In the United States, the Fourth of July is the holiday most associated with fireworks. But in a small section of the Canadian woods, not far from Fredericton, it was the Labor Day weekend that brought out fireworks all around.
Sunday's Auto Value 250 at Speedway 660 in New Brunswick featured plenty of fireworks on the track (we'll be featuring the back and forth comments between American Johnny Clark and Canadian Craig Slaunwhite in our upcoming 51 Leftovers). There were also fireworks going off right at the checkered flag. But for working man racer Shawn Tucker, the best fireworks all night were the ones going off over his head in victory lane - the final fireworks of the evening.
To get to enjoy that show, Tucker survived in a race where some contenders wrecked, often with other contenders…or they saw parts fail…or tires go bad. There was no shortage of drama for the residents of the nearly packed grandstands at Speedway 660.
“I saw some crazy stuff going on there,” said Tucker. “There were a few messes that I was involved with, not of my own doing. It was wild going and everyone was driving hard. They put on a good show for the fans.”
Tucker's night wasn't perfect, but he made the most of it by using his experience to win the 250 for the second time in his career.
“I've been doing this for 22 years,” said Tucker. “I used to wreck a lot. I was a kid once and I did stupid things. I did a stupid thing tonight around lap 180 and I just kicked myself in the butt and said to get on with this game. I got back at it and that turned out alright.”
Tucker won, but maybe not with a winning race.
“We probably didn't have the best car tonight,” said Tucker. “I think that we had the best car if had four (new) tires on it. I ruined a tire there. About lap 180, I put a new set of tires on and I cut one down. So I ran the same tire on the right front for the 250 laps. The car just wouldn't cut when I needed it to.”
This is where his experience came in.
“I just changed my driving style,” said Tucker. “There was a little bit of luck involved. But the car wasn't too bad.”
Tucker was one of several drivers who spent time out front. Dave O'Blenis dominated the race early on, leading the most laps, but a bad second set of tires and a tangle with Brian Gillespie put O'Blenis behind. He would recover to finish second - just at Tucker's rear bumper. We will have more from O'Blenis in our 51 Leftovers as well.
Craig Slaunwhite, Johnny Clark, Ben Rowe, Kevin Moore, Lonnie Sommerville, Kirk Thibeau, Greg Fahey and Travis Benjamin were all contenders as well, but one by one they all had problems that eliminated them from being in the battle for the lead at the end of the event.
The talent of the drivers around him wasn't lost on Tucker.
“It was nice to win this….this field is talented and it feels good to win,” said Tucker. “I won't sleep tonight. I might have a few beers first. It's awesome…it's just awesome.”
Currently, Tucker sits second in the standings for the Maritimes Pro Stock Tour. There is one race on that schedule and only 106 points separating the top seven drivers. With that kind of pressure, going to an open show wasn't a priority for many of the title fighters. four of the top seven in the Tour standings skipped the Auto Value 250 this year. Tucker didn't even give that option a thought though - even if he only has one racecar at his disposal.
“There was absolutely no debate at all (whether to race in the Auto Value 250,” said Tucker. “We are racers. I build my own cars, so if he had to mess with this, I know that I could have had it on the jig and ready for next week. So there was no reason at all not to go racing.”
And being his own car builder gave Tucker a little extra sense of satisfaction.
“It definitely feels better to me to build your own stuff and have it run good,” said Tucker. “We work hard at it. It's nothing against store-bought stuff. That runs good too, but it just feels better to win in your own stuff.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.com for the upcoming Leftovers from the Auto Value 250 and be sure to check out our Speed51.com Facebook Feed page for a full photo gallery from the event.