Full Steam Ahead to the
Atlantic Cat 250 Weekend
For most race fans in the region, they have waited 350+ days for this weekend to come.
The Atlantic Cat 250 draws the biggest crowds, the biggest car counts and usually the biggest on track excitement we’ll see all year. It’s a highly anticipated weekend for many reasons and the electricity in the air that surrounds it is unique to Scotia Speedworld.
While the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour Atlantic Cat 250 takes top billing, as Weekly Racing Series fans, we have so much to look forward to this weekend. Let’s begin with the big one, the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100 which will have top billing on Friday evening.
Unlike the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour where teams order tires through the track for the weekend and we can put together an expected entry list, the Sportsman entry list is a bit harder to track down. I would anticipate there to be around two dozen cars or so at this race. We can start with a base of 15 drivers that have been with us on a weekly or mostly weekly basis over the first six races of the season. Then you have another six who have run with us at least once, and of those you best believe Jeff Dillman, Wayne Smith and Tony Leonard will be with us on Saturday and add Wade Slauenwhite to that list too. I can’t see why Brian Jollimore, JP Arsenault or Larry Fisher would opt out of one of the biggest races our track has to offer for this class, but for argument sake, let’s call it a 21 car field at that point.
The plan from the beginning of the season was that the Rodgers brothers from Smithtown, New Brunswick would make the trek down and I believe that is still in the cards. Andrew Rodgers, the younger of the two, has really broken through in the province of New Brunswick as one of the hottest up and coming drivers and comes to us off a second place finish at the Caleb Dunn Memorial 100 at Petty Raceway last Sunday. His older brother Matt was fast in that race too but sustained some crash damage that I’m sure the team is looking after to get him to Scotia Speedworld on Friday.
Okay, so that makes 23 cars. Then you have a bunch of guys that I like to call the “on the fence crew.” Darren Wallage said pre-season he was taking a different approach to this season but he was still planning on doing the big events at Scotia Speedworld. If that holds true, we should see him there. We also haven’t seen Marie Brown all season, which would be a wonderful addition to our 100-lap show. I know Byron Bartlett was toying at the idea of making the haul down on Friday. Rumors were rapid about Brent Roy, 2014 Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman titlist at Speedway 660, making a trip down to Scotia Speedworld for this race. Chris Reid has changed his schedule around, so you never know if a driver like Mr. Reid will make an appearance, or anyone else from north of Stellarton - like a Dale Richardson. Then there is always someone who pops out of nowhere to come race.
We could all make a holiday list of drivers we would love to see in Halifax this weekend, mine would be about 30 cars long, but it looks like I realistically would expect 22-25 cars, maybe more, on Friday night for the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100. If you add all those names above, the potential is there for a 30 car field.
At the end of the day though, they’ll all have to beat Russell Smith Jr if they want to win this race.
“The Bounty Hunter” has won this race the last two years, and while he said when he returned to Scotia Speedworld to race full time he wanted to win the championship (so far, so good), he also wanted to win a third consecutive Dartmouth Dodge 100. To win one of these races is tough, to win two is a feat all in its own. If Russell Smith Jr can win three of these races, back-to-back-to-back, you may as well put him right up there with some of the best to have ever graced this oval in the 28 year history of the facility.
But, again, he will face stiff competition.
Look no further than the guys he races with week in and week out. Fred Schofield is coming off a win last week, Aaron Boutilier has been strong when the car has held together, Travis Roma has been solid, Jordan Veinotte has been on the podium a few times, as has Harry Ross White. Phil Barkhouse has also won a feature this year, while guys like Alex Johnson, Pete Miller, Richard Salter, Tyler Hallahan and Joey Livingstone continue to prove each week they could have a pretty good shot at a win if all the cards fall the right way. While not a point race, Matt Moore and Alex Painting are putting on a show in the Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie of the Year battle with Moore turning it up last week by winning a heat race.
Either way you slice it, it is going to be one heck of a show.
