Tim’s Notebook: Petty Raceway’s Mike Stevens Memorial Weekend
How was that for a finale weekend?
Not only did you have six big features over two days of racing, encompassing 450 laps of feature action, you had a ton of storylines running throughout the pit area.
Did you miss it? Shame on you, because you missed one helluva show. If you did though, here are some general thoughts and observations from two days of racing at Petty Raceway.
TURPLE TRIUMPHS IN HICKEN’S HOUSE
While it may have been “Hicken’s House” the last few seasons, Shawn Turple made sure it was “Turple Time” on Saturday at Petty Raceway.
Turple, the 2012 River Glade International champion, battled side-by-side with Hicken for the balance of 40 laps at the end of the race and had to hold off the field on a restart with three laps to go to capture his first Open Invitational at Petty and second win of his career at the high banked oval.
Turple led 65 laps in the event after Dave O’Blenis received the luck of the inversion draw from Dylan Blenkhorn. Blenkhorn, who led the first 76 laps of the race, including the EIT Race Radios Halfway Challenge, drew eighth out of ten chips for the inversion at Lap 75. Blenkhorn’s car tightened up in the second half (unsure at the end of the race if it was a shock or sway bar related issue) and after running within the top five in the second half would settle for seventh at the checkered flag.
While Turple was on the hunt for the checkered flag, Hicken and Shawn Tucker exchanged blows at the end of the race.
Hicken got to Tucker’s bumper into Turn One on the final lap, sending the #52 Dobbelsteyn Service and Maintenance Chevrolet up the track enough for Hicken to position his #5 K.A. Holding Inc./Castle Building Centers Chevrolet to the underside of Tucker. Hicken got the advantage into Turn Three, where Tucker returned the favor in Turn Four, but wasn’t enough to edge the four-time feature winner on the Parts for Trucks Tour to the line.
Tucker expressed his displeasure with Hicken in his post race interview, calling the Brudenell, Prince Edward Island driver out for “dirty driving” at the end of the race.
Behind them, it was a frantic push to the finish with at least ten good cars looking for a piece of the top five on the final restart.
Greg Proude would bring his car home in fourth place while O’Blenis, who spun the tires on the final restart and couldn’t find the “get going” he was looking for, finished fifth. Recently crowned five-time Pro Stock Tour titlist John Flemming finished sixth after having to come from the rear of the field after an accident with Jason Carnahan in Turn Two. Carnahan, who ran the R. Stevens Mechanical colors on his re-numbered #26 car, was top five in two of the three practices on the afternoon but his top ten run was spoiled under the first caution when his window net fell in his lap under the yellow flag and was forced to the rear of the field to fix it.
The race also featured a handful of Speedway 660 regulars who were making their first starts of the season at Petty Raceway, including Kevin Moore (14th), Glyn Nott (17th), Greg Fahey in the “Nackawic Nite Train” entry (18th) and Paul Gahan in his first career Petty start (19th).
PIERCE ON THE PROWL
The big story out of Saturday may have been the run that Shawn Pierce had going in the Mike Stevens Memorial 150.
The driver from Bridgewater, Nova Scotia drove his way up to sixth before the competition caution flew at Lap 76, besting some of the best Super Late Model talent in the first half of the event.
With the invert, Pierce started third in the second half, though it only lasted a lap after a spin in Turn Four after the restart put Pierce back in the pack.
The spin though happened in front of the field and with the whole field bearing down on the #21 South Shore Speed and South/Racing for Autism Chevrolet, not one car made contact with Pierce in the furry of trying to navigate the spun car.
Laps later, the same “heart stopping” heroics of the field were shown as half of the running order had to dodge a spinning Robbie MacEwen who had spun from inside the top ten.
In Pierce’s case, the driver was determined and never gave up, as was seen many times on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour this season. Pierce got up on the wheel and drove back to the front, finishing in the top ten when the checkered flag flew after running within the top ten before another late race spin set him back in the field.
For a team on a limited budget to defeat some of the teams he did, and to run where he was running in the first half, is a huge morale boost for them as they head into what is expected to be their last start of the season at the Atlantic Championships in Shediac, New Brunswick in two weeks. Great run, Shawn!
CASEY HAS SUCCESSFUL PRO STOCK DEBUT
The kids are growing up way too fast!
