Tim’s Notebook – Day One, Atlantic Championships
The first of what is now two weekends of the 2014 Atlantic Stock Car Championships at the CENTRE For Speed is in the books.
While the Sunday forecast has pushed the Pro Stock/Super Late Model, Sportsman and Atlantic Modified Tour portion of the show to Saturday, October 11th at 1pm, lots of action took place at the CENTRE Friday and Saturday. Here’s a little bit of what you may of missed last weekend in the shadows of Shediac, New Brunswick.
BIGGEST STREET STOCK CAR COUNT IN ATLANTIC CANADA FOR 2014
While Speedway 660 saw 33 Pro Stocks on Speedweekend, and 17 Bandolero entries hit the track at Scotia Speedworld in September for their finale, the CENTRE For Speed will hold the mark for the most Street Stocks in one place this season.
Cars from Speedway 660, Petty Raceway, Oyster Bed Speedway, Cape Breton Miners Memorial Speedway, Speedway Miramichi and the CENTRE, along with trucks from Scotia Speedworld combined to make a field of 28 for the afternoon’s festivities.
Sure, quantity is nice – but how about the quality of the field?
Throughout the day, you had a great mix of drivers up front mixing it up. The field for the 100-lap feature was led to green by freshman Matt Vaughan of Scotia Speedworld and three-time Coors Light Truck champion at the Enfield oval Dan Smith. Mark LeClair, who started third on the field, quickly worked up to the lead, passing Vaughan for the top spot. The Brackley Beach, Prince Edward Island driver led until Geoff Tugwell moved from 10th on the starting lineup to pass the #48 M&K Construction Chevrolet for the lead and the eventual first place spot under the checkered flag.
Justin Cole of Harvey, New Brunswick started dead last on the field and worked his way up to second place in the first 25 laps of the race before fading back to fourth place prior to technical inspection. James Matchett, the 2013 Eastern Super Mini Cup Series champion, ran most of the opening laps of the race within the top five before brakes began to fade on the #54 car, putting him out of the race prior to the finish of the event. Speedway 660 champion Luc McLaughlin was inside the top ten for many laps after starting fourth before getting into a couple incidents, including one that saw Mike Duskey send the #11 AJ Hanna Construction car around on the last lap in Turn One. Jason Fenton also passed a lot of other cars and trucks throughout the race after being swept up in a few of caution periods throughout the event.
The Four Cylinders also had a combined 30 cars between the two divisions, adding in the six Bandolero teams, you had 64 teams compete in Day One of the Atlantic Championships between the four classes.
LECLAIR FINALLY LOCKS DOWN MAJOR VICTORY
After coming close to victory at the David Lambe and Mike Stevens Memorial races in the last month, Mark LeClair is finally a winner in a major Maritime Street Stock race.
While he crossed the line a strong second in the Atlantic Championships Street Stock 100, he was awarded the first place trophy after Geoff Tugwell did not pass post race technical inspection. LeClair, who won races at Oyster Bed Speedway this season in a part time schedule, said this one was sweet after the races leading up to it.
“We should have won the David Lambe Memorial at Oyster Bed until the last lap happened, and we were well in the hunt at Petty but came up short there too. It’s about time we got one!”
For the 48 team, their season will end on the high note of topping the biggest field of Street Stocks in the Maritimes in 2014, and the team will be setting their sights on adding more hardware to their mantle in the Summer of 2015.
O’BLENIS SISTERS ON PODIUM TOGETHER
While Alexandra and Courtney O’Blenis have raced for the past four seasons and seen their share of trophies and checkered flags in the province of New Brunswick, Saturday was the first time the two joined each other on the podium in the same race.
Their paths to the top three were slightly different, but after technical inspection, both cars finished with a trophy from the CENTRE For Speed. Alexandra mixed it up in the top five for most of the race, which even resulted in some battle scars on her #14 Irving Oil Blending & Packaging/Burger King Chevrolet, but she held her own with the guys up front and ended up crossing the line in third. With the winner failing post race inspection, her trophy grew to a second place one when everything was all said and done.
Courtney’s race was more quiet compared to her sister’s, and a handful of the field as a matter of fact. While much of the field either came or went during the race, O’Blenis held her ground in the top ten the whole race after starting eighth. When the checkered flag got closer, Courtney began to get closer to the front of the field and wound up in fifth in a wild finish when the 100th lap completed. Following post race technical inspection, she was awarded with third place on the afternoon.
For Courtney, it marked her third career Street Stock race, second in her own car and first start anywhere outside of Speedway Miramichi, where she picked up a semi win in her sister’s car in September. The younger of the two sisters has definitely put herself on the radar when it comes to rising stars in the region and will have eyes on her next year as she embarks on her first full time Street Stock season in 2014.
Alexandra’s second place finish at the Atlantic Championships comes in the shadows of the Chi City Showdown victory and NB Big Dawg Challenge championship trophy she earned the week prior at Speedway Miramichi. In the last month, Alexandra also wrapped up the NAPA CMax Sportsman Rookie of the Year Award at Petty Raceway and second in points at Petty Raceway in the Street Stock class.
With 15 feature wins on the season between Alexandra, Courtney and Dave, including some of the province’s biggest races, O’Blenis Motorsports has had a pretty incredible season, one that they will try to top again in 2015!
“THE THRILLMAKER” TO GO STREET STOCK IN 2015
A stock car driver sitting back and watching his peers from the stand can make them quite restless.
After starting the season in the Sportsman class, former CENTRE For Speed track champion Craig Ward will finish it on the sidelines as he prepares for 2015.
