Hydraulics Plus Night
Opens a busy stretch
For those drivers, teams and fans that waited months for the Scotia Speedworld Weekly Racing Series to fire back up last Friday night, I would have to say they left happy with all the excitement that was on track.
Sure, the temperature was a bit chilly when the wind whipped around, but the show on the track was hot as ever. Even some of those temperatures changed the track from practice in the heat of the day, making it for an interesting race night as drivers had to adapt to the track if they under or over adjusted their cars.
Something that did not change? We had three defending champions return to victory lane with Braden Langille (Hydraulics Plus Bandolero Outlaw), Dan Smith (Coors Light Trucks) and Dave Matthews (Chickenburger Thunder) grabbing checkered flags in both heats and features last Friday. All three looked stout in their opening races, but will have to start from the back on this coming Friday as the previous week’s feature winner.
That Thunder race was one of the best races of the night. We had 18 cars show up to duke it out for the win Friday, with a lot of the familiar faces up front. Guys like former champions Matthews, Matthew Warren, Tim Webster, Kyle MacMillan, Stevie Lively, along with former feature winners “The Sheriff” Kyle Gammon, “The Ironman” Drew MacEachern. Add in four time New Brunswick Mini Stock champion JR Lawson, Hobby Stock standout Brandon Watson and former Rookies of the Year in “Hollywood” Chantel Ackles and Brad Hayes and that’s over half the field.
Want to touch on Brad Hayes for a moment though. Hayes won the Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie of the Year Award in 2014 against a stout list of rookies, including Shane Lively, “The Mayor of Cleveland” Art McNamara, Merle Corbin, Andrew Lively and Nic Baker, and while all are back for a second year, it was Hayes that turned heads Friday. Sure, 12th on paper is less than desired, but Hayes and his #17 car ran well within the top five for most of the night and even came home second in his heat race. When you want to look at pleasant surprises from Hydraulics Plus Night, I think Brad Hayes has to be on that list. Thomas Marshall will look to follow in Hayes shoes as he goes for top rookie honors in 2015.
Was also great to see the return of Chris Hatcher. Hatcher ran one full season with us, finishing 15th in the standings in 2010. Hatcher had a respectable ninth place run in his return and showed some speed that I’m sure will only grow as the season gets older.
If we have this core group stick around for the Thunder division this year, folks, you are in for one of the greatest shows you have seen in recent years. We have a deep field here.
You could use the “what’s old is new again” cliché when looking at the Coors Light Truck standings after Week One. Last season’s top two, Dan Smith and Cory Leonard, lead the field, with Matt Vaughan and Jason Fenton in the top four. Obviously, when you think long haul, no pun intended, Smith is going to be hard to beat but with Leonard and Vaughan in their second seasons, I believe you might see some more fight out of both of them before the season is over. Fenton is going to be good, there’s no denying that. He likes to win every time he is on the track, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in victory lane Friday night. Jamie Creamer, Jeff Campbell, Adam Carter and Kevin Clark Jr will also be here looking to make things exciting.
While the group of returnees is strong, we also have three rookies who made their Truck debut Friday night. We touched during the winter on the Megan Parrott and Moore Family Racing entries, but you can now add Taylor McLean to the list in the former #7 truck that was once driven by Dana Isenor. All three entries are clumped together, with only three points between them after Week One. This should be our best rookie battle all season and is only beginning to heat up.
For the first time in track history, the Hydraulics Plus Bandolero division was split into the two INEX sanctioned age groups for their races, the Bandits (ages 8 to 11) and Outlaws (ages 12 and up). It almost reminds me when the Thunder and Lightning classes were split up over a decade ago when the Hondas and Volkswagen models got a bit too strong for the rest and were merged into their own class. While the Bandits and Outlaws race the exact same car, the experience is shown by the Outlaws which is shown on the stop watch and race craft on track.
