TCM Top Ten – Ten Things To Watch For at the Speedway 660 Season Opener
Welcome to the 2016 racing season in Atlantic Canada!
The Summer season for stock car drivers, teams and fans kicks off this Sunday at Speedway 660 when Tim Elliott waves the green flag over the field at the Riverview Ford Lincoln Season Opener. Post time at the Geary, New Brunswick oval is 2pm on May 15th.
Besides being the first race event of the season, there are many reasons why you should be heading to New Brunswick’s Capital Region this weekend to open the stock car season. With that, we offer you our list of ten reasons why you need to be at Speedway 660 for the Riverview Ford Lincoln Season Opener.
Photos by Michelle Roy/Speedway 660 unless otherwise indicated
STELLAR PRO STOCK SHOW SET FOR SUNDAY
The biggest off-season story in Atlantic Canada has been the talk surrounding the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock division. While the talent within the top class at Speedway 660 is strong as is, a stout rookie crop will look to shake the foundation in the Pro Stock ranks. Some teams will not have cars ready until mid-season and some are running in the Season Opener are not running full time, with that fluctuation, fans should expect around 20 cars per night this season, which includes Sunday’s show. Of those 20, approximately a third of that field will be comprised of rookie drivers.
The core of the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock division from 2015 will be gunning for a win on Sunday which includes the top eight in points from last year. Reigning champion Lonnie Sommerville, five time titlist Dave O’Blenis and multi-time track champ Greg Fahey are among those returning drivers that will hit the track for the first 50-lap feature of the season.
Headlining the rookie class, which will be running for the weekly Clattenburg Racing Fabrication Chassis Rookie Challenge presented by GD Fabrication Award, includes reigning Bandolero track champion and TCM Breakout Performer of the Year Award winner Ashton Tucker, former Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman Champion and current TCM Most Popular Driver Award winner Brent Roy, Sportsman feature winners Devin Snell and Braxton Stafford, current Atlantic Modified Tour titlist Brandon Skidmore, Jeff Doherty and Jonathan Gahan. The class is expected to grow throughout the season and could even include a few more by race day.
Andrew McKay is also expected to make his Pro Stock debut on Sunday afternoon and will be joined by his daughter and the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour’s Sarah McKay, who will unveil her new “rainbow fish” scheme for 2016. Andrew and Sarah will be making select starts in the Geary woods this season and will join Dave and Alexandra O’Blenis as the two father/daughter combinations in the field Sunday.
It is the first chapter in what is expected to be the very interesting book of the 2016 RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock division at Speedway 660!
THE LEGACY CONTINUES – GAHAN TO MAKE RACING DEBUT
When the green flag flies on Sunday for the Riverview Ford Lincoln Season Opener, there will be a Gahan in the Pro Stock field. While Paul Gahan looks on, it will be his son Jonathan making his racing debut at Speedway 660.
Jonathan will be racing in his late brother’s car, one that Jordan Gahan found success with at the oval. Jonathan’s learning curve will be steep, he hasn’t run a race before at Speedway 660 and this weekend will be his first time running with other cars in traffic. While the mountain to climb may be high, he’s not alone in the rookie class with another half dozen Pro Stock freshmen to join him on Sunday.
The circumstances ring somewhat similar to the Roma Brothers Racing story out of Scotia Speedworld over the past few seasons. In short, following the passing of their fathers, Travis and Chris Roma carried on the legacy of their family’s team by putting the #38 Sportsman car back on track. Travis, with no previous racing experience, had a tough learning curve but proved to be a quick study as the #38 found success at their home track, eventually putting a win on the board in September 2015.
If you are looking to follow a sentimental story this weekend and throughout the season as a whole at Speedway 660, keep your eye on the #16 car in the Pro Stock division.
A NEW SPORTSMAN TITLIST
With recent Martin’s Home Heating Sportsman champions not making a full season bid for the title in 2016, we are guaranteed a new Sportsman champion this season.
Randy Moore, the reigning champion of the division, had surgery in April which will sideline him for the season. Previous champions such as Brent Roy, Glyn Nott and Greg Fahey are in the Pro Stock division making laps this year. With a mix of young blood and cagey veterans still littering the competitive Sportsman class, the stage is set for someone to take the crown.
