Tim's Corner

Don’t take everything Luke Bryan says to heart.

Yes, rain is a good thing, but not on race day. Like she did at the start of 2013, it appears Mother Nature is playing a factor in the early stages of our championship chases this season.

I do want to take some time out and talk about “the call” though. I’m talking about that call that is made whether we race or not on a Friday night. It is a tough call, one that Ken Cunning consults many forecasts and meteorologists asking for their opinion before making the call.
I’m no meteorologist, but I had my doubts when the call was made shy of 2pm last weekend. Again, I’m no weatherman, but I like to throw my Larry McReynolds hat on once and a while and make predictions and with the radar images I looked at, it looked like we have had a chance of making it happen. The radar images I saw had us clear for the first half of the early evening, sans a pop-up shower or two that may show up, that would let us get the show in.

The reports that the track got indicated a brief passing shower early in the afternoon and again later in the evening and gloomy skies between then. With that, the call was made to pull the plug.

I had texts, tweets, Facebook messages, you name it - they made the call too early, it’s nice and sunny here and a few others that weren’t as nice. Here’s the deal, it’s a tough call. At the end of the day, management is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Make the call early when the weather is iffy like it was and it comes out clear, they look pretty silly. If they make the call and it rains (we’ll get to that in a bit), they look like geniuses.

Let’s attack the “if the weather is iffy, they should try to get it in anyway” beef. First of all, not all our teams are from the East Hants or Halifax area. We typically have a half dozen or more teams coming in from over two hours one way to get here on a Friday night. Cory Hall and Michael Cormier’s Bandolero efforts both come from Southern New Brunswick on a part-time basis, one of which was awaiting a call last Friday, Jeff Atkinson comes every week from Port LaTour and Art McNamara was about to leave from Cleveland (outside of Port Hawkesbury) with his Thunder car Friday before the call was made, just as a few examples. Some of our teams don’t have unlimited racing budgets and are trying to scratch up enough gas money to make our full schedule. Those teams are some of the true heroes of the sport, but that’s for another article. To get them to come out when the weather is iffy is tough, especially if they haul and we get rain during practice or qualifying. At the end of the day, it creates a long night that may never see an ending and frustration on everyone’s part.

Most of us sat through the Dartmouth Dodge 100 rainout on the Friday when we only got heats in. Most will say that sitting around in the rain for most of the evening just to get a few heats in wasn’t the most desirable situation.

On the same token, I went to Wiscasset Raceway in Maine back in April when the Pro All Stars Series opener was postponed at another track in the state. The forecast called for a high chance of rain that afternoon, but Wiscasset pushed on with racing. Low and behold, an hour before racing and the skies opened up. All their weekly point teams had to be there though to get points in the chance they got the race in, which they didn’t and in turn it cost those teams a ton of money to be there for a few practice laps to watch it rain along with the fans who drove out to take the chance on the weather.

Our defending Coors Light Truck champ Dan Smith summed up the call the best to me on Facebook, saying “it sucks as a racer, but it’s better than driving out and only getting half the show in.”

So, did the track make the right call last Friday? They were right on the money.

Again, around 7pm, I got calls and texts about us not racing and where they were and how sunny it was. Heck, I sat having supper in Dartmouth Crossing and it was blue skies and sunny. But, we don’t race at Swiss Chalet, even though it is a great place to enjoy some ribs and chicken and do some bench racing.

I drove by the track around 9:45pm, which is usually the time we are getting close to ending our show, and it was pouring rain. By the look of the pavement and the puddles on the side of the road, it looked like it had been doing so for a while too. While there was dry pavement around Exit 7, there was none to be found around Exit 6.

Right call was made. Rant over, let’s move on.

For those that did not read last week’s preview, you can head back there now to take a look at four of the five divisions heading into Friday night. Since we didn’t race, nothing has changed since then.

But now, it is Friday the 13th.

