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.
With three nights in the books, the Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park Late Models have put on a show so far for the fans, with a variety of race winners and great action across the board. As we head into this weekend’s off-night, here are your five thoughts to consider….
Gord Shepherd may only have one victory this season, but did anybody notice that he is the points leader with six features in the books? That’s right as he currently leads Nick Goetz by eight points following the third night of competition.
The key to Shepherd’s success is consistency. He’s got the best average finish this year so far (2.83) solely based on the fact that this past Saturday’s second feature of an eighth-place finish marked his first finish outside the top two spots so far this season.
Surprising? Nah, not really if you know Shepherd well enough. En route to winning the championship last yea,r he scored only two finishes outside of the top-10 with two victories and 18 top-fives on the year.
So what did we learn? Don’t let the 2016 Autumn Colours Classic Champion sneak up on you.
Rabbit’s Foot, Please
While Shepherd is at the highest of highs right now, the opposite end of the spectrum isn’t so pretty for Lane Zardo. Currently holding down the second worst average (16) of drivers to run every night this season, things just haven’t gone their way.
Zardo has ran up front this year within the top-10, and posted a top-five finish at the Spring Velocity. However, each week it seems he and his brother Billy have both been plagued by some sort of bad luck, whether mechanical or incidental.
If luck can come their way, expect Lane to be a front runner after scoring 12 top-10’s and his first career feature victory.
Five Different Winners
While NASCAR started off their season with five different winners in both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series, the late model competitors have repeated the feat with five of their own.
The five different winners, in case you forgot, in order – Gord Shepherd, Taylor Holdaway, Ryan Kimball, Rick Spencer-Walt, and Nick Goetz.
Prior to the season, I set the bar at 10 different winners realistically, with a possibility of 14. Welp, we’re halfway there and only three nights are in the books. Who’s next? Chris Morrow is a good candidate with no finishes outside of the top-eight so far this year, along with Travis Hallyburton who posted a pair of top-fives on Saturday night.
We knew he would be fast this year, thanks to a championship last year at Peterborough Speedway and a top-five at the Velocity 250 in September. But let’s be honest – how many had him put down at the first multi-winner this season?
He snagged a win in the second feature on May 13, followed by taking the lead in the second-half of the Spring Velocity using a tire conservation strategy for the victory there. He then closed out Saturday night with a bump-and-run to make it a third.
Three wins have easily made him a driver to watch when it comes to the championship. The key will be minimizing finishes outside of the top-10 as an 11th-place run in the first feature on Saturday resulted in his average dropping to fifth on the chart at a 6.5.
Prior to the season, hopes were high for Danny Benedict to have success after a solid rookie campaign and debuting a brand new Shaw Chassis for 2017.
However, things haven’t quite worked out as planned. As of right now, he has a best finish of 12th, with only three features run out of the six due to mechanical issues.
If he can work out the bugs moving forward, expect him to become a threat inside the top-10 following five top-10’s in 2016.