MacEachern have it figured out the best.
Warren took the win on Week One in the class and has yet to finish outside the top four in a feature in the first four races of the season, but his consistency, though you’d think would be hard to beat, has been trumped so far by Matthews. While Dave started off with a fifth place run on May 25th, he comes into Friday with three consecutive second place finishes and two heat wins. Matthews, like Warren, knows how to light it up and these two will be exciting to watch all season.
But, the unpredictability of this new combination with the tires will once again come into play soon with the extended races upcoming. Don’t count out the chances of blown tires with drivers playing with aggressive tire pressures to hold up to 50 laps and with those mechanical breakdowns that can plague 1988 to 2000 Civics at any time (multiple teams have had speed censor issues), this championship is far from in the hands of just these two.
Lurking in the weeds is a two-time champion of this division in Tim Webster, just 19 points back. Stevie Lively and Brandon Watson also find themselves in the top five after four races. Watson came close to losing that spot last week after he saw the wall coming mighty quick during the heat race after contact with rookie Shane Lively and the #22 car. With that unpredictability factor I mentioned, Watson, or Lively for that matter, could find them in the overall championship hunt before this thing is over in September.
Speaking of a point battle, following a 13th place finish last week, Shane Lively slipped back a bit in the championship standings and, in turn, gave some life to the Rookie of the Year battle. Brad Hayes of Head of Jeddore, who moved up from the Lightning ranks, has quietly been reeling off top ten finishes and learning the ropes of Civic racing in the balance and now finds himself just nine points out of the rookie lead and sixth place overall in the standings after four races. Seven points behind him sits Andrew Lively, who took his first heat win last week in the #25 Presidential Ventilation Civic.
The three have a bit of breathing room on Nic Baker, who showed speed two weeks ago with his first top ten finish in the #88 Priority Water Civic. Baker sits 19 points out of Andrew Lively for third in the rookie chase, and just seven markers out of the top ten overall, which, ironically, is occupied by his girlfriend. Third year veteran “Hollywood” Chantel Ackles has been struggling this season with mechanical gremlins in her Civic but hopes throwing the kitchen sink at her car this week will help her this week and in the future. Ackles sits six points out of Merle Corbin, and is mired in the battle from sixth to 11th, which sees 35 points between the spots heading into this weekend.
Back in 12th, and tied for that spot, are Darkside Racing drivers Kyle Gammon and Drew MacEachern. MacEachern had a faux pas in post race technical inspection during Week One and has been making up for lost time ever since. Heck, if you look at it, in the last three races, which have resulted in two feature wins for the #13, MacEachern has the second best handicap in the division (amount of points, divided by the amount of race meets those points were obtained in) to point leader Matthews.
Kyle Gammon has had mechanical problems with his car since Week One, from speed censors to motors and has thrown about everything at his race car. Two weeks ago, Gammon thought the issue was in the charging system, with the battery not holding voltage until the end of the feature last week, where the motor went south on the #98. “The Sheriff” has swapped motors in his car this week in hopes that the problem is fixed.
Tip of the cap to our long haul driver in the class, “The Mayor of Cleveland” Art McNamara. “ArtMc” missed last week due to the unfavorable forecast and the nearly three hour haul one way to make it to the track. Art is out to have some fun this year and so far is doing just that in his Seaboard Tire Service/Scotia Pallets Civic and he tells me he will be returning this week to have some more fun on Q104 Night. He chases “Tragedy” Travis Brewer in the standings upon his return, with 30 points between the two for 14th overall in the standings.
DARTMOUTH DODGE SPORTSMAN
The Late Model Sportsman class has presented their share of action and excitement in five races this season.
Friday will serve as the final tune-up for the 20th Annual Shriner’s Classic for Sportsman, which will go green on Friday, July 25th and you would have to believe the field has two drivers zeroed in heading into battle.
Harry Ross White is the point leader in this class by ten points over defending champion Darren Wallage after five races and it’s not by mistake. Sure, HOSS has been involved in some mistakes this season, he was involved in an early caution last week that spun the #18 Archibald Drilling and Blasting Chevrolet sideways and had to fight from the rear back to a fourth place finish at the finish. That’s just it though, HOSS has had a fast car each week and regardless what kind of situation he gets into, he always masterfully comes out on top it seems. Call it the veteran prowess or chalk it up to a fast car, whatever the case, HOSS isn’t the point leader by pure fluke or just backing into it.
Aaron Boutilier has won the last two races in the class, adding to the season opening victory, and while he is one of the last to say he’s hunting points, he said in Victory Lane last weekend that the hole dug in the first three races may be too much for him to claw out of. Let’s look at it - Boutilier gained four points on Harry Ross White last Friday, with six point paying races left to go this season (not factoring in rain), if he was to average a gain of four point gains over the next six races, that’s 24 points between now and September. Boutilier enters competition on Friday just 28 points out of HOSS. Pick up an extra point in a heat here or there and it’s a showdown for the title. I wouldn’t quite count the #4 CARSTAR Collision/Ritchie’s Renovations Ford out just yet.
The “meat in the sandwich” in this conversation is Wallage and DJ Casey. Wallage is ten points out of the lead and has two podium finishes in five races, including a win. Think about that for a second, in five races, the defending titlist only has two podium finishes. That’s how close and competitive this class is. DJ Casey was close to reeling off another top five run last week but lost out on a last lap pass by Travis Roma and had to settle for sixth with a tire going down on the #97 Never Greener Services/R&A Automotive Chevrolet. Casey is just 22 points out of White going into Friday.
