(Peterborough, ON) – The Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series was back in action on Saturday night at ‘Canada’s Toughest 1/3rd-mile’, Peterborough Speedway for the Breast Cancer Awareness 100. It was the fifth event of the seven race tour, and ‘Mr. Highside’ Brennan Didero (#24) of Ancaster, entered the event on a roll. He was coming off a trio of consecutive victories – two at Flamboro Speedway, and one at Full Throttle Motor Speedway – and had a 13-point edge on Josh Wood (#66) of London, in the championship battle.
Early in qualifying Paul Geniole Jr. (#25) of Keswick, ripped off a lap of 14.68 seconds, which was an exceptional time as it was Geniole’s first attempt in the division. The time would only stand as the top time for two drivers until Dave Connelly (#82) of Arnprior, turned the track in 14.62 seconds, setting a new track record. Wood and Didero would be the final two to attack the timing system, and it was Wood that blasted to the top of the chart as he ended Connelly’s short track-record stint with a time of 14.60 seconds. Didero would take the final run at the pole, but was only able to turn the third quickest lap of the session. Geniole wound up fourth, with Shawn McGlynn (#81) of Kitchener, rounding out the top-five. All of them would head to the ‘Lucas Oil Fast Five’ draw.
The top-five qualifiers gather in front of the capacity crowd to be paired up with some lucky youngsters, and choose their fate in the ‘Lucas Oil Fast Five’ draw. Didero was able to draw the pole position, with Shawn McGlynn joining him on the front row. Geniole and Wood would occupy row two, while Connelly would take the green from fifth.
Shawn McGlynn would poke his nose out front for the first two circuits before Didero took over, and McGlynn gave chase, but the field was slowed by an early lap five caution after Mike ‘Over the Top’ Nelson (#85) spun on the backstretch. On the restart, it was Geniole who was able to make a run as he moved to second and started pursuing Didero. The field continued under green, and it was evident that Geniole was the faster of the pair.
Geniole, spoke about his first run, “I wasn’t really expecting to be that fast, but our car was good. I caught the #24 [Didero], and I could see that he was starting to get loose in the middle of the corners. Finally he left enough room for me and I was able to get a run on him to take the lead.”
After that lap forty lead change, Geniole was able to pull away from Didero, but there was a new player at the front of the pack, as Wood moved to second. At the halfway point, Didero was third, with McGlynn fourth, but the driver on the charge was Brandt Graham (#14) of Orono, who had qualified sixth for the third consecutive race. Graham moved to fifth early, and then took fourth just after the halfway point. He then ran down Didero, making the pass and moving to third. Despite having a car as fast as the leaders, Graham was half a track behind, with the laps winding down.
The green flag run would eventually be 88 laps, and Geniole seemed to have control until just before the 10 to go point. The gap back to Wood started to shrink significantly, and with seven laps to go, Geniole lost grip off turn two. The car spun into the grass, handing the lead to Wood. It also put Graham back in contention, as he would restart alongside Wood for the final sprint to the checkers.
Wood got the advantage on the drop of the green, but after regrouping, Graham started to put the pressure on the title contender. The assault included minor contact on turn three of the final lap, but Graham came up one position short of a win, as Wood captured his second victory of the season. Geniole battled back to wind up with a solid third-place result.
It was the second win of Josh’s career at Peterborough – the last coming in 2013 – and closed the championship points gap to five based on Didero’s fifth-place finish. He talked about the evening, “We had a pretty good car right from the start of the night, and then broke the track record. That was pretty cool. I was able to get to second shortly after the #25 [Geniole] took the lead. I remember how at Full Throttle Motor Speedway in the last race I led for the longest time, and didn’t have anything left for the end. I was saving something at Peterborough, and then I was sweating, because we weren’t getting a caution. Geniole was really started to get loose and I was running him down when he spun. On the restart, I held off the #14 [Graham], and he gave me all I could handle. Now we just have to start getting ready for Delaware. It’s always fun for us to race there because we have family and friends that can come and watch us racing without having to drive too far.”
As for the championship, Wood shied away from the conversation, “You know me, my Dad and I, and anyone that we can recruit to come and help us at the track, we just come out to have fun. If we can win, great, if we get a top-five, that’s great too, but I’m not worried about points. If it comes down to Brennan and myself in the last race, we’re still going to go to that track and just try to have fun for the night, no matter what happens.”
Despite coming up one position short of the win, Graham was thrilled with the night, “We qualified sixth for the third time in a row, and just missed the ‘Lucas Oil Fast Five’, but we’re close. I just took my time early in the race, and just before halfway the setup really started to work. I was able to get McGlynn and Didero, but when we got to third my dad told me over the radio that we were a half track behind and to just save the car and hope for a caution, because we were never going to run them down. Then we got the yellow we needed, but we had to start on the outside. Josh got me on the restart, and I closed on him, but I wasn’t able to get him. I tried to race him clean, and I didn’t want to wreck him and win that way. Now that I’ve been up front, I just have to work on my restarts for next time. Being from around here we had a lot of friends and family come to the track tonight, and it was great to race in front of them, and I’m so proud of our result.”
In the Rookie-of-the-Year battle, Graham’s finished, combined with McNichol’s 12th-place result has put Graham up by 12 points.
Geniole was very impressive in his first career Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup start, fighting back from the spin to rally to a third-place result. He talked about his experience, “I have raced a Thunder Car at Sunset before, but this year I didn’t race, and I’ve had a co-op position at McColl Racing. I met Nick Goetz, and Joey McColm, and I’ve been helping Joey out with his Canadian Tire Series car. They had this Sportsman Car that hasn’t run in a few years, and Joey said if I could put it together we could race it. I had no idea what to expect, because I haven’t raced all year, and I didn’t want to mess up the guys that were running for points. I’ve only qualified once before, so that was pretty new, but we drew third and got to second early. Throughout the race our car was loose, and I really had to peddle it coming off the turns. Eventually I just heated up the right rear, and when it started to go around I did everything I could to save it. We were still able to come back and finished third. It was a really great experience. The racing was very clean, and the drivers all made me feel like I should be right at home.”
Tolton raced from eighth on the grid to a solid fourth-place finish, while Didero held on for a fifth-place result.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup teams as they will be in action again this Friday night, August 14th, at the ‘Birthplace of Sportsman Racing’, Delaware Speedway. For Wood, it will be a visit to his home track, a location where both he, Shawn McGlynn, and Chad McGlynn, have been victorious in feature competition.
Final Results – 1. Wood, 2. Graham, 3. Geniole, 4. Tolton, 5. Didero.
Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup – Championship Points Standings (after 5 of 7 events) – 1. Didero (490 points), 2. Wood (485), 3. Shawn McGlynn (461), 4. Graham (457), 5. Chad McGlynn (454).