A few years ago someone asked me why we get so excited and why there is so much hype around SpeedWeekend. My response was: “This is our Daytona 500.” And it really is.
Speedway 660’s SpeedWeekend is the biggest racing weekend in the Maritimes and the Peterbilt 250 is the most prestigious pro-stock event in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. It is well organized, fan-friendly and the racing is the best you’ll see in this neck of the woods.
The Peterbilt 250 is the centerpiece of the weekend and this could be the year that we see a record number of teams attempt to qualify for the 28 positions on the starting grid Sunday night. From my very “unofficial mathematical count” we could see 50 or more pro- stocks invade the Geary Woods!
The Peterbilt 250 is the Crown Jewel of the Maritime Triple Crown series. Wayne Smith from Halifax won the IWK 250 at Riverside near Antigonish and Saint John’s Lonnie Sommerville won the Atlantic Cat 250 down at Scotia earlier this summer. This weekend, the racing community will move to Speedway 660 to see who will be crowned the Peterbilt 250 champion.
Its hard to predict a winner because in a long race on a short track anything can happen. We have seen drivers dominate the first half of the race only to fall out of contention before the checkers waved. We have seen dominate drivers get caught up in someone else’s wreck and we have seen a tire go down, an engine go up in smoke or some other mechanical melt-down ruin a good run.
And that’s just the half of it, because this field of pro stockers will be so strong that over half of the 28 cars starting the Peterbilt 250 could be considered favourites! It will be a who’s who of pro stock racing!
Past winners include three Americans: Kirk Thibeau, Scott Chubbuck and Johnny Clark; three New Brunswickers: Lonnie Sommerville, Shawn Tucker and Dave O’Blenis; and two Nova Scotians: Craig Slaunwhite and Scott Fraser. Seven of these drivers will be here in person and the late Scott Fraser will be here in spirit. The winner will receive a big cash pay-day and treasure the trophy that is presented in memory of Scotty.
Let’s look at some of the big names who have never won the Peterbilt 250. Wayne Smith, John Flemming and Travis Benjamin are right at the top of that list. Shawn Turple and Rollie MacDonald are in the next group, while Speedway 660 drivers Greg Fahey and Glenn Rasmussen are also capable of getting it done.
Then there are a couple of other notables who fans will be checking out closely. Sterling Marlin, a back-to-back Daytona 500 winner, and Travis Kittleson from Mooresville, North Carolina will be here for the Peterbilt 250. Kittleson, who has run four Nationwide races this year, will drive a Lonnie Sommerville car. Marlin, who has run six Sprint Cup races this year, will get behind the wheel of Hal O’Neal’s machine.
So I have just named 16 drivers who could be considered favourites in the big race and I haven’t even mentioned any big names, from the PASS Tour, who may make the trip to Speedway 660 this weekend. Then there are the wild-cards. Let’s face it, any of the 28 cars who qualify for the Peterbilt 250 have a shot at victory.
Will this be the year that we finally have a two time winner? Its up to Thibeau, Clark, Chubbuck, Tucker, O’Blenis, Sommervile or Slaunwhite to make that a reality.
I have spent my entire column going on about the Peterbilt 250, so bear with me as I go into overtime to address a few other things.
The O’Leary Pontiac Excitement Sportsman 150 will run Saturday night. While everyone focuses on the 250, the Saturday night race is always great and these drivers and teams really step-up to show the big SpeedWeekend crowd what Sportsman racing is all about. We will have a good car count with our own Sportsman division drivers racing against visiting teams from all over the Maritimes.
SpeedWeekend is all about racing but it is also about family fun. The campground, in the field behind our main grandstands, will be packed with close to 800 RV’s, motor-homes, trailers, tents and a few thousand race fans. I am always amazed when I see the racing community that sets-up camp in the Geary Woods.
One last note – congrats to Greg Fahey, John Rankin and Brian Fox our 2009 Speedway 660 division champs and to rookie winners Michael Kyle, Steve Halpin and Richard Hartley.
We’ll see you this SpeedWeekend at Speedway 660 where you can cheer for your Saturday and Sunday night heroes!!