Braden Langille picked up the Outlaw win and while he was chased to the line by third year driver Wyatt McCulloch, it was Dylan Sutherland who impressed me with some big speed on Friday. Don’t get me wrong, Sutherland has been quick before, but he was more than poised to run for the checkered flag Friday. With a tweak here and there, the #16 will be taking a checkered flag or two back to Beaverbank before this season is over.
With the Bandits having their own feature, someone was going to pick up their first feature win. It was only fitting that it was Josh Langille, who has been racing at the Speedworld for five years. He was chased to the line by his brother “Pumpkin Jack” Nathan Langille, which made the win even more special. Their grandfather Ken Dalrymple puts a ton of work into both of those cars and it was great to see both brothers lead the Bandit field to the checkered flag.
Colton Noble was quick on Friday too. There’s a kid that is going to win a lot of races, I just have a feeling. He’s only in his second full time season with us, has racing in his blood and has many years, laps and races ahead of him. Same can be said for another rookie from last year, the top rookie from 2014 in fact, in Austin MacDonald. Speaking of rookies, there were six of them in the class on Friday, led by Sam Rogers. There’s another battle to keep your eye on this season.
Like him or hate him, doesn’t Cy Harvey make the Strictly Hydraulics Legend division exciting? Regardless how you saw his racing on restarts with Cory Hall or the incident with Nicholas Naugle coming to the white flag, Harvey has to be the story of the night outside of Hall’s first Strictly Hydraulics Legends Weekly Racing Series victory of the year. Our Masters group (drivers aged 40+) is one of the most talented in Canada, and it showed with two of them in Canadian East Masters champion Paul Goulden and Jeff Cruickshank on the podium at the end of the night behind Hall. Cy and his nephew Danny Harvey spent many laps near the front as well. While a lot can be said for this “20 years and under” group including the Meehan siblings, Jarrett Butcher, Hall, Cole Tanner and Naugle, and don’t get me wrong, they have a ton of talent, this could be the year of experience. Either way, I think the first race of the season for our Legend division opened up some budding rivalries that might blossom throughout the year.
The Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series opening round was intriguing. Sure, Dylan Blenkhorn won. Blenkhorn can drive just about anything and put it at the front of the field. We assume that they will not be running full-time this year with Blenkhorn and his Sportsman car owner Jeff Dillman committed to the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, so who does that leave as a championship contender? Well, give me a few weeks to answer you. Harry Ross White and Phil Barkhouse Jr were constantly near the front, Aaron Boutilier and Russell Smith Jr were both quick until they found each other late in the feature. Alex Johnson and Travis Roma both put up solid runs. Then there are some guys who might not have shown their full potential on the cool night that opened our season.
These five divisions will be in action Friday night for Fanfest. We hope you can make it out Friday and bring your friends with you. Stop by one of our participating sponsors and pick up a ticket. The easiest location may be Tim Hortons at the Airport, because it should be your first and last stop en route to the track anyhow. Whether it is Tim Hortons at the Airport, Parts for Trucks Truro, Chickenburger, Hydraulics Plus, Strictly Hydraulics or Dartmouth Dodge be sure you are supporting them if you are in need of a product or service they offer. Make sure you tell them you are shopping with them because they support racing at Scotia Speedworld. Without them, it is pretty hard to make this sport tick!
Friday also gives us the chance to catch up with the drivers and teams during a first for the Weekly Racing Series in well over a decade - an autograph session! Get to the track for 7pm, pick up a souvenir program on the way down the stairs to the track and fill the thing with autographs. I’ll also be walking the grid throughout the session to catch up with your favorite drivers prior to racing on what could be one of our biggest nights in a while.
Speaking of big nights - mark July 10th on your calendar. While I’ve had many guest hosts over the last few years, potentially none bigger than the one that will join me on July 10th. Bobby Mac from the Q104 Morning Show will be in the booth with me to call the action on the night. It’ll be a night you will not want to miss - and hey, it’s our next big discount admission night at $20 a carload!
We’ll talk about Scott Thibodeau and his peers in the Chickenburger Lightning division when they return to action during the Nova Truck Centres 150. In the meanwhile, enjoy Fanfest and we will chat here in this spot next week.
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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