Ward sold his Sportsman car midway through this 2014 season and was quick to quietly begin on a new project.
“I think you’ll see me back next year in a Street Stock,” said Ward with a smile. “Well, I know you will see me in a Street Stock, because it’s in the garage being built,” said the driver nicknamed “The Thrillmaker,” with a smile on his face.
Ward, who was helping out Bob Prosser on Saturday during the Street Stock 100, pointed to rules differences in the Sportsman class and a declining car count for the jump to the Street Stock class.
Whatever the case may be, look for Ward to be strong wherever he goes with his Street Stock ride in 2015! Good luck Craig!
LAWSON CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE MINI STOCK SEASON
JR Lawson has done a lot this season in his Mini Stock. Logging more miles from his Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia home to the track than he has miles on a race track this season, Lawson has made the haul worth it more often than not.
While a track championship typically means you are the odds on favorite heading into a major event at the same facility, and while Lawson looked good heading into Saturday, the “lock” on the Atlantic Championship trophy was far from it for the #81 Gates Canada team.
Pitted with a longer race than he had run in his championship season at the CENTRE For Speed, combined with not only more drivers than he’d seen in a field at the track all season, he would have to fend off some of the best Mini Stock drivers in the region to lay claim to his first Atlantic Championship.
Then there was the invert.
The move, which even surprised myself because I knew nothing of it until after introducing the pole sitter to the crowd, we flipped a coin to decide whether we would invert the top 14 or not. Faced with a visibly upset and confused driver, the coin flip did not work in his favor, and Lawson started fourteenth.
Everything that could have been stacked against Lawson was done so on Saturday – and he still won.
Lawson quickly worked up from the rear of the field and while the passes got tougher as he got closer to the front, he made light work of the top runners and held off two-time Speedworld champion Tim Webster for the victory. The two battled it out on three late race restarts, with Webster getting the best of Lawson on one. Lawson was quick to praise the driver of the #86 Wildwood Cabinets Civic for running him clean during his victory lane interview.
With wins in the Chi City Showdown and the Atlantic Championships, Lawson and his 581 Motorsports teammate Kyle MacMillan have their sights focused on the finale at Cape Breton Miners Memorial Speedway on October 18th. Last year on that weekend, it was MacMillan taking the win over Lawson and Matthew Warren at Speedway Miramichi’s Spooktacular weekend and the pair will hope to repeat history on the opposite corner of the Maritimes.
CROCKER CRACKS CODE TO VICTORY LANE
Matt Crocker once again turned heads with his #00 Four Fun car, this time at Shediac CENTRE For Speed in the Atlantic Championships.
Crocker, who had won three features at Speedway 660 this season in a limited schedule, was in complete control Saturday during the Four Fun portion of the event. With his win, Crocker also transferred into the Mini Stock event, finishing tenth in the 20 car field in the higher powered event.
When it came to the Four Fun championship, Crocker dueled it out to a true Maritime championship, as he was chased to the line by Nova Scotia’s Terry Moore, who was driving the #150 Neon for Mark Campbell, and Jason Baglole, who won 18 races at Oyster Bed Speedway this past season with his #43 Cavalier. Nova Scotia’s Robert Henry and Prince Edward Island’s Harley Cornish finished off the top five.
LATE MODEL TEAMS TAKE EXTRA PRACTICE OPPORTUNITY
While the Atlantic Championships for Pro Stock and Sportsman did not get in on the weekend, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t practice for the classes.
Sarah McKay Racing and Josh Collins Racing had the most track time of any, spending extra time Friday and Saturday to dial in their Super Late Models for the Pro Stock portion of the Atlantic Championships. While McKay’s #32 team spent a lot of time on the track where her Super Late Model debut came a season ago, the Collins team based out of Placentia, Newfoundland spent as much time in the tech shed converting their Sportsman over to the rule package that would be run during the Sportsman race than they did on track in the first two nights of practice. The team also spent time with Ontario’s Mike McColl Sunday, dialing in their Super Late Model prior to rain falling on the facility in the afternoon.
Tyler Gauthier spent time Friday afternoon trying to dial in his Oyster Bed Late Model to run with the Sportsman class. Gauthier, who previously ran a Street Stock at the Atlantic Championships, unloaded with an Oyster Bed setup on the #11 car, but was screaming for changes after the first run.
“It’s loose, very loose,” said Gauthier after his first practice. “We’ve unloaded here before with the Street Stock on an Oyster Bed setup and it worked okay, but it appears we have some work to do.”
Gauthier and Brandon Snow are expected to compete with the Sportsman class after making the adjustments needed to their Oyster Bed Speedway Late Models.
One driver that will not be competing Saturday is Alex Johnson.
Johnson, a standout at Scotia Speedworld, blew a motor on his fourth lap of practice last Saturday following the day’s racing had wrapped up. He and former Speedworld and NAPA Sportsman champion Aaron Boutilier had put laps in Saturday, and while Boutilier was comfortable with his car, Johnson lost oil pressure less than a handful of laps after hitting the track.
An updated entry list for both classes is expected Friday morning for both classes on TimsCorner.ca.
We look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday, October 11th for the second day of the Atlantic Stock Car Championships at the CENTRE For Speed, which includes a Pro Stock 150, Sportsman 100 and the season finale for the Atlantic Modified Tour. We will also have updates from the Friday Early Arrival Practice on our Facebook page, so if you haven’t already, be sure to head over and like our page at Facebook.com/TimsCorner.
Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!