To Early To Talk Rivalries?
First of all, a big tip of the cap to the Chickenburger Lightning, Thunder and Coors Light Trucks for putting on an incredible appetizer round to the Nova Truck Centres 150 for the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour last Saturday night. All three features were exciting to watch, from Dan Smith and Jason Fenton driving to the limits in the Truck feature, the ongoing Dave Matthews/Stevie Lively rivalry in the Thunder feature and Deven Smith getting back to victory lane - and that’s just the front of the field.
Actually, let’s back that up a bit. Let’s talk about rivalries a bit, because there were a few of those that reared their head Saturday night.
The biggest rivalry in the Weekly Racing Series may be that Matthews/Lively affair that began to take centre stage last year. It has been friendly for the most part, with the two laughing about it after most of those races. Both were cordial when they were with me in victory lane Saturday and, like every rivalry, as long as it doesn’t end with one car peeled up against the wall with a ton of damage, I’m sure it will continue as cordial as a rivalry can be.
The greatest thing for a rivalry like this, especially with two fast cars with experienced drivers at the wheel? The fans love it. You know when the #32 and #99 get up front, you are in for a show. Time and time again, they have given us some of the most memorable battles in recent memory in our four cylinder divisions.
Outside of that, one of the biggest battles has to be the older guys, like Danny and Cy Harvey, versus the younger generation in our Strictly Hydraulics Legends division. Nicholas Naugle and Cory Hall, our two feature winners this season, have each have run-ins with “the Legend” this year and Danny Harvey has also went wheel-to-wheel with them. This one is far from over too and with them having a week off last week, you best believe they are chomping at the bit to get back at the track on Friday night.
Every Friday night is another chance for a new rivalry to spark, and with Kiddie Night being Friday, most will have a few fans behind them when the green flag flies.
While the kids and I’m sure some “big kids” will get to go for rides Friday night, there will be plenty of young talent in all five divisions competing on Friday. Even with our Hydraulics Plus Bandoleros off, there are still plenty of teenagers and early twenty somethings in the field trying to take home the checkered flag. For example, two of the top five in Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman points, Jordan Veinotte and Russell Smith Jr are under the age of 26. Travis Roma just had his 31st birthday a couple weeks ago and Dylan Blenkhorn brings the average age of the D8Dozer #08 team down plenty. Regardless what the average age is behind him, after two races, the field is chasing the, uh, let’s call him “experienced” Phil Barkhouse Jr., who has three Sportsman titles to his name. My friend Wade Wilson likes to use the word “contemporary” when talking about those of age, so we will go with that. Phil is driving for Robert Hage this season in the #54 Charter Meat Market/Sackville Trenching/Alpine Auto Glass/Canadian Tire Chevrolet, and it is good to see the team picking up where they left off last season at the finale when they were on the podium.
The aforementioned rivalries in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends division has been the prevailing storyline early in the year, along with Tim Horton’s at the Airport Rookie Cory Hall flat flying out of the gate. The kid has a ton of speed and is turning a lot of heads. The last time we had a rookie come out the gate from Bandoleros and win a Legend championship at Scotia Speedworld? Cole Butcher. Yes, that guy that won his first Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race last Saturday night. He’s going to be tough to beat, but remember the last time out, it was Nicholas Naugle with the benefit of track position on the start of the race walking away with the 25-lap feature. With both Naugle and Hall near the rear of the pack Friday with their handicaps, it will be a show to see them pick their way through traffic. Strap in, this one is going to be good.
So, who flinches first in the Coors Light Truck division, Dan Smith or Jason Fenton? Smith has won the last three championships while Fenton has now won eight features in the last 15 events - or over 50% of the races he has entered. Smith has won one feature this season, Fenton has won two, and if they continue this trend, even with Kevin Clark Jr finishing third in the last two features, they will soon begin to distance themselves in the standings. It was great to see Megan Parrott and Jamie Creamer up front last week too, leading laps in the early going. While Fenton and Smith are stealing the show so far, it might not be long when they are joined up front.
Two races in and the Chickenburger Lightning cars are once again putting on a show up front. Scott Thibodeau and Deven Smith have split the two features this season and each also have a third place finish. The difference right now is Smith’s heat win last Saturday compared to Thibodeau’s second place finish. You can’t tell me that heats don’t matter, especially to a championship contender with points on the line. Championships are won and lost in heat races, especially when we come down to Finale Friday and there is a single digit point total between the front runners. Every heat race is worth the same amount of points, and each feature has their set of points. June 20th doesn’t pay any different set of points than July 17th or August 28th. With Darrell Sullivan, Marc MacMillan and Steve Matthews, heck, add in the rest of the field, within early striking distance of the two up top, every single position and point from here on in counts.
I keep saying in this space that the Chickenburger Thunder cars have displayed some of the best racing all season, and they continue to one-up themselves every time out. Dave Matthews has stretched out his point lead early, but as we said last year when talking about points in the Thunder class, it seems like most years the champion will have at least one bad race where something breaks. For the rest of the field in 2014, Matthews never had that and his closest rival in points last season, Tim Webster, was just so doggone consistent to keep him on his toes. With Matthews rivalry with Lively, as mentioned earlier, a misstep in the wrong direction and that 14 point lead could easily go to zero with a bullet.
Twenty-seven points is the gap between third and seventh in the standings behind Matthews and the Warren brothers. The question will be in the next couple races is who breaks away from this pack and joins the leaders, if any. All the drivers in this mix are talented, with various amounts of experience in the class. Actually, of the five, three are second year Thunder drivers (Shane Lively, Art McNamara and Brad Hayes), while two (Drew MacEachern and Tim Webster) easily have 25 years at the wheel of a Civic between them. The talent from top to bottom is great to see, and with guys like Ross Harvie and Scott Williams still to make their debuts this year, it is a great time to be a part of the Chickenburger Thunder class.
Hope to see everyone out on Friday for Kiddie Night. Be sure to tell a friend and bring them along for the night. After all, July 10th is our first $20 carload admission night of the year, so you’ll want to start networking for two weeks time!
Until Friday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!
|BACK TO ARCHIVES|