Neutral Battleground – Centre for Speed Hosts Annual Atlantic Championships This Weekend
By Tim Terry/Photos by McCarthy Photographic
For the first time this season, the CENTRE For Speed in Grand Barachois, New Brunswick will host stock car racing when the track welcomes in racers from across the region for their annual Atlantic Championships event.
That’s right, for the first time.
The track hasn’t sat quiet this year as management has gone a different motorsports route than stock car racing. Demolitions, drifting and even musical events have taken place on the grounds but a stock car racing event on the oval is the one that has yet to take the green flag this summer.
That is, until this weekend.
This weekend’s event will see dozens of teams from all four Atlantic Canadian provinces competing in seven different classes of racing over the two days of competition. Saturday’s schedule is headlined by a 125-lap Sportsman feature, while Sunday’s big race is a 200-lap event for the Pro Stocks.
The expected entries for the Pro Stock 200 brings us an interesting crop of drivers. Of course, you have pre-race favorites which have to be led by Farmington, Maine’s Cassius Clark. Clark will be behind the wheel of the #13 King Racing Chevrolet that he won the Atlantic Cat 250 and Irving Blending & Packaging 250 at the helm of. Not to mention, the car went to victory lane in the capable hands of Jonathan Hicken last weekend during the Mike Stevens Memorial 150.
There’s a name that will be at Shediac, but there are question marks seemingly over the performance of Hicken’s #5 team this season. Sure, he enters on the momentum of last weekend’s win at Petty International Raceway, but the Hicken White Racing team that won six races in 2014 has not been able to muster a win this season, yet. The #5 Castle Building Centre/K.A. Holdings Inc Chevrolet is the defending champion of the Atlantic Championships, winning the race in the last two years.
You’ve got a handful of drivers on the expected entry list from the track that will look to land on the podium or hold the checkered flag at the end of 200 laps. Greg Proude is a former winner of this race and has ran stout at every race he has entered this year. Dylan Gosbee has been consistently fast all season long. John Rankin is a feature winner at Speedway 660 this season and Brady Creamer has had some excellent runs at the CENTRE For Speed in the past. Devin Snell is listed as the #19 car and could use a Pro Stock start to build on his successful Sportsman season. Jason Carnahan was a top five car here last year and could use a boost to his program in only his third start of the season. Robbie MacEwen was third in this year’s IWK 250, won a heat race last weekend at Petty Raceway and has to be considered a favorite for his first Pro Stock win this weekend.
Wayne Smith’s #44 is listed as a pre-entry for the event. Smith is a six-time Maritime touring champion who has spent more time behind the wheel of a Sportsman car this season than a Pro Stock. After Smith’s only Pro Stock start of the year at the International at Petty Raceway, DJ Casey was the one climbing through the window of the orange and black Oval Outlaw Racing Chevrolet. Casey’s only Pro Stock start at the CENTRE For Speed resulted in a runner-up finish in this race last year.
Sarah McKay could be the wildcard in all this. McKay has been fast here the last two years but has been swept up in crashes in both appearances. McKay led the opening laps of the Mike Stevens Memorial 150 last week before an altercation with Kevin Moore, whom she was working to put a lap down, ended her time up front. Moore, along with McKay, is on the expected entry list from the track for Sunday’s 200-lap affair.
Two young drivers will be making their first Pro Stock starts at this race this weekend. Jarrett Butcher and Braden Langille, both students of the US Legend Cars International Bandolero and Legends ladder system in Nova Scotia, will be at the helm of two capable cars Sunday afternoon. Butcher will be at the helm of the family’s #53 Atlantic Tiltload Chevrolet, while Langille will make his debut in a re-numbered #67 Blenkhorn Racing car that will display the 14-year old’s #51.
Pre-entries for the race also include Newfoundland’s Josh Collins, Shannon Squires and Josh Weir, New Brunswick’s Robbie Fraser, Dustin Tucker and Alexandra O’Blenis, PEI’s Terry Dougay and Joel Hickox and Nova Scotia’s Shawn Pierce and Harry Ross White.
