(June 20, 2017) OK so we’ve had a couple of rain-outs, but we’ve also had four weeks of awesome racing and that’s enough to develop a few interesting story lines. One of the top stories of 2017 is the new tire being used by the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock drivers. And then there are new rivalries that can seem to rise out of nowhere when something unexpected happens out on the track.
Let’s start with tires. Speedway 660 has adopted the same tire and shock package as the Pro All Star Series Tour. That’s good in terms of attracting more American teams for the Clark’s Chevrolet Best of the Best 150 and the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250. If we’re going to align our rules package with anybody, the PASS tour is a good fit.
The new tire is softer and has more grip, but is more expensive and probably doesn’t last as long. We’re seeing some drivers make a quick adjustment while others are still struggling to figure it all out. We’re also seeing drivers pushing the new tire as hard as they can to see what its limits really are.Tires are one of the items at the top of any team’s racing budget. Teams are restricted to how many tires they can use, during the course of a season. This year the new Hoosier softer compound tire is challenging some drivers.
This year’s RE/MAX Pro Stock 50 lap features have been exceptionally entertaining. But the last two weeks we’ve seen something a little unusual. Two weeks ago Greg Fahey and Kevin Moore were racing each other really hard near the front of the pack. They got together and spun out. Last week the same thing happened to Dave O’Blenis and Brady Creamer when they were battling for the lead.
Cautions are not unusual when it comes to short track Pro Stock racing, but the yellow flags usually fly for incidents back in the pack. I’m sure members of the four teams I just mentioned might point the finger at the other guy involved, but in both cases I think MAYBE tires COULD have been a factor. It’s unusual to see the leaders bring out the caution, but that’s what happened last Sunday in the RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock feature. Dave O’Blenis (driving out of the picture) and Brady Creamer (#10) both were sent to the back of the pack when the caution came out after this incident.
It’s interesting to me, at least, that the younger guys appear to be the ones making the quicker adjustment to the new tires. Ashton Tucker and Ryan Messer both have won Pro Stock features this season and Brent Roy has been wicked fast too. Dustin Tucker seems quicker too. On the other hand Greg Fahey, Dave O’Blenis and Big Kevin Moore appear, again at least to me, to not be as fast as we’ve come to expect. Having said that, Greg did win the first Pro Stock feature of the season.
I better throw in a little disclaimer here before anyone gets too excited. I am not a tire expert, as a matter of fact I’m not very mechanically inclined at all. But I am a pretty good observer and early on the kids seem to have the upper hand on the “grown-ups” when it comes to the new Pro Stock tire. We’ll keep an eye on this story and see how it unfolds as the season goes on.It seems like the younger drivers have made a faster adjustment to the new softer tires. Ashton Tucker is really fast in 2017 winning his first ever Pro Stock feature on June 10th.
Turning to rivalries – they have always been a part of racing. When you put a bunch of guys and girls in a sand-box, or in our case on a race track, they’ll play hard and compete to see who the top dog is. Last Sunday Ryan Messer won his first ever Pro Stock feature. Dustin Tucker was leading with a couple of laps to go when Ryan put the bumper to him in turn four, moving the 52 up the track. Ryan drove on by denying Dustin the opportunity for his first feature win.
“What goes around comes around and next week the favour may be returned” Tucker said in his post race interview. That comment, made in the heat of the moment, raised a few eyebrows and got a few tongues wagging in the stands and pits. But that’s OK. You can understand Dustin’s frustration, but at the same time you can understand what Ryan did and why he did it! They are both great kids and both awesome drivers and they both want to win badly.A new rivalry in the making? Ryan Messer (#1) and Dustin Tucker (#52) are both fine young drivers. Last Sunday Messer got into Tucker just enough to make a pass for the win. We’ll be keeping an eye on these two for the next few weeks to see if what goes around indeed does come back around!
In the DMR Auto Sales Street Stock feature Matt Crocker moved Destiny Enkel out of the way en route to his trip to victory lane. To me these incidents demonstrate the passion drivers have for our sport.
Rivalries are good for racing. Remember Hokey Wolfe vs. Lonnie Sommerville? I sure do. It was awesome. Remember Rick Cashol vs. Brian Fox? Rick Cashol vs. Smokin Joe Albert? How about Brian Gillespie vs. Bradley Logan? Wayne Smith vs.Shawn Tucker? Kevin Moore vs. Paul Gahan? Courtney O’Blenis vs. Rob Raynes? Rick Cashol and the late “Smokin Joe” Albert had one of the best rivalries in the history of Speedway 660. The two legendary Street Stock drivers respected each other, but traded a little orange and white paint and ran each other hard for many years in the Geary Woods!
Our sport needs rivalries. They get people excited about racing. Deep down racers respect each other, but once they buckle-up and the green flag flies, they’ll run as hard as they can and do what they need to do to get to victory lane. Moving someone out of the way is part of our sport, but dumping them in the rhubarb will result in a trip to the back of the pack for both drivers. And neither party really wants to see that happen. There’s a fine line between a bobble and the beach!Rob Raynes (#41) and Courtney O’Blenis had a pretty good rivalry in the DMR Auto Sales Street Stock division in 2016. Both have moved up to Sportsman this year, but so far the rivalry hasn’t come with them.
We’ll keep an eye on the new tires and the new rivalries as the 2017 racing season continues. And this weekend it will be interesting to see what the new Mini Stock Tour is all about as they bring their Honda’s to 660.By the way, last week when I named some of the great drivers who never won a Sportsman championship, somehow I neglected to mention Steve Rodgers. That’s Steve (far left) with his sons Matt & Andrew and father Bob. The Rodgers clan is a big part of the Speedway 660 family!
So that’s it for this week. Keep your tires on the pavement and your rivalries on the track!
We’ll see you at the races!