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Tim's Corner
ISSUe 159

Blenkhorn Bursts Into The Record Book

For those that have had a finger on the pulse of this series over the last two years, you had to know Dylan Blenkhorn breaking into victory lane on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour was coming. Some didn’t have it happening this soon, but it honestly doesn’t surprise me.

Blenkhorn has been one of the fastest cars each week on the Tour. Heck, he has proved it by winning all three Atlantic Tiltload Time Trial Awards this season.

At 19 years, eight months and nine days, Dylan Blenkhorn is the youngest feature winner on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour.

Blenkhorn won in fine style last weekend, taking the lead shortly after a restart on Lap 98 and holding it to the checkered flag. He had Shawn Tucker on his tail for most of the race after taking the lead and while the veteran kept him on his toes, Blenkhorn wasn’t fazed. His spotter Craig Langille, who has spotted for some of the best in the business, told the teenager in the seat to “save him some,” meaning save something in the car for later in the race. With about ten laps to go, Langille came across the team radio and told Dylan to “show me what you got.”

That he did. What he had was a car that gapped Tucker within that ten lap window to his first checkered flag on the series.
Let’s give you some statistics. This was Blenkhorn’s 16th start on the series. Sixteenth start. Let that sink in for a bit.
Of those sixteen starts, Blenkhorn has four top- five finishes - that’s a quarter of his starts ending up in the top five at the checkered flag.

Blenkhorn becomes the 31st different winner in Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in their 149th race. In addition, Blenkhorn becomes the 16th different driver to win a Tour race at Scotia Speedworld in 47 races. Veterans like Donald Chisholm, Kent Vincent, George Koszkulics, Darren MacKinnon and Rollie MacDonald cannot claim a win at Scotia Speedworld since 2001 - but Blenkhorn can!

I think his father summed it up well when I ended up at their campfire on Saturday night. The word “unbelievable” was thrown around a lot by Paul Blenkhorn. Dylan was quick to thank his hard working pit crew, his father and grandparents Eyelyn and Sheldon in victory lane, all of whom were pumped up after the race.

Behind Blenkhorn and Tucker was Greg Proude, who was quick to remind us he came from 13th on the night to finish in the third place spot. Proude said they found something on the car they’ve been chasing for a while, which is bad news for the competition. Remember, Proude is a driver who has five series wins to his credit and scored his 50th top-ten of his career on Saturday. If Proude and crew are on their game, they are hard to beat on a good night. With a few races at Riverside Speedway coming up later in the schedule and a trip to Oyster Bed Speedway in August, there is a potential for Proude, who is tied for fourth in points after Saturday, to have a strong stretch run. With Petty Raceway this weekend, a track that has similar characteristics to Riverside and Oyster Bed, this turnaround could take a big swing this weekend!

It was a quiet run to fourth for Darren MacKinnon. MacKinnon came from outside the top ten to finish fourth on the night and never made a lot of noise to get there. The team hasn’t struggled at Scotia Speedworld, but hasn’t had great success there either. The team will look to score their first podium finish there in August at the Atlantic Cat 250, and if Saturday was any indication, they may be one adjustment away from being not just on the podium, but on one of the upper steps of it.

The John Flemming we saw at the end of the 2013 season showed up to Scotia Speedworld on Saturday night. Not that it’s a bad thing, but Flemming took the Linde Most Laps Led Award before fading back in the second half, taking sixth at the stripe. We saw that out of Flemming last season, where the #97 would run like the wind in the first half of these features, but it would be like the car would “cliff” on the second half, falling off like it was pushed off a cliff compared to his competition. With that five bonus points for leading the most laps though, Flemming kept with his competition and even gained seven points on his advantage in the standings and sits with a 17 point cushion heading into Saturday night.

Let’s take a peek at that race on Saturday, shall we? The fourth round on our 2014 campaign is the Lucas Oil 100 at Petty International Raceway. This marks the ninth time the Tour has visited the track in series history and is race #150 in the history of the series.

So, who should we look for out of the 20 plus that will take the green flag on Saturday? Honestly? It could be any one of them.

Statistically, you’ll have to believe Flemming will have another “good point night.” The #97 has not finished out of the top ten in all eight starts at Petty Raceway, and is the only driver to finish in the top ten in all eight races. Five drivers (Craig Slaunwhite, Jerome Kehoe, Shawn Tucker, Darren MacKinnon and Shawn Turple) each have six top ten finishes at Petty, with Tucker and Turple each owning wins.

Of those eight races, only two drivers have multiple wins with Jonathan Hicken and Shawn Tucker each owning a pair of victories at the track. Turple, Kent Vincent, Dylan Gosbee and Wayne Smith each have one victory to their credit.

Speaking of Smith, while Wayne will not be on the track Saturday, his car will be. The 2013 INEX National Semi-Pro Legend champion Ryan Mackintosh will be making his first full-bodied Late Model start on Saturday and it’s neat that he’s chosen our series to do so. Mackintosh cut his teeth racing Bandoleros at Scotia Speedworld before moving South with Chris Woods Racing and Repair in Kannapolis, North Carolina to do some racing in the heart of stock car country. In addition to wins in the Bandolero, Alison Legacy and Legend ranks, he also owns Road Course and Oval championships under the INEX sanctioning, with the 2013 Semi-Pro championship being the big crowning achievement. Mackintosh was born and raised in Amherst, Nova Scotia and is home for the Summer before heading back to North Carolina for college in August. Who knows? If he does well here, maybe we’ll see him a bit more before August!

When you look at young guns, Cole Butcher is one you will have to keep your eye on. Butcher hounded Hicken in May for the win in the Irving Oil Blending & Packaging 100 but couldn’t trump the #5 car for the win. With Blenkhorn winning his first race next week, some are focusing to the #53 and asking “when will his day come?” Could Saturday be the day for Butcher, who owns three top tens in four starts at the River Glade track?!

The wheel rolls back to Blenkhorn though. While Jonathan Hicken, who is a recurring topic in our Petty discussions if you haven’t caught on yet, won our first visit to Petty in May, Blenkhorn was the one that flirted with the track record in Time Trials and lost a drag race for third in the feature at the stripe. They say the first win is always harder than the others. If that statement is true, do we see Blenkhorn win another race this year? Could it come this weekend?!

Regardless, we will have 20+ teams hungry to take a win in this one and if it is like the last three races, we will probably have over a dozen of them that look stout in practice and have over a handful of those in real contention for the win in the final ten laps of the race. The competition on this series continues to be stout and I can’t wait to get to the high banks of Petty Raceway on Saturday!

Before we leave you, a reminder that in case you haven’t seen it, officials with the Tour and Riverside International Speedway have announced the rain date for the Ron MacGillivray Chevrolet Buick GMC 150 as Friday, August 15th. Nope, not a typo. FRIDAY. August 15th. This means we will open the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series weekend at the track prior to those guys hitting the track the next day for a 300-lap race. I’m sure it will be tough for some race fans to swing a Friday night off, but if you can, you should make the trek to Riverside for the race. Heck, wouldn’t it be cool to see a JR Fitzpatrick or a Jason Hathaway racing with the finest Super Late Model drivers in Canada on August 15th?!

Until Saturday, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!