The champion could come out of Harvey, with sophomore drivers Ryan Messer and Justin Cole showing lots of promise in 2015. Drew Greenlaw has been the most consistent driver in the class and while he’s kept his beautiful (and award winning) car clean, he’s still searching for that magical combination to unlock Riverview Ford Lincoln victory lane. Former feature winner Dawson McIntee is due for a breakout season. George Jamieson is a threat week in and week out in his Dodge and has the potential to string a season together. Of course, a championship discussion would not be complete without the “Old Musket” Richard Atkinson.
In addition to the veterans, Bandolero graduate Hudson Weston and Street Stocker Ryan Raynes will comprise the Rookie of the Year battle in the class. Both are 2015 feature winners in their respective classes and will make for an exciting duel in the Geary woods as the summer goes on.
Place your bets now – who etches their name into history as a Sportsman champion at Speedway 660?!
GET COMFORTABLE WITH NEW COLORS AND SCHEMES
It’s a new season and while a lot of teams (and spotters) will find comfort in old paint schemes, many teams have switched it up for 2016.
Drew Greenlaw, reigning Finish Line Vinyl Design Best Looking Car Award winner, has gone with a “flashback” color scheme, adding pink to their #23 that was once prominent on their Bandolero car. Alexandra and Dave O’Blenis have also been “work”ing in the off-season on new schemes and have new looks from The Workstore in Bangor, the shop where Greenlaw’s award winning vinyl was produced in 2015.
The AE McKay Builders Racing team has gone with completely different schemes that are sure to stand out on the track on race day. Word on the street is that Courtney Barton’s Street Stock has some new colors from what she debuted last season. Jeff Doherty, Brent Roy and Devin Snell are among the rookies that have a new look to their Late Models as they move to the Pro Stock ranks.
That’s just a snapshot of who has new colors that will hit the track in 2016. For the rest, you’ll have to wait for the weekend or keep an eye on social media as they continue to pop up!
Photo from Drew Greenlaw Racing
COULD STREET STOCK BE CASHOL’S CHAMPIONSHIP CLASH ONCE MORE?
It seems like an eternity since Saint John driver Rick Cashol stood up at the podium at the banquet and delivered a championship speech. In a racing community that has seen the changing of the guard recently to younger drivers like Courtney O’Blenis, Ryan Raynes, Destiny Enkel, Luc McLaughlin and Tyler Seveck among others, Cashol still remains with the competitive fire underneath him even without a title in the last five seasons in Geary.
Cashol’s last two championships at Speedway 660 came in 2010 and 2011 in back to back seasons in the DMR Auto Street Stock division. His most recent racing championship came in 2012 at Petty International Raceway when he became the first track champion in the new era of the re-opened track. Since then, while the car count has ebb and flowed in the class, the competition has been fierce and has left Cashol off the top step in recent years.
This could be the year that Cashol grabs one more championship.
The past five seasons at Speedway 660 have produced five different champions, something Cashol hopes to change with a third championship in seven years. Since Cashol’s last title in 2011, Shannon Brake, Roger Slocum, McLaughlin and Rob Raynes have all been Street Stock king in the Geary woods. Cashol was what was seemingly a distant sixth in the title hunt last year in a showdown dominated by Rob Raynes, Geoff Tugwell and O’Blenis down the stretch drive.
Cashol will have to deal with fellow recent champs in Slocum and Raynes once again this season while McLaughlin sets sights on a complete rebuild and as of April was not looking to bid for the title. Along with the returning drivers to the class, three rookies will look to rattle “the Villain’s” cage, including Ryan Richard, Riley Goodwin and “Little Sexy” Courtney Barton.
Oh, and one side note, you might have to take a second look at Cashol’s #54 when it rolls onto the track on Sunday. While the blue and white colors of Cashol’s are evident on the car, it sports a new body that is sure to turn heads.
Either way, the DMR Auto Street Stock crown is up for grabs and while a number of drivers will look to extend the different champion streak to six consecutive years, you best believe Rick Cashol will have something to say about it.
WITH TCM IN TOWN, O’BLENIS IS A SAFE BET
Speaking of placing bets, if Tim’s Corner Motorsports is in town, it seems like one of the three O’Blenis Motorsports drivers might be a safe bet for a victory.