The skinny on the Pro Stock 200? The last two years have seen 18 cars pull through the back gate to compete in the event and this could easily be the event when the bubble is burst to hit 20 cars for the first time in a few years.
Consider this though when thinking about all of these big features this weekend. Whether it is the Four Cylinders, Pro Stocks, Sportsman or Street Stocks, they are all extended laps. With the words “extended laps” usually comes “survival.” Not as much as attrition from on track incidents, because there is plenty of run-off area at the track and a sandtrap, but getting your car to that checkered flag without developing some sort of mechanical problem, or running out of fuel, could be an issue.
Also on Sunday’s show is the Street Stock 100, which produced the biggest field of the 2014 Atlantic Championships at 28 cars. The event combines the Coors Light Truck division at Scotia Speedworld along with Street Stock divisions from across the region and many wouldn’t be surprised to see that 28 mark broke on Sunday. While there is no expected entry list as of yet, some of the names being thrown around include the likes of four-time Truck titlist Dan Smith, Jason Fenton, Matt Vaughan, Cale MacMillan, PEI’s Brandon Snow, Alex Sheehan, Jeff MacInnis, Mike Duskey and New Brunswick’s Martin Landry and James “Cooter” Smith. Mark LeClair, in a car that Kyle MacEachern has campaigned most of the season at Oyster Bed Speedway, won the 2014 Street Stock 100 over Alexandra and Courtney O’Blenis following post race technical inspection.
Sunday’s show will also feature a Bandolero 20-lap main event.
The Sportsman division, like the Pro Stock class, has attracted around 18 cars each of the past two seasons and while there is no expected entry list for the event, indications point towards much of the same in 2015. Phil Fowler, Josh Collins and Josh Weir all have their eyes set on the 125-lap victory and there could be an extra entry from Newfoundland or even a Prince Edward Island Late Model or two contour their cars to the rules to participate in the Sportsman feature on Saturday afternoon.
Phil Fowler’s Hanlon Realty team is one of a handful of cars coming from Newfoundland and Eastbound Park for this weekend’s racing action at the CENTRE For Speed. (TCM Photo)
Jerry Hayes will be making the trip to Shediac, as will Shawn Warren and Justin Cole. It appears Ryan Raynes has made the move up to Sportsman, purchasing the former #50 Duke machine. Laurie Cormier enters as one of the hottest Sportsman drivers in New Brunswick after winning both the International and Mike Stevens Memorial Sportsman events at Petty International Raceway. Aaron Boutilier is on a hot streak in Nova Scotia, riding two feature wins at Scotia Speedworld and was on the podium last year in this race along with Collins and winner “Racin'” Remi Gaudet.
Speaking of the 2014 edition of this race, for those that remember back to last year’s Sportsman feature, it was the race that featured the “protect the leader” rule come into play on the last lap. Chris Cormier and Gaudet put on an incredible show up front for 100-laps before Cormier and Gaudet came together on the last lap. You can read more in this TCM article from October 2014.
This event also features one of the best Mini Stock events of the year. Like at Scotia Speedworld and Oyster Bed Speedway, the Four Cylinder division is broken to a “Mini Stock” and “Four Fun” class. The Four Fun class encompasses Oyster Bed’s Mini Stock (formerly Four Fun) class, Scotia Speedworld’s Lightning class and Speedway 660’s Sharp Shooter class while the Mini Stock division features the higher horsepower Hondas and Volkswagens, like those from Scotia Speedworld and Oyster Bed Speedway.
Last season, JR Lawson took home the win at the Centre for Speed on the heels of a season long Mini Stock championship. Lawson, one of the most decorated Four Cylinder drivers over the last two seasons, will return to defend his Atlantic Championships title, as will runner-up from last year and the big Jay’s Chicken and Ribs winner from Cape Breton Miners in 2014 in Tim Webster. The two were the headliners last year in major Mini Stock events and fans should expect these two to play into the equation for the Mini Stock 100 win Saturday.
