Double Up, Nova Truck Centres Double Header Weekend Coming Up
Where do we even start?
While I don’t have a fan count, Fanfest last Friday night drew the biggest crowd I have seen at Scotia Speedworld for a Friday night show in the nine years I have been announcing here. To that, it was probably the biggest stock car crowd we’ve had in years, maybe outside of a couple Atlantic Cat 250 events. Let’s hope these fans return to the track throughout the year, because the product they saw on track was pretty decent if I say so myself.
Our Hydraulics Plus Bandolero class saw a couple of repeat winners in Braden Langille and Josh Langille. While Braden’s win was more status quo, it was Josh’s that stole the show with a last lap pass on Austin MacDonald for his second consecutive feature win. MacDonald, who won his heat race, is going to win a pile of features in his career. He’s shown that he has the talent to drive his car to the front and he has an experienced crew in the pit area to back up the Pictou youngster. The one thing that struck me though was that while most would be upset or disappointed with how the finish of that race panned out, MacDonald kind of shrugged it off in victory lane and remained as optimistic as he could be. The kid has the right attitude on and off the track folks, which will take him far in this sport!
Speaking of happy kids, Colton Noble is one of those that will put a smile on your face with his attitude. Noble recorded a third place finish and was quick to note in victory lane that he now has “two third place trophies in two races.” Noble has shown speed in the first two races and is an adjustment or two away from hanging a checkered flag out the drivers side of his Bandolero car.
This weekend, the Outlaws and Bandits will be running 25-lap features, which will count towards National points as their “Regional Championship Race.” For most of these kids, this will be their only shot at a race like this all year, and many will be looking to be perfect over the 25-lap duration of the event. Braden Langille is running for a Canadian East championship, as is Josh Langille, and both have won the first two features in their respective age groups this year. Question is, can anyone pull off what would have to be dubbed as an “early season upset” and win the first extended race of the season on Friday night?
Our handicap system, while being a great equalizer in the middle stages and late in the season, can be a bit misleading early in the year. One misleading point can be easily seen from our Strictly Hydraulics Legend feature on Friday night. Sure, Nicholas Naugle and Cy Harvey each had bad luck in the first race, and with their low handicap after one race, they both found themselves near the front for the main feature. Both cars are quick, and while Harvey found it difficult to find an inside line, Naugle set sail up front and won his first feature of the year. Not saying that Naugle wouldn’t have picked his way through if he did not start up front, because he had a rocketship on Friday and it didn’t look like Hall was reeling him in much, but it might have made things more interesting.
To that point, after two or three weeks, the handicap system begins to level the field out, the races see more of the heavy hitters in points starting at the rear and we get some interesting races playing out.
Tip of the cap to Adam Meehan. The younger of the two Meehan siblings started up front after an early wreck during Hydraulics Plus Night took him out of contention. In only his third start in a Legend car at his home track, Meehan more than held his own and would race to a fifth place finish during Fanfest. His sister was stout too with Emily passing Adam before halfway and finishing comfortably in third.
The Strictly Hydraulics Legends field is stocked with talent top to bottom and it will get ramped up another notch Friday with our 50-lap Nationals qualifier for the Legends division. The winner in each INEX division (separated by age group plus a Pro division based on talent) will receive a guaranteed starting position in INEX Asphalt Nationals this coming November at Anderson Motor Speedway in Anderson, South Carolina. Sure, you’re thinking “who is going to travel that far to run a Legends race?” Cole Butcher did just that in 2014 after getting the Pro division provisional from Scotia Speedworld, and wound up 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the ’14 edition of Asphalt Nationals. He also won the Pro Race of Champions last year in Vegas. With our season being long done by the event, and a few guaranteed spots on the line, you might see some representation down south, especially from teams like Butcher, Hall or Naugle who have been known to travel South.
Speaking of Butcher, Cole will be making his Legend car debut at Scotia Speedworld on Friday, and will be joined by fellow INEX Pro driver Justin MacNeill. Adding these two to our Weekly Racing Series field will be a treat for our fans, along with a handful of our drivers as they try to crack victory lane on Friday.
The Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman will also be on track for an extended 50-lap feature this Friday night. Last Friday saw an excellent 38-lap feature, one that we did not know who was going to finish on the podium until the final laps. Russell Smith Jr was strong up front and held court up front en route to his first win of the season after dancing with Aaron Boutilier late in the feature on Week One. Jordan Veinotte was also consistent up front and was rewarded with a second place finish and while he was pushing to the front, it was Travis Roma who dodged a couple bullets late in the show to finish a hard charging third.
Roma, along with Alex Johnson and Phil Barkhouse Jr, have two consecutive top five finishes in the first two features and find themselves in the top seven after two shows.
Wait, if Johnson has two top fives, why is he is seventh place?
It goes to show two things. First of all, the division is close and after two races, I’m not sure, as mentioned before, how big of an indicator points can be. Back from Phil Barkhouse Jr to Alex Johnson is only 12 points. The difference between the two? Heat races. Barkhouse has scored twice as many points (16 to eight) as Alex Johnson. Those eight points for Johnson is the difference of being seventh and tied for third. In fact, of the 14 drivers who have run heats this season, Johnson is tied for last when it comes to combined points in heats alone. While some do not like heat races, when they pay points it encourages drivers to go harder in those ten lap sprints to either not lose or to gain points on their competition.