Last season at Speedway 660, Alexandra O’Blenis scored two back to back Sportsman wins to start July at events Tim’s Corner Motorsports covered. Dave O’Blenis took home three major Sportsman feature victories which, again, had Tim’s Corner Motorsports in the house. Courtney O’Blenis has two career Street Stock victories at Speedway 660, both scored last season in events that, you guessed it, TCM was there for. In addition, TCM was in the house at Petty Raceway when Dave scored a Pro Stock win last May and again in October at Shediac’s CENTRE For Speed when Courtney took home the Atlantic Championships for Street Stocks.
Nine wins last year for the team with Tim’s Corner Motorsports at the track?! With the momentum built last year, don’t be surprised to see Dave, Alexandra and/or Courtney parked in victory lane by the end of the day Sunday.
Photo by McCarthy Photographic
SHARP SHOOTERS AND A CLEAN SLATE
A new season can often be likened to a blank sheet of paper in a notebook. While you have previous seasons on other pages, this Sunday will begin writing on an empty page.
The Fredericton Gun Shop Sharp Shooters class saw unpredictability at its finest last year. While there were a number of different winners on the season including some first timers, not one of the top three drivers in the standings made it to Riverview Ford Lincoln victory lane. Those that did win either ran part time, could not string a consistent enough season together to win a championship or exited the tech shed without a trophy and points once throughout the year. It led to Kyle Boudreau taking the championship with Mac Suley and Neil Miousse joining him on the championship podium.
What does 2016 hold? Your guess is as good as mine.
What you should expect is tight, unpredictable racing. While the Pro Stock class has its story lines abound, the racing itself is typically the highlight of the Sharp Shooter class with many two, three and even four wide battles throughout the field. With car counts in recent seasons bouncing around the 20 car mark, it makes for some of the most exciting racing you’ll see at Speedway 660. It may even get you itching to build a car to come out and play with on Saturday nights in the summer!
While the season championship picture will change throughout the summer, you’ll be able to pick out your favorites as the first green flag flies on Sunday. Watch for veterans likes “Mister Maritime Hustle” Matt Crocker, Kyle MacKinnon, Ira Farnell and many others to be favorites to take victories throughout the season.
IT’S A FULL WEEKEND
While all eyes are on Sunday, there is on track activity on Saturday as well.
Yes, we’re talking about practice.
A lot can happen in the four hours of practice from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday afternoon. Teams are sure to be on different agendas, from shaking off the winter rust of not being on track since September to rookies getting experience on track and in traffic in their new rides to veterans trying to whip off quick laps to prove they still have it and everything in between. Some will just try to get through Donnie’s Dungeon tech shed on the first breeze through after a winter of tinkering on their racing rides.
If you are in the area on Saturday afternoon, stop by Speedway 660 and get back into the swing of things with some practice action.
THE BEST SHOW IN TOWN
Two years ago, Speedway 660 was rewarded by fans as the best place to watch a weekly racing show in Atlantic Canada with the TCM Fan Favorite Weekly Short Track. In a narrow margin, the track lost out to Scotia Speedworld for the award in 2015. The Roy and Foley families have continued to put together a well rounded weekly program and have storylines abound surrounding the on track action and have built a great atmosphere off the track as well. With the pre-season talk of the Pro Stock class and strong car counts in each of the four divisions expected throughout the year, this could be the year Speedway 660 takes the Fan Favorite Weekly Short Track crown back.
There is only one way to find out for yourself – and that is to get to Speedway 660 and take in a Weekly Point Racing show!
OH, AND THE FRIES…
Speedway 660 has the best fries in town when it comes to race tracks in Atlantic Canada. As voted by the visitors of TimsCorner.ca, the “Speedway Fries” at Speedway 660 have been voted the best Short Track Food in the region. With opening weekend upon us, this is the first time you can taste the golden potatoes for the first time since Pat Sharpe took home the Enduro title last September.
It’s the only race in Atlantic Canada this weekend and it is sure to be a barnburner of a show. If you are looking to get out to a race for the first time in 2016 and put winter behind you, or maybe you are looking for a road trip on a Sunday afternoon, Speedway 660 in Geary is the place to be as the racing season goes green!
Until Sunday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!