They won’t be alone in their quest for Mini Stock supremacy though. The 2011 Atlantic Champion Dave Matthews is expected to vie for the title, as is sophomore Honda driver Brad Hayes and Glace Bay’s AJ Ford. Coady Palmer will lead the charge from Prince Edward Island, whom usually produces a number of Honda drivers for the event. The 10/60 Chase the Racecars Fundraising team will look to rebound from last weekend’s race in Sydney with Mike Weagle and Patricia Taylor both looking for a checkered flag in the big event. Taylor is a feature winner at the CENTRE For Speed in 2014.
The Four Fun division will run a 50 lap feature on Saturday afternoon. Last year, Matt Crocker drove his #00 car to victory lane and “Mister Maritime Hustle” will be a threat again if he races on Saturday. Jamie Dillman, “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper, “Mr. Lightning on the Hill” Steve Matthews, former Speedworld champ Marc MacMillan and multi-time feature winner Scott Thibodeau will make the trek to Shediac for the Saturday show. Dillman is quickly becoming one of the most versatile four cylinder drivers in the region after a second place showing on the dirt at Valley Raceway in September. Bryan Suttie, Rob Boutilier and Neil Miousse are among those from New Brunswick that will be gunning for the title.
They’re all coming! Jamie Dillman, Kenny Hopper, Scott Thibodeau and Marc MacMillan are Shediac bound this weekend with their Scotia Speedworld Lightning cars for the 16th Annual Atlantic Championships. Photo by McCarthy Photographic
The Eastern Super Mini Cup Series will also be contesting their season finale on Saturday afternoon. Matt Watson, much like Amanda Wheatley in 2014, has swept the season so far between races at Speedway Miramichi, Oyster Bed Speedway and Petty International Raceway. While the championship is heading to Summerside, PE, there is still one more race to cap off the season and to see if anyone can catch Watson.
The weekend kicks off Friday with a pre-event practice for all competitors. Following the late afternoon practice, refreshments, lobster rolls and hot dogs will be provided. It is a great chance to get a glimpse into who will be strong over the two days of racing and enjoy some great Shediac hospitality at the same time.
Tim’s Corner Motorsports will have pre-race coverage on our Facebook and Twitter feeds from the events on the weekend at Shediac’s Centre for Speed.
Saturday and Sunday’s racing action kicks off at 1pm with the major feature of the afternoon to start no earlier than 4pm. All the up-to-date information on the event can be found at CentreForSpeed.com.
NEED TO KNOW:
Note – for latest information, please visit venue website at www.centreforspeed.com
Pro Stock 200 – Expected Entry List
*Subject to change without notice, entries provided by race track with confirmed additions
2 John Rankin
5 Jonathan Hicken PEI
07 Robbie Fraser NB
10 Brady Creamer NB
13 Cassius Clark ME
14 Terry Dougay PEI
18 Shannon Squires NL
19 Devin Snell NB
21 Shawn Pierce NS
22 Joel Hickox PEI
29 Greg Proude PEI
32 Sarah McKay NB
40 Robbie MacEwen PEI
44 Wayne Smith NS
49 Harry Ross White NS
51 Braden Langille NS
52 Dustin Tucker NB
53 Jarrett Butcher NS
55 Jason Carnahan NB
56 Josh Collins NL
59 Josh Weir NL
74 Alexandra O’Blenis NB
88 Kevin Moore NB
91 Dylan Gosbee PEI
Friday’s Practice – $20 Pit Admission
Saturday‘s Sportsman 125 – Mini Stock 100 – Four Fun 50 – Eastern Mini Cup
Pit Admission Adult – $25, Adult Grandstand $20, Junior (9 to 15 years) Grandstand $10, Child FREE
Sunday‘s Pro Stock 200 – Street Stock 100 – Bandolero 20
Pit Admission Adult – $35, Adult Grandstand $25, Junior (9 to 15 Years) Grandstand $15, Child FREE
Three Day Pit Pass – $60 (saving of $20)
Race Weekend Format: