Tim's Corner
Hydraulics Plus Night To Warm Up
friday night lights

Here we are, back for another stretch of Friday night racing.

This Friday night, if you are keeping track, kicks off a string of 15 consecutive Friday nights of racing at Speedworld.

We are going to have a lot of exciting Friday night cards this year. The June 20th and 21st weekend is going to be exciting with extended features for the Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros, Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman and Strictly Hydraulics Legends on Live 105 Night. The next night, the Thunder and Lightning drivers will see their first undercard with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in the first time in over a decade on June 21st when they are joined by the Coors Light Trucks for the Lockhart Truck Center night. The Shriner’s Classic enters Year 20 on July 25th with a 50-lap Sportsman feature, the Twin 50s for Thunders and Lightning are July 18th and August 15th, our Dartmouth Dodge 100 for Sportsman on August 8th is going to have the place hopping. Kiddie Rides are always popular nights on our schedule.

You get the point, it’s going to be busy this Summer.

Let’s start with this week though. Hydraulics Plus Night will have the Bandoleros centre stage. Our youngest competitors at the Speedworld will be in the spotlight with their 15-lap feature and if it was anything like we saw on opening day, they deserve all the spotlight they will get! Braden Langille had to work for the win, opening the door on defending titlist Adam Meehan on the last lap. When it looked like Langille had the win easily, Luke Ettinger stuck his bumper under Langille out of Turn Two on the bell lap and looked like he would come out on top for his first feature win. Like we’ve seen before though, Langille didn’t give up and he drove it in for his first victory in 2014.

The field is so much closer this season with the experienced drivers we have. We saw it on opening day, any one of six teams up front could have won that race and while the top four were the show, you had the #08 of Cory Hall and the #33 of Cole Tanner that were either a caution or maybe a small adjustment away from being in the mix as well. The rest of the field is in the same boat and we had 12 strong at our opener that were all in the ball park.

The great thing about this class is that it is a proving ground for the next level. For example, Cole Butcher and Dylan Blenkhorn are absolutely lighting it up on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. Last weekend at Petty Raceway, Butcher took third and Blenkhorn fourth in the Irving Oil Blending & Packaging 100 and Blenkhorn came within a few hundredths of setting the track record in Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials. Emily Meehan, Nicholas Naugle and two time Bandolero titlist Jarrett Butcher (Strictly Hydraulics Legends) along with DJ Casey (Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman) have made quite the impression early in this season as well in their respective divisions in the Weekly Racing Series - and they all got their start in the Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros. I know John Cameron and the folks at Hydraulics Plus are always excited to see these kids race and I know they track their progress through the ranks and I believe Mr. Cameron will be happy with the crop he’ll see Friday night at the track.

But that is not all we’ll see Friday night.

I’ll make this point now before we go any further. On opening day, because it is a new season, teams “drew the pill” or drew for their starting position in the heat and the feature. As it sometimes does, it led to some drivers getting a good draw and running away from the field on night one. Matthew Warren said it in his post-race interview with me after the Thunder feature and I’m sure Cole Butcher liked where he drew when he drove off from the field two Sundays ago.

This week though, drivers are lined up for heats based off their handicap (number of points they obtained divided by the amount of race meets they attend). To break it down, the drivers that finished up front last week will start near the back of the later heats while drivers who didn’t fare so well will start near the front of the early heats.

The aforementioned Thunder division may be the most interesting to watch in this format. You have five or six drivers that were close during the first feature of 2014, then you had a few that had mechanical issues or issues in tech, then you had drivers that were trying to chase their own tails. One common denominator throughout the field was the tire. The teams are still chasing the new spec tire, which, for at least right now has some teams baffled. Like anything, when some team(s) get this thing figured out, they will be hard to beat.  Once someone finds out something about the tire - for example, what pressures to run and how aggressive you can be on them or how hard you can run the tire, you might see that here. For now, they are all still scratching their heads trying to find a way to go fast over a 25 lap run.

The 25 lap run we saw on opening day was all green too.  2012 champion Kyle MacMillan blew a tire, Kyle Gammon had motor issues and Drew MacEachern failed technical inspection, which should put all three in the first heat on Friday night. Add in a crop of rookies and probably a veteran like “Hollywood” Chantel Ackles, car count permitting on the way the heats split, and you have a very interesting heat one for the Thunder class. Then add in the second heat with champions like Dave Matthews, Stevie Lively, Warren and Tim Webster, and it makes for an intriguing night of racing in the final division on the card for the night.

Cole Butcher ran away and hid with both his races in the Strictly Hydraulics Legend class. While he was by far the class of the field on the opener, he will have to do it this time from the rear of the running order. I was impressed by Nicholas Naugle on opening day with his run in both races and if he can continue to show the prowess he did, he will win a feature before this season is out.

They’ve both got tough competition in the way of drivers like “Miss Rawdon Rocket” Emily Meehan, Jeff Cruickshank, Joey Lawson, Jeff Cruickshank and even Cole’s younger brother Jarrett. Scott Cunning has only ran part-time in the past with us, but boy did he ever impress on day one, cashing in on a top five finish and a heat win. Would be neat to see what Scott can do over a full season!

The Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman had an incredible race on night one, with Aaron Boutilier taking the feature win narrowly over Harry Ross White, DJ Casey and Tony Leonard. That was just up front, when you look at names we didn’t see much of in Darren Wallage, Wade Slauenwhite and Chris Dingle, for example, all three who won features in 2013, you have to believe this division is going to be like fine wine and get better with age throughout the season. We also had a healthy car count of 20 Late Model Sportsman on opening day, with at least two that I know of that were not ready for May 25th. If I’m a fan of great racing, I’m excited for what our premiere division has to offer in 2014.

Last, but certainly not least on the order is the Coors Light Trucks on Hydraulics Plus Night. The Trucks broke a track record by having 14 of them show up on opening day and the competition was stout with Jason Fenton outrunning rookie Matt Vaughan and “The Legend” Cy Harvey, who made his first truck start in the former Robbie Watts #10 truck. Dan Smith spun late out of a podium spot, which moved Jamie Creamer closer to the podium with a fourth place run. Jim MacMillan was strong in his first outing but had issues on the start of the race. “The Animal” Jeff Campbell battled with Harvey for many laps as well before retiring early.
Bottom line? While the Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros are in the spotlight, there will be great racing across the board on Friday night.

Of course, if you took in Maple Leaf Monster Jam last weekend, you can bring your ticket stub and get in the front gate for $5 on Friday night. The regular admission price is $12 for a Friday night show, which is the lowest price of any gate in Atlantic Canada for a full stock car show already, but to get in for $5 is insane for what we are offering for on track action! Heck, with the $7 you save, you can visit JC and pick up a Pepsi and something to eat along with enjoying the racing action. I think the last time I went to the movies, I got my ticket, popcorn and drink for around $30. The action on track - way more unpredictable than a movie (though I do want to see a Millon Ways to Die in the West) and for the price, it’s worth a trip out to the Speedworld to any one of, or all of, our Friday night shows!

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