One week following Emily Meehan making her Pro Stock debut at Scotia Speedworld, the 2006 Scotia Speedworld Bandolero champion and 2014 Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series runner-up DJ Casey made his maiden voyage in a Super Late Model. His debut at Petty Raceway in the top shelf class in Atlantic Canada came under the watchful eyes of six-time touring champion Wayne Smith and in the seat of the #44 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Chevrolet.
With just a test session Thursday, practice Friday and three 20-minute sessions on Saturday under his belt, Casey qualified 14th out of 27 cars and worked his way up to the top ten before a spin knocked him back to the rear of the field. Casey got up on the wheel and began picking off positions in the late going and wound up in 13th place, on the lead lap and with the car in one piece.
Casey, along with young talents the likes of Dylan Blenkhorn, who led 76 laps of the race, Brady Creamer, Robbie MacEwen and Sarah McKay, among others who were in the Mike Stevens Memorial 150 on Saturday night, the Pro Stock division has a bright and healthy future in the Maritimes for many years to come!
THE CAR COUNT
Across the board, the talent in each of the six divisions was deep and so were the car counts.
At the top was the Mike Stevens Memorial Pro Stock where 27 cars showed up to take the green flag. The 27 car field was the third biggest car count of the season for Super Late Models in Atlantic Canada, behind the Re/Max 250 (33 cars) at Speedway 660 and the IWK 250 (29 cars) at Riverside International Speedway.
Sometimes when you have quantity, you lose quality. That was far from the statement, with a dozen drivers with a fighting chance throughout the 150-lap event that could have won that race, as was mentioned previously. Same can be said throughout the two-day card.
All told, 113 teams pulled into Petty Raceway this past weekend from all three provinces, making it a true Maritime All Star Event. Hats off to all teams who took part in the event!
SNELL BREAKS THROUGH FOR SPORTSMAN WIN
Devin Snell has been fast wherever we see him a Sportsman car. Finally, luck was on his side Saturday as he cruised his #10 Lonnie Sommerville Racing Chevrolet to victory lane in the NAPA CMAX Sportsman 100.
Making his first start on the high banked oval since June, Snell led 74 laps en route to the win. Snell kept a hard charging Luc Bourgeois at bay and was perfect on two late race restarts to seal the deal. Bourgeois had to wrestle the second place spot away from eventual champion Russell Smith Jr after a late race restart got the best of the #88. Bourgeois was consistently the fastest car on track in the second half of the race, but track position and a long green flag run allowed Snell to capitalize to take the win.
With momentum on his side, Snell will now head to the ‘Chi City Showdown on Friday with another checkered flag in his cross-hairs.
BURKE LED OYSTER BED STREET STOCK CHARGE – FOR A WHILE
For many laps in Sunday’s Street Stock feature, it appeared Troy Burke may have been the one to pull off the upset.
Yes, Mike Duskey’s Albany, Prince Edward Island entry led the charge en route to his first win at Petty International Raceway, but of the seven Island Street Stock teams that call Oyster Bed Speedway home, the one who flexed his muscle early was Burke’s #0 Charlottetown Automotive Repair Solutions (CARS) ride.
As loose and relaxed as he and his team were in the tech line prior to the race, Burke got up on the wheel and was pressuring the leaders in third before a mechanical problem put him behind the wall before the finish of the second half of the feature. He wound up being scored 21st in the 22 car field.
On two late race restarts, it appeared that Mark LeClair would have something for the leaders. LeClair, who hadn’t forgot about the finish to the David Lambe Street Stock 60 two weeks prior at Oyster Bed with Duskey, couldn’t get going on the first of two restarts within ten laps to go. As the field completed one lap, LeClair would be forced to restart fourth on the final restart and by the time he got to third, the leaders had enough gap on the #48 M&K Construction Chevrolet to keep LeClair in that final podium position. LeClair said he believed the car was vapor locking on him in the late laps, which prevented him from moving up any further than he did.
Oyster Bed Speedway point leader and David Lambe Memorial winner Mark MacLean was sixth on the day, Jamie Stewart seventh, Stephen Gass 12th, Adam Stewart 16th and Keaton Vessey 20th after arriving late and getting no practice.
MINI STOCK MANIA, CRAWFORD CARVES WAY TO CENTRE STAGE
Neal Crawford’s move to take the lead from Nova Scotia’s Tim Webster and JR Lawson in the second half of the Mini Stock race was nothing short of beautiful.