A lot of race car drivers are superstitious. I’ve heard a bunch of them, from 13 and green paint on a race car being a bad idea, to eating peanuts before a race and even some drivers pre-race routine. It could boil down to putting their right sock on before their left, if they win a race, some will go and replay their exact same routine in order to duplicate their success, or at least try to. It’s a shame our Thunder cars are off, because “The Ironman” Drew MacEachern, who lives to defy some of those so called superstitions, in the green and black #13 car would probably have a good claim for a victory even before hitting the track!

Another superstition we will have to put up with Friday night - a full moon.

Short track races that run under a full moon typically get a bit crazy if you are of the superstitious variety. If a race is plagued with cautions and you see that big ball in the sky lit up, that’s what some will blame the action on. Of course, it is the drivers at the wheel and they are more focused on the track than the moon, but it’s one of those superstitions that is around our sport.

In the last five years, we have had three Friday the 13th shows. In 2013, and I hate to say it, we had rain on September 13th which forced our season to end on a Sunday. In 2012, Braden Langille (Bandolero), Kyle MacMillan (Thunder), Jorden Smith (Lightning), Dylan Blenkhorn (Legends) and Darren Wallage (Sportsman) went to victory lane on July 13th. On Friday, August 13th, 2010, Cole Butcher (Bandolero), Curtis Lindsay (Trucks), Ray Cox Jr (Legends), Colby Smith (Sportsman) and Matthew Warren (Thunder) held checkered flags.

Of those names, four are scheduled to suit up and run Friday night, one of which is in a different division, but if you believe in numbers, you’ll believe that Butcher will do well in the Legend on Friday the 13th. In his rookie season in 2012, Butcher finished 3rd on Friday the 13th behind Blenkhorn and Richard Salter.

Braden Langille won on Opening Day in 2014 for the Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros and will look to go back-to-back on Friday the 13th events. Darren Wallage and Jorden Smith are both champions of the classes they run in and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them run up front, superstition or none, on Friday.

Smith may have a bit of an upper hand when it comes to the Lightning class on Friday night, which is the only division we didn’t preview last week, so let’s take a look now. Smith, a former two-time champion of the class, is returning to full-time status in 2014 and finished a strong second on Opening Day to Mike Brown. Because of the handicap system, both will have to start near the rear of the field on Friday night and will have to pick their way through the traffic if they plan on landing on the podium again.

Was it ever great to see Marshall Bezanson run near the front! Bezanson has been plugging away at this class for years and it appears he has hit on something. Bazanson told me in victory lane he is only doing a half season, so he is one of many that are hoping the rain stays away early in the season.

It was also great to see Scott Thibodeau back at the track in a race car. After a successful Sportsman campaign by capturing the Debbie Hallahan Memorial Rookie of the Year in 2009, Thibodeau took a step back after the 2010 season and took a few years off. He returns to where he got his racing start with the Lightning class and it appears that he didn’t miss a beat by finishing in the top five on Opening Day. Watch for the #169 to be a title contender before this season is over!

The turnout we had on Opening Day was incredible too with 19 lightning cars answering the call to the green, six of them being rookies and word of a couple more cars being built around the area! In the rookie battle, Steve Matthews, recent winner of the Fast Eddie Racewear Search 4 Speed contest, has the upper hand by getting 15 more points on Day One than any other rookie competitor. Four of the six are clogged in a battle with only seven points between Joey Holland, Joe Collins, Thomas Ackles and Mitchell Hopkins. It’s great to see new blood come into the sport and can’t wait to see what our crop can do throughout the year!

If you’re still hanging on to your Monster Jam stub, be sure to bring it Friday for $5 admission on the grandstand side. I’ll mention it again, our show is the greatest value in motorsports in Atlantic Canada and the $5 admission even drives the point across more. Heck, that’s a dollar a division and with the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman, Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros, Strictly Hydraulics Legends, Coors Light Trucks and Lightning on the card, how can you go wrong?!

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