EDMONTON, AB – Kevin