Tim's Corner
the shriner's classic is special

If you caught my The Chronicle Herald Wheels Weekend article last weekend, you got a brief glimpse as to why this Friday’s Shriners Classic is so special.

Friday night marks the 21st straight year of this event, which means I was just getting ready for Grade Primary when Gordie Ryan went to victory lane in the inaugural Shriners Classic in 1995. The race is longest actively running race in consecutive years in the Maritimes. Sure, the River Glade International celebrated 51 years last weekend, but that race took a brief hiatus in 2010 when the venue changed from River Glade Speedway to Petty Raceway. It started as a Street Stock race, then transitioned to the Sportsman division and remains one of the most prestigious races the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series runs each and every season.

Phil Barkhouse Jr and I had a conversation last week about the event, and he believes he is the only driver that was in that inaugural race in 1995, that is still racing now and will be racing Friday night that has never won the event. In fact, the only former champion that is planning on making a start Friday night is Harry Ross White, who has won two of these races before in 2000 and 2008.

It is not that that fact is going to make it easier for Phil Barkhouse Jr to win this race by any stretch, but it does make the odds a lot better that we will have a first time winner in this race.
You have to look at Phil, HOSS and point leader Russell Smith Jr as odds on favorites in the race with their performance this season. After all, who remembers who finished second in the 1997 Shriners Classic?! Exactly.

While the trio above have the ability to win, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a driver make a return to victory lane or even a first time winner in the division. Pete Miller and Jordan Veinotte have come close a few times this year, and Alex Johnson has been knocking the door of victory lane for a long time. Same can be said about Brentley Pirri and let’s hope Matt Moore found what he needs to get his car back together after the Dartmouth Dodge 100. Remember how strong the leading Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie was during the Canadian National Autism Foundation Kidsrace? Oh, and don’t forget who won that night, Fred Schofield!

I can’t help but think that Travis Roma would be the big favorite for this race amongst those at the Speedworld. Sure, every driver wants to win this race for themselves, but if not them, I’m sure they’d like to see Travis run well. This is a big race for the team, with Travis’s late father Terry owning three Shriners Classic trophies. Terry’s last podium in this event came on the Saturday Night Special held on Saturday, August 28th, 2010 when he and Colby Smith put on an incredible show for the win with Colby edging out Terry for his only Classic win. Trust me when I say this, if Travis can win this race on Friday night, and he has shown strength this season that could very well make this happen, the place would come completely unglued.
Either way, the Shriners Classic on Friday night will be, no pun intended, a classic!

The Chickenburger Thunder cars put on a great show,  there was action not only up front but throughout the field. It was a great night to be a part of Lively Motorsports, with Shane coming home in second by inches, Andrew coming in fourth for his best finish of the season and Stevie in sixth. Andrew and Shane both won heat races and to boot, Shane went up to Petty Raceway on Saturday and helped crew Craig Slaunwhite to his first Tour win in over two years.

Darkside Racing also had a great performance on Friday with Kyle Gammon leading the way with another podium finish. Gammon now finds himself in third in the standings and while a ways back with three races to go but has company in his teammate Drew MacEachern in fourth in the standings, just a short 12 points back. The sixth to tenth place battle is still alive and well, featuring Merle Corbin, Andrew Lively, Tim Webster, Stevie Lively and Chris Hatcher all within 23 points of each other for placement within the top ten in the standings. While no lead is comfortable, Brad Hayes has a manageable margin in fifth both in front and behind him with three races to go.

It was great to see Richard Patrick return to victory lane last week, holding off Deven Smith and Scott Thibodeau for the win. It was a big win for the team, with crew member Bruce Larter celebrating a birthday the week leading up to the race. I’ll tell you something though, from watching the #141 in the infield in the feature, he may not have had the fastest car of the three at the end, but the #141 might have had the best driver in the car. I say that because of how smooth Richard was, hitting his marks every lap, smooth in and smooth out of the corners, not leaving a door open to the inside and Smith wasn’t going to be one to kick the door down to get there. All three showed a ton of respect toward each other and that was so good to see. If I am a Legend or Sportsman car owner with a seat, and I know they are hard to come by, I would love to see Richard Patrick in a car. He’s smart, calculated, smooth and a great ambassador to the sport.

Speaking of young drivers who are making a mark, how about Matt Vaughan pulling into victory lane on Friday night? When it comes down to crunch time in this season, Vaughan is putting up numbers on the board. He is now one point out of the #74 Leonard’s Auto truck for second and while Dan Smith has a manageable margin up front, Vaughan seems like one of the hottest drivers in the last few weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vaughan win at least another Coors Light Truck feature before this season is over.

The Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros will contest the INEX Regional Championship races on Friday night. What does it mean to our fans? Well, nothing much changes on that end, they are still twin 15 lap features but these races have a major bearing on National points with INEX, the international sanctioning body for the cars. In a season, a driver is allowed to count their best 19 finishes towards a national title in a Bandolero car, plus this Friday’s championship race, to make 20 total. With Braden Langille racking up wins, this could be huge for Langille in the Outlaw division. We could potentially, if he was to win, have a driver based out of our race track to at least tie for the overall championship with INEX. I’m not talking just Canada East or Canada as a country, I’m talking international championship. No Bandolero driver has done that before and while Ryan Mackintosh won a Semi Pro Legends championship as a Canadian driver, that championship was obtained while not racing on Canadian soil throughout that season and with Mackintosh based in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

It is also a big race in the Bandits for Austin Macdonald and Josh Langille. Not only are the two battling in the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero point standings, they are going for the National title as well and this race could be the difference between first and second in that respect.

In the Bandit division, you still have that classic tilt for the top rookie in the class, with Sam Rogers leads by nine points over Owen Mahar and Austin Tanner, who are tied for fifth overall in the standings and second in the Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie chase. Only 19 points behind Rogers is Dylan Dowe, who has shown he can race with the best of them in the class.
Rogers, in turn, is only 18 points behind Nathan Langille after Langille has had some missteps in the last few races compared to the #12 car. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m impressed with all the rookies in this class this year, but Rogers has really impressed me from Night One.

It’s also Kiddie Night at the Speedworld on Friday! Bring the kids (and the kids at heart) down to the track and they can go for a ride with their favorite race car driver. With a packed card already, I’d advise you to get there early, because the cars will be rolling shortly after the clock strikes 7pm!

It’s a jam packed night of racing action at Scotia Speedworld, one you will not want to miss!
Until Friday night, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!