On the other side of the battle is Aaron Boutilier. Boutilier has excelled in heat racing but has stumbled in the feature. Boutilier started Fanfest with a fire under his hood sparked by the power steering system. He then found himself in the rhubarb in Turn One after trying to avoid the lapped car of Alex Painting. If anyone can dig themselves out of a hole though, it is the CARSTAR Collision Ford of Aaron Boutilier. He’s won a championship in this class before and has come close on a few other occasions. Keep your eye on the red Ford this weekend during the 50-lapper.
Not that he left, but Jason Fenton is back folks!
As he said in victory lane after the Coors Light Truck feature on Friday, “he saw a hole open up” in Turn Three in the opening laps of the 25-lap feature and made a beautiful move to take the lead. Weaving in and out of trucks without laying a bumper to anyone, at least from where I stood looking straight on at it in the infield, looked scripted it was done so nicely. Even on a late race restart, nobody had anything for Fenton on Friday night.
Behind him though, the battle between Kevin Clark and Dan Smith was one for the books. If that late race yellow did not come out, more than likely, Smith would have sailed to a second place finish. “Ifs” do not bring home the points and big trophies though. Clark’s #17 was stout on the short run and was able to sneak by Smith and hold off “Three Time” to take the flag in second. Matt Vaughan and Cory Leonard, our two sophomores are tied for fourth in the standings and it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of these two come out with the win Saturday.
That’s right, the Coors Light Trucks, along with the Chickenburger Thunder and Lightning divisions are racing on the undercard of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour Nova Truck Centres 150 on Saturday afternoon. When I spoke to “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper during Fanfest, I think he summed it up nicely. “It’s pretty big to race in front of those guys,” Hopper told me. “Those guys (Pro Stock Tour) are the big guys in the sport, and you never know who’s watching. Getting a compliment from them on your driving, or maybe even getting a break to move up from this race, if anything could come from any race this year for us, it would be this one.”
Could Kenny be the one that they see as “the next one” on Saturday? Who knows. Kenny has been turning it up at the end of last year and the beginning of this year and started the 2015 season with a fifth place run on Hydraulics Plus Night. He’ll have to beat Scott Thibodeau and Steve Matthews though, who seemed to be the class of the field on Week One. While Matthews began to reel in the #169 car through lapped traffic over the long run, it was Thibodeau who made the headlines, sweeping his heat and feature on Night One. I’m sure Deven Smith, Darrell Sullivan, Marc MacMillan and the rest have been spreading the proverbial glitter over their car in the last week and change, trying to make their cars faster to be on top on their biggest stage of the season. Keep in mind, it was Matthews last year, as a rookie, that scored his first win of his career on this weekend.
I saved the Chickenburger Thunder for last because they were one of the best shows once again. The boys and Chantel ran 25-laps caution free and within close quarters for each and every one of them.
The battle on track was for third, or what ultimately ended up being the win in the race. I guess we should attack that first before we actually get to the battle for the win. Disqualifications suck. The fans see a driver, or in this case, drivers, in victory lane holding a trophy and they go home with that impression as those drivers were the best on the night. Not knocking the talents of Kyle MacMillan and Brandon Watson, they can both drive the wheels of a race car. Heck, MacMillan was the 2012 champion of the class. While technical director Lawrence Hopper does not like us to go into detail of why a driver was disqualified, I can tell you it has been a technical area that has been discussed amongst teams and tech officials in great detail over the winter, including at our rules meetings. It is something those guys knew they would be checking and when it came down to it, what was checked on the car wasn’t right.
Enter Shane Lively - the only one of the three on the podium to pass inspection.
Lively said on his Lively Motorsports Facebook page that it was not the way he wanted to win his first main feature, but that’s racing. When a driver is kicking back, telling stories of his racing career, the question won’t be how, it will be how many wins you have. The how was pretty impressive though, as he was a part of a half dozen or so car battle for the eventual win, passing fellow sophomore “The Mayor of Cleveland” within the final five laps for the spot. Art McNamara held on for second, ahead of two-time and defending champion Dave Matthews.
It was great to see Andrew Warren back in the seat. Andrew will be splitting the time in the #31 car with brother and former champion Matthew Warren. Maybe you can help me out, when is the last time a brother/brother combination split a car to win a championship? I’m not talking a brother substituting one week and that team winning the title, but two siblings each having an equal part in a driving championship at Scotia Speedworld? It’s been a while.
“The Ironman” Drew MacEachern is off to a better start than he was last year in points, with a third place spot in the standings after a fifth place run on Fanfest Night. MacEachern got hot around this time last year, which included a win on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour undercard. MacEachern knows this is a big weekend, with a big crowd, with the big boys (and Sarah McKay) from around the region racing in the headlining event and “The Ironman” is a good a pick as any of the 18 or so in the field.
All three divisions that will be with the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour are deep in talent and will put on a great show Saturday. If you are a Tour fan, you will be treated to not only the best Pro Late Model racing in the region but also the best four cylinder action and the most exciting truck feature you’ll see anywhere in the region. I’m excited for this!
Two huge nights of racing, and I hope to see you out there for both!
Until this weekend, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
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