By: Ashley McCubbin
Each week, I am going to try and put together five thoughts on something in relation to short track racing based on what happened on track. Some of these will be positive, and others will be….well, not as pretty. Hopefully there is lots to talk about this year.
Last weekend, Flamboro Speedway opened their 2017 season with eight different feature winners visiting victory lane over the course of the night. Based on what has surfaced from the speedway, here are five thoughts to consider.
1. Splendid Super Stock Shows to Come
It may have been opening night and certainly car counts were not what everybody hoped for, but that doesn’t mean this year’s Super Stock division isn’t going to be fun to watch. While the division is slim with only six cars, it’s safe to say that five of those are quite evenly matched.
Last weekend, Chris Howse took the victory in the first feature off the pole, while Shawn Arnott passed Brandon McFerran with four laps to go for second. The second feature then saw Nick Troback lead flag-to-flag from the front row, with Carson Nagy holding off McFerran for second. Admittedly, watching the second feature via youtube courtesy of Ingrid Hartman, the battle for second caught the attention, even with a couple bumps. The other thing? That was 13-year-old Nagy’s first ever career start behind the wheel of a super stock after making the decision to move up from mini stock last year.
The division is only going to get stronger from here on out with the aforementioned five continuing to get stronger as they work out their set-ups, and become closer in competition. Combined with the fact both Brad and Justin Collison will be debuting new cars in the coming weeks, there could be some highlight reel moments to come this season.
2. Familiar Faces Reign Supreme in Mini Stock
If you were surprised by who won in the mini stock division, then you certainly have not been hanging around Flamboro Speedway in recent years as you could say two of the short track kings visited victory lane. Billy Schwartzenburg won the first feature after battling side-by-side with Jake Gilbert for several laps, while Russ Aicken won the second after inheriting the lead on Lap 11 of the 20-lap event.
Schwartzenburg gained a reputation as one of the best mini stock racers in the province a couple years ago, winning features at Delaware Speedway, Flamboro and Sunset Speedway, along with a Sauble Speedway Champion. The only track where the Spira Racing driver didn’t win a main event was Peterborough Speedway, but he technically won a feature, picking up the b-main at the Autumn Colours Classic one year. This trip to Flamboro was certainly for fun, as his main focus this year is the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario tour where he hopes to score his first pro late model feature victory in 2017.
Meanwhile, Aicken has become the king of Flamboro’s minis and the man that everybody strives to beat every week. After finishing fourth in the 2013 standings to Dave Bailey, the London Recreational Racing backed driver has won the last three track championships. So if you’re a betting person, this is where your chips better be for 2017.
3. Bad Luck for Mayhew and Taylor
While Aicken and Schwartzenburg began their seasons on a high, the same couldn’t be said for their fellow competitors Blair Mayhew and Shawn Taylor.
Mayhew’s problems began right off the start of the first feature, tagging the wall out of four in the early laps, before breaking a control arm on the right front later in the event. Ultimately, the driver of the No. 24 now starts the year with a pair of results outside of the top-10.
Meanwhile, Taylor put together a solid opening feature with a seventh place finish, and was looking to improve upon that in the second event as he led the first 10 laps of the event. However, he’d lose power on a restart and end up having to pull into the pits. The driver of the No. 76 has been fast in the past, even picking up a couple feature victories. If he can sort out these mechanical gremlins, he is someone who could contend for victories this season.
4. Mark Thorne Off to Solid Start
After finishing off the season with a pair of top-10’s on championship night, it appears Mark Thorne is set to contend for the title in 2017.
The veteran started off the night by winning the feature on Saturday night after taking the lead at halfway, followed by surviving the late race chaos in the second event to finish fifth. The solid consistency allows him to one of the four drivers to have a pair of top-fives on the night, and lead the standings by three points over Andy Wheller.
It’s a long season, but certainly it doesn’t hurt to get off on the right foot.
5. Holy Chaos!!
Considering it’s opening night, you’d think we’d be careful and nice to try and keep the cars looking clean for at least awhile right? Yeah, I don’t think that was thought process for the Pure Stocks.
After a late-race caution due to Elijah Hawrylyshyn and Courtney Scott both going around, the pack of hungry drivers was given a green-white-checkered to finish their race. Let’s just say two laps to fight for a victory resulted in contact as race winner Wayde Thorne and Andy Wheller bounced off each other, followed by bumping for third through fifth together, and a pair of cars spinning into the infield grass as they crossed the line.
Heading into their second event of the season, this may be the division to watch to see if there’s any payback as there was certainly some hurt feelings after this one. For now, as we try to dry out from the rain, have a look at the action.