On the undercard Friday night will be point races for the Coors Light Trucks and Chickenburger Thunder and Lightning classes. Let’s start with the Chickenburger Lightning division. They’ve had two off-weeks, one for rain and one for their scheduled off-week in the rotation of divisions on a Friday night but they return in a big way on Friday. Deven Smith leads the points and has a pretty comfy 24 points lead, but no lead is safe especially in these next two weeks. Scott Thibodeau was the winner the last time out in the “Big Money 50” but has already had a bad week, a mechanical failure which resulted in a 12th place run on July 3rd. If Thibodeau, along with third and fourth place drivers Darrell Sullivan and Marc MacMillan can keep it on the track and inch closer to Smith, we could have ourselves a nice little championship battle coming down the stretch.
The Chickenburger Thunder division got a bit closer up front, nine points to be exact, between Dave Matthews and the Warren brothers. With six races to go, well, you can do the math, if Matthew and Andrew were to gain an average of nine points a race on Dave (54 points), they would be able to well overcome that 31 point deficit they currently have. Same can be said for Kyle Gammon, who gained 13 points on Matthews last Friday with a win, and is 46 points back from Matthews going in. The #99 crew knows better than anyone, that if they can keep from having a mechanical failure or crash in the next six weekends, they should be a pretty safe bet for the title with that lead, but remember, this is stock car racing. With the Atlantic Cat 250 this weekend, and the “Big Money 50” the next Friday night for the Thunder division, these two weeks will be critical if Dave Matthews wants to win a third championship in this division.
Dan Smith tacked on another point last week to make it an even 30 he is up on his competition in the Coors Light Truck class. The battle behind him for second is an exciting one, between teammates Kevin Clark Jr and Cory Leonard, along with Matt Vaughan. Vaughan is 22 points out of Clark for second, but really stepped up his game last week by winning a heat and running within the top five all night. It is only five points between Clark and Leonard and the two Leonard’s Racing trucks raced to a tie last week when it came to points between the heat and the feature. Jamie Creamer, leading rookie Megan Parrott and Adam Carter also find themselves locked in a battle for fifth in the standings which could change hands again Friday when the trucks tackle the track.
The Strictly Hydraulics Legends cars are off from point racing towards their championship, but the Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends Tour will be in town on Saturday to contest the Scotia Tire 50. We have seen the competition in this class continue to ramp up and Saturday night should show the big crowd what Legend racing in the region has to offer. They are coming off an impressive showing at Oyster Bed Speedway last Saturday and their momentum and excitement as a series should carry into Halifax this weekend.
The Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros will run separate 20 laps features on Atlantic Cat 250 weekend, beginning with the Bandits kicking off the show at 3:35pm. The Bandit feature, for drivers eight to 12 years old. Joshua Langille still has a healthy point lead, but could we see a third different winner in as many races after Saturday’s feature? Colton Noble, Sam Rogers, Nathan Langille, Austin Tanner, Nathan Singer, Dylan Dowe, Danny Chisholm and Owen Mahar, among others, have proven they have the speed but haven’t been able to crack the top spot in the feature. Morgan Mosher, Tyler Hutchinson and Malcolm Jollimore have been constantly learning and picking up speed and you better believe these three names will be ones you’ll hear for years to come at the Speedworld! You’re going to want to come early on Saturday to see these kids go at it for 20 laps.
The Hydraulics Plus Bandolero Outlaw class has seen Braden Langille at the front more often than not. While he has won the first four features of 2015, he has been shut out of the top spot over the last two features. Luke Ettinger has stepped up his game greatly in the last two races and Wyatt McCulloch, Dylan Sutherland and Nathan Blackburn have each proved they are a right adjustment away from a feature win, or in the case of McCulloch, another feature win. Expect these kids to put on a fast paced, breathtaking 20 lap feature on Saturday.
If you haven’t made plans, be sure to be at the Atlantic Cat Meet n Greet on Thursday night from 6pm to 8pm to meet some of the cars and stars of the weekend, chances to win tickets to the Atlantic Cat 250, have a BBQ and just do some quality bench racing in a more casual setting before we get down to the business of racing on the weekend.
All in all, this is shaping up to be a big weekend and I hope you can get out and enjoy it. After all, when we get done with the Atlantic Cat 250, there is only about another month left of summer. Wow, where did the time go?!
Until this weekend, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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