Completing the top five is Travis Roma, who has had two stellar top five runs the last two weeks. With the way the #38 DSL Tire/Doug Forbes Century 21 Classic Chevrolet is running, you’d have to believe that first feature win is right around the corner for Roma and one of the biggest cheering sections in our grandstands every Friday night. Watch for big things down the stretch run from the #38 car.
It would be hard to talk about everyone here in this small space, but you have to give it to all of our teams for putting together not only one of the most competitive, but healthiest Late Model Sportsman classes in the Maritimes. Our car count has been the healthiest of any weekly operating track in the region, with an average of 19 Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman showing up each week to compete. Add in part-time cars and we typically have car counts in the low 20s each week, which is great for a weekly count of Late Models.
I firmly believe we are just around the corner from a first time winner in the class too, I mentioned Casey and Roma, but Fred Schofield led laps earlier in this season, Alex Johnson led laps this past week and joined the podium by finishing third last Friday, even Tyler Hallahan took home his first heat win in a Late Model two weeks ago. Brentley Pirri was on the podium a few weeks ago to boot. You’ve got veterans like Larry Fisher, Tony Leonard and Chris Dingle running strong, Pete Miller is starting to improve after returning to the class.
The question is, with Aaron Boutilier having three of the five race wins this season, one, can he be stopped and two, does he have enough steam in the engine to get up to the point lead and Harry Ross White?! Chapter Six unfolds Friday!
STRICTLY HYDRAULICS LEGENDS
I left this division to the last for a reason.
We had a lot of happy fans to see Emily Meehan win her first race in over a year last Friday night. Meehan, who crashed hard at Petty Raceway the week prior, had many late nights in the shop as her team put the #75 car back together. When you have to re-build a car, it can go one of two ways, it either runs worse than it did prior to the re-build or it runs like it never has before. We saw it when Joey Lawson wrecked a few weeks back, when his car returned it ended up on the podium and showed more speed than it had prior to the wreck.
The same can be said for the #75 car, because that thing was HOOKED UP.
The girl at the helm of the #75 Drive Products - Ocean Truck Legend played it cool too. Showing her veteran prowess, she picked off her competition one by one and waited for Paul Goulden to leave the door open to capitalize. She was also lights out on a late restart to keep the advantage she worked so hard to achieve. Long story short, she ran a flawless race that resulted in her hanging a flag out the left side window.
She also closed in 27 points on the point leader.
This is where things get a bit clouded when talking about this division. To me, it almost feels like a storm is brewing, like our weather a few weeks ago at the track where it is sunny but off the back of Turn Four there are dark storm clouds waiting to pounce? There’s one rivalry that is brewing that could cause those clouds to roll in quick, and the rain to fall quickly.
Last season, Cole Butcher was up against veterans who were not as apt to roll over easy for a #5 car that had shown speed all season long. Last week, Butcher grew quickly frustrated while Brycon Construction Racing teammates Nicholas Naugle and Ryan Mackintosh played what he considered a bit of a blocker game, to make Butcher earn the spots on track in both the heat race and the feature.
We saw this sort of thing play out a few years ago when Steve Pye and Dylan Blenkhorn went toe-to-toe, which resulted in a few bent race cars and hurt feelings. Hopefully, it does not come to that. Both Naugle and Butcher are two of the brightest young talents competing on our Weekly Racing Series.
Whatever happens, last week had tempers running a bit higher than normal, and when the dust settled, it resulted in Mackintosh trying to roll the top line to the front of the field when he spun out in Turn Four. Similar to the wreck which Lawson and Naugle had at the 50, Cole Butcher, who was also working the top, had no time to react or place to go and he got into Mackintosh’s idle car. It ended Butcher’s night with Mackintosh coming back to fifth place.
In the balance, it was a huge point night for Meehan, Jeff Cruickshank, Goulden and Atkinson, who each made gains of at least 24 points each on Butcher. Naugle in fifth in points gained 16 points. Like I mentioned with the Sportsman division, while it may seem like a stretch to gain 28 points for Boutilier, it is far from impossible in one night, let alone another half dozen events.
The gap is 21 between second and sixth with those five drivers who finished in the top five being in the thick of it. This is how it played out last season to an extent too, with some different players in the mix. If Butcher has another stumble, it opens up the championship big time.
The driver who led the most feature laps in the last two weeks?! Joey Lawson. Lawson has been quick the last few weeks but after a couple of bad weeks he sits seventh in the points, but just 20 points out of fifth. I’m excited to see if Lawson can claw his way back into this picture and have something for our top five. With this division as close as it is, anything could happen!
Tip of the cap to our rookies as well. Tylor Hawes continues to improve each week and leads the two car battle for the rookies over fellow former Thunder car driver, Jordan Pirri. While Brad Brown does not qualify for rookie status based on the definition of a rookie at the Speedworld (a full time season on the Parts for Trucks Tour discounts Brown’s rookie status for Legends), he continues to learn the ropes with the two former Four Cylinder drivers and the Brown Ventilation #09, and the other two rookies are just a few adjustments away from moving up into that cluster that is for second in the division.
There you have it, a “brief” look at the five divisions running tomorrow and where they sit after a handful of races. The action is unpredictable, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, and competitive at the same time. Who will come out on top Friday? Be at the Speedworld for Q104 Night to find out!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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