Big Battles, Big Money, Big Stakes
For the five divisions (including the two Hydraulics Plus Bandolero classes) racing on Friday night, there is much more than extended features that make the Chickenburger Twin 50’s Night big.
Okay, so maybe the Strictly Hydraulics Legends feature isn’t an extra distance race, but most of them are coming off an Atlantic Tiltload Maritime League of Legends feature at the Speedworld last weekend. With the weekly teams returning to centre stage, it also brings their point battle back to the forefront. All season, this has been the closest battle, but after our last race which saw a frantic finish behind winner Jarrett Butcher and a blown motor by Cory Hall, the points saw a bit of a shakeup. Butcher, who has been so doggone consistent all season leading up to his first win of the season on the Weekly Racing Series, enters Friday with a three point lead on two-time winner Nicholas Naugle and four points on Paul Goulden. Goulden is the pleasant surprise this season, running within championship contention without winning a single Legend car feature in his career. If he can finally shake the monkey, he will be tough to beat down the stretch, but he’s got two teenagers whom will give him a run for his money.
Cory Hall sits 21 points out and at this point can really control his own destiny. Sure, those three in front of him can too, but with five races to go, if Cory gains an average of five points a race, he is right in the thick of the point hunt. Yes, sometimes that is easier said than done with the competition we have, but the leading Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie of the Year candidate in the class has shown a ton of promise.
Keep in mind, one bad night will put you scrounging for points, even if you had a good start to the season. We’ll talk about this in a moment, but keep in mind, Dave Matthews lost 18 points last week alone on his closest championship contender in the Chickenburger Thunder class. Hall sits 21 points out. It might seem like a tall task, but it can be done if the stars align.
Danny Harvey is fifth in the standings for the Strictly Hydraulics Legends and while, as we just mentioned, no lead is safe, he has a comfortable 14 point margin on sixth on back and is only eight points out of fourth and 29 points out of the lead. The cagey veteran has what it takes to win on any given night, which is a dangerous trait when it comes to a championship battle.
While the point battle is intriguing, you have a battle from sixth to tenth that could also go one way or another with a flip of a switch. Emily Meehan leads it with her brother Adam Meehan only three points back. Ten points behind the elder Meehan is Jeff Cruickshank, while fourteen points back from the 75 is a tie for ninth between Jeff Atkinson and Cole Tanner. While these guys and Emily Meehan are on the teetering edge of losing touch of the championship with five races to go, they are in a position where a strong run over the next month could put them in touch with the leaders. One bad race though, and it will probably kill what is left of those track championship dreams.
We’ve seen what a mechanical problem can do to guys like Cory Hall, Dave Matthews and even Scott Thibodeau in the Chickenburger Lightning class, and it is something Deven Smith cannot afford if he wants to win his first track title at the Speedworld. Smith, a former Petty Raceway Mini Stock champion, has a 29 point advantage on Darrell Sullivan, who won the feature last weekend and a 37 point advantage on Thibodeau, who finished five laps down last Friday. Marc MacMillan sits 57 points out and while not mathematically eliminated with five races to go, will likely need some help and an elusive feature win to really put him in the hunt.
It’s a 50 lap feature though, anything can happen. Richard Patrick had a heartbreak in our first 50 lapper after leading the most laps and experiencing a mechanical failure with the #141 car. On the other side, it was Scott Thibodeau inheriting the lead and holding off a hard charging Deven Smith for the win. If an issue arises, it could hurt a driver not only in his finish on the track Friday but also in the standings.
Another battle to keep your eye on in the class is sixth place between Mitchell Hopkins, Jamie Dillman and “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper. Both have had highlights in this season and for Hopkins, he is having a breakout season in his second year in the division. Can the driver who celebrated his 18th birthday last weekend hold off the two veterans and possibly catch Richard Patrick for fifth in the standings? With five points between Hopkins, Dillman and Hopper, this battle is sure to be a big one coming down to the wire.
It is also great to see Earl and Chevy MacDonald coming back out for the 50 lapper. These two have been mainstays in the division for many years but have taken the 2015 season off, up until this extended 50 lap feature. I’m excited to see the #138 and #172 back on track Friday!
While Josh Langille has seen Austin MacDonald win the last two races in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero Bandit class, Langille has been finishing right behind MacDonald and limiting the point standing damage. It is 30 points between the top two, something that MacDonald hopes to continue to work at chopping down in the remaining five races. In turn, MacDonald has a 26 point advantage on Nathan Langille, who, in turn, has a 31 point lead on the leading rookie Austin Tanner.
That, is where this battle gets intense.
Between Austin Tanner and Danny Chisholm in ninth, we have only 16 points. Between Tanner, Owen Mahar, Sam Rogers and Dylan Dowe in the Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie of the Year battle, there is only six points. Add Nathan Singer in there too and you have a huge battle that is sure to shake up over an extended 25-lap feature. Don’t count out Colton Noble either, after leading the most laps in the undercard for the Atlantic Cat 250, he is hungry for a feature win and might be the leading candidate to become the third different winner of the season.
Braden Langille has taken a little hop on the strugglebus over the last couple of weeks, which can be attributed to a bit of an aggressive driving style. We saw that rear its head last week late in the Atlantic Cat 250 undercard feature and we saw it in July when he and Luke Ettinger battled for the lead late in our last 25 lap feature. Wyatt McCulloch has been consistent all season and after two wins in the last three races has been rewarded with a single point advantage on top of the standings. With only five full time cars, Langille or McCulloch cannot afford a slip in these last five races if they want to win this championship. Dylan Sutherland isn’t too far behind, 14 points out of the lead and Luke Ettinger and Nathan Blackburn are set to play spoiler in this battle too. Strap in, this one is going to be good.
Remember we mentioned Dave Matthews and those 18 points he lost last week? Add those to the six points he lost the race before, and the 37 point lead he once had over the Warren brothers is now down to 13 points. The downside for Matthews is that the Warren brothers have hit their stride, with Andrew finishing second two races ago and Matthew edging Stevie Lively in a photo finish for the first win of the season for the #31 car.
Matthew’s struggles and Warren’s podium runs have given us a point battle with five races remaining.
Oh, and did we mention this is the Big Money 50 with $250, $150 and $100 on the line for the top three attendance eligible finishers, respectively?
We spoke about it with the Lightning cars, it’s a long race that any mechanical issue could put a driver from the penthouse to the outhouse real quick. You’ve got some really close battles amongst drivers within the standings with some Big Money 50 contenders that make this race intriguing. Drew MacEachern, Kyle Gammon and Tim Webster have six points between them for third. Andrew Lively, Chris Hatcher and Stevie Lively have four points between them for eighth and even Shane Lively and Brandon Watson have only four points between them.
Add in guys like Brad Hayes, who had a solid top five run last week, Merle Corbin, Kyle MacMillan, Chantel Ackles, Thomas Marshall, Stephen Farrell, “The Mayor of Cleveland” Art McNamara and a returning Scott Williams, among others, we have an incredible 50 lap feature on our hands.
It is going to be a great night of racing, one we hope you can join us for and to support our Thunder drivers in their biggest race of the season.
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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