SpeedWeekend 2011 is now history, but I’ll bet everyone will be talking about this one for years to come. This year’s AutoValue 250 was one of the most exciting and dramatic races we have ever seen at Speedway 660, in terms of lead changes, cars with opportunities to win, pure entertainment and controversy.
Drivers pushed their cars to the limits to have a shot at Victory Lane. There was very little margin for error and just when it appeared someone had the upper hand, something happened and the cards, well in this case the cars were shuffled again.
A Triumphant Tucker
Shawn Tucker became the third driver to win the AutoValue 250 for the second time. Had it been the AutoValue 251, I am not so sure Tucker could have held off Dave O’Blenis for the win. To say the race was exciting, just wouldn’t do it justice!
As for the controversial part, drivers weren’t giving an inch. Ben Rowe, who has won every major short-track race in eastern North America, except the AutoValue 250, maybe could have shown a little more patience. Rowe ran down Greg Fahey, who was leading late in the race, but slid up into Fahey and cost both drivers a chance to win.
Johnny Clark and Craig Slaunwhite, two former winners, just couldn’t stay clear of each other and their animosity boiled over with Slaunwhite climbing out of a wrecked car, sprinting across the infield to confront Clark.
The crowd loved it. Every lap was an adventure. Yeah, there were a few more cautions than we would have liked to see, but the race was a dramatic spectacle. And when the dust and tempers finally settled down, there was Shawn Tucker, his family, crew and sponsors celebrating in Speedway 660’s Victory Lane.
Dissappointments and Thrills
The biggest disappointment for me was that Jimmy Spencer didn’t really get a chance to compete. The Spencer ride was great in practice, but broke in his qualifying heat and although the crew got him out for the start of the 250, the car just wasn’t able to compete.
But Jimmy came up to the tower to watch the rest of the race with us and loved it. He was truly impressed with Speedway 660, SpeedWeekend and the caliber of racing he saw here. Let’s hope he comes back.
The biggest thrill for me was to see three New Brunswick cars on the podium. Tucker and O’Blenis are two of the best pro stock drivers in Canada, so it was no surprise to see them have good runs. But watching rookie Steve Halpin finish third was awesome. The kid stayed out of trouble, stayed on the lead lap and landed on the podium in his very first AutoValue 250.
A Spectacular COASTAL Blending & Packaging Sportsman150
Lonnie Sommerville, the two time AutoValue 250 winner was hoping for a weekend sweep. He took the COASTAL Blending and Packaging 150 Sportsman race on Saturday night, but it sure wasn’t easy! Lonnie had a dominant car but was challenged by several drivers before finally doing the most impressive burn-out of the year on the front stretch to celebrate the win.
But the weekend sweep was not to be, because Lonnie didn’t get it done on Sunday. Sommerville was a strong contender in the AutoValue 250 but he’ll have to wait until next year to try his luck again.
What a SpeedWeekend for fans. Despite the threat of rain heading into the weekend, the campground was full to overflowing. The rain stayed away and fans were treated to three incredible days of racing. The season finale, Monday’s Enduro, saw at least three cars on their roofs and fans on their feet cheering wildly.
My Weekend Hero
It would be easy to pick AutoValue 250 winner Shawn Tucker as my weekend hero. Shawn’s patience paid off with his second 250 win. Lonnie Sommerville’s impressive sportsman win made him a candidate too. But, for me the weekend hero had to be Dave O’Blenis.
He not only ran Sportsman and Pro Stock cars on SpeedWeekend, he also was “crew-chief” for daughters Alexandra and Courtney who ran Bandoleros. The girls both had respectable outings and Papa O’Blenis came home second in both the Sportsman and Pro Stock cars. That’s a weekend to remember for the O’Blenis clan and that’s why Dave is my weekend hero.
That’s All Folks!
SpeedWeekend officially wrapped our racing season. By the way New Brunswick drivers have won five AutoValue 250 races, Maine drivers four and Nova Scotia drivers two…but who’s counting!
I will throw together one more column next week and look back on the season that was at Speedway 660. Have a great week.