In one of the most exciting moves of the weekend, Crawford, who was running third in the waning laps of the Mini Stock 50, positioned himself in the middle of Webster and Lawson. While the move did not interfere with Lawson’s corner entry on the bottom, it had Webster rethinking the three wide move on the outside, letting Crawford’s #92 The Medicine Shop Neon in line for the exit of the corner.
With Crawford in second and Webster falling like a stone after the move, it allowed Crawford to take the outside line on Lawson, which he eventually used to take the lead for the final time and the eventual win.
While Crawford cruised to the victory, Lawson and Webster both struggled to keep their top three positions. Mike Weagle, driving his father’s #4 Civic, drove his way to second with Kyle MacMillan finishing third after having to pit following the lap eight red flag for a leaking axle seal. Lawson was fourth behind his 581 Motorsports teammate, who he credited under the red flag for upping his Mini Stock program heading into 2014. Webster was sixth, behind Mike Edwards, after leading in both the first and second segments of the race.
By the way, if you’re looking to get into racing, Crawford’s Neon, which has won four races in 2014 alone at Petty Raceway, is for sale.
DURANT HAS EARLY EXIT FROM MINI STOCK EVENT
In the furry of what can be a hornets’ nest in the middle of a Mini Stock pack, Jonathon Durant found himself spun around on Lap Eight, backing his #47 Honda Outlaw car into the Turn Two wall.
Durant, who is a regular at Oyster Bed Speedway, had to be cut out of his Mini Stock after the impact and was transferred into Moncton Hospital for further observation and tests. Later in the evening, Durant was released with a sprained neck.
While Durant will be out of action this week, he reports via Facebook his team is busy trying to build a car that will be ready for the Atlantic Championships for Mini Stocks on Saturday, October 4th.
Photo via Jonathon Durant of “the aftermath”
LANGILLE LOCKS UP ANOTHER VICTORY
After scoring his first Leisure Days RV Bandolero win at Petty Raceway at the International weekend, the driver aboard the #51 Velocity Machining and Welding followed it up with a come from behind win Sunday.
Langille had to start deep in the field because of his feature win in the previous event, but rallied up to the front and battled with eventual track champion Cory Hall for the lead. In a field where any one of the top seven drivers could have won in the late laps, Langille put them all his competition in the rear view mirror, one week after securing his first track championship at Scotia Speedworld.
The win will unofficially put Langille second in points at Petty Raceway’s Leisure Days RV Bandolero class. Langille only finished outside the top five once this season at Petty Raceway in seven races, mirroring the mark he turned at his home track as the Shubenacadie driver only finished outside the top five once in 12 races at Scotia Speedworld. Combined, the last time Langille was outside the top five in a Bandolero feature race was July 4th.
Drivers on a roll? Langille sure is one of them. The two-time New Hampshire Motor Speedway winner on 2014 will close his season this weekend at Speedway Miramichi as he tries to wrap up the “NB Big Dawg Challenge” for Bandoleros.
MESSER ONE OF NB’S RISING STARS
While Braden Langille and Cory Hall were the big story in the Bandolero division, the class where the “young guns” are born and bred, it was a former Bandolero standout who stole the show at the end of the day Sunday to close off the Mike Stevens Memorial weekend.
Ryan Messer kept with leaders Robert Miner and Joe Hoyt throughout the race as they lapped a majority of the Atlantic Modified Tour field and eventually pulled the trigger late in the race to take the lead and his third win on the series for the season.
Third win. For a teenager who just graduated to a big car this season. Racing on a Tour that visits a variety of different short tracks.
Most kids would be struggling to get a handle on the big car with the new changes – not Messer.
Messer looked like a veteran, not wavering through flat tires earlier in the day and putting himself in a position late in a race to win his third of the season.
The car is “for sale” according to the vinyl on the side of the car, and while plans for 2015 haven’t officially been announced, you have to believe there will be a lot of eyes on him.
To put it in the words of Mini Stock legend “Mr. Honda” Scott Williams, “That Messer kid can drive man. He’s got a lot of talent and he is fun to watch drive a racecar!”
CHAMPIONS SHINE ON FINALE WEEKEND
As mentioned, while these big races were having winners taking checkered flag, divisional champions in all Petty Raceway house divisions were being crowned.
The closest one came in the Petty Pro Stock class, where Chris Duncan’s eighth place finish to Ken MacKenzie Sr’s ninth place finish was enough to give the #97 Easy Kleen Pressure Systems Chevrolet team their first Petty Raceway track championship to go with the titles earned in the class at Speedway 660. While Turple was celebrating the victory in the Mike Stevens Memorial 150, Duncan lit up the front straightaway with a big smoke show to celebrate his title.
The NAPA CMax Sportsman title went to Lakeside, Nova Scotia again for a second consecutive season with “The Bounty Hunter” Russell Smith Jr taking the top spot in 2014. His third place finish in Saturday’s 100-lap finale was the worst of the season for the #44 K. Hubley Woodworking and Contracting Dodge after four wins and a second place finish in the five other appearances on the season. Alexandra O’Blenis was crowned the NAPA Rookie of the Year in the Sportsman class.
While O’Blenis was busy Saturday locking up rookie honors in the Sportsman, she drove the wheels off her Street Stock car on Sunday but lost out to boyfriend, and first time track champion at Petty Raceway in Ken MacKenzie Jr. The MacKenzie crew was emotional in victory lane after Junior crossed the stripe fifth in the race and the driver of the #85 car dedicated the championship to the late Mike Stevens.
O’Blenis unofficially tied Sunday’s winner Mike Duskey for the second place spot in the standings. With O’Blenis having three wins on the season to Duskey’s one, it should tip the scales the way of the #14 for second place in the standings.
Nick Cudmore was the NAPA Rookie of the Year Award in the Street Stock class.
JR Lawson scored his second track championship this year by locking in the Mister Transmission Mini Stock track championship over Brad Daley and Patricia Taylor. Lawson captured the Shediac CENTRE For Speed title the week prior and will set his sights on the NB Big Dawg Challenge Championship this Friday at Speedway Miramichi. Lawson enters the 30-lap Big Dawg finale with a three point lead on Daley’s #66 Honda.
Sydney, Nova Scotia’s Kody Quinn took home top honors in the NAPA Rookie of the Year chase in the Mister Transmission Mini Stock division.
Cory Hall’s championship season began to show after the double header on Caleb Dunn Memorial weekend put him on top of his competition – a lead he would not relinquish en route to the Leisure Days RV Center Bandolero championship.
Hall has won at every race track that has contested a Bandolero feature, including taking a Petty win in the first August 3rd feature. Hall finished the season at his home track with a win, four second place finishes and a fifth place run to wrap up the championship over Speedworld champion Braden Langille.
Levi Rossiter, who led laps in the final feature of the season on Sunday, took home the NAPA Rookie of the Year honors in the Leisure Days RV Bandolero class with a seventh place overall finish in points.
The champions, rookie of the year award winners and others will be honored for their seasons at the annual Petty International Raceway banquet. Date and time of the award show is to be announced.
Photo: Cory Hall (right) celebrates his Leisure Days RV Bandolero championship with trophy girl Blake Tingley and Brody and David Stevens. Photo by Tim’s Corner Motorsports
If you know me, you know I love good racing and great food, and I had the chance to enjoy a lot this weekend.
We capped the weekend off with a little impromptu Mini Stock championship dinner at St Louis Bar and Grill Moncton with 581 Motorsports. Between Scott Williams, Kyle MacMillan, birthday girl Alison MacNaughton, JR Lawson and father Ron and Brad Daley, we enjoyed a bounty of delicious food from one of our great partners at St. Louis Bar and Grill. Be sure to check out their Ribsanity – All You Can Eat Ribs event if you are in the area, or better yet, stop in on your way to the ‘Chi City Showdown in Miramichi this weekend or the Atlantic Championships at the CENTRE For Speed in Shediac in two weeks.
Sunday also brought me cookies from Sherry MacKenzie and bar clams from Stephen Gass and the #88 MacKinnon’s Trucking Street Stock team. Both were delicious intermission and road snacks on the way back to Nova Scotia.
I also had the chance to head out with Sarah McKay Racing following Friday’s practice for some great food and an awesome time in the city. Friday’s outing also sparked a mini conversation with Greg Proude the following day. For those that know us, we are connoisseurs on Strawberry Daiquiris, for which Greg says the best Daiquiri in Moncton is served at The Keg. We are both open to suggestions on this matter!
While we cannot capture every single story from the 113 teams that were at Petty Raceway on Saturday and Sunday, I hope you enjoyed the brief look back at the weekend that was.
The racing action was exciting every single lap from the green flag Saturday to the checkered flag Sunday, something I’m sure Mikey would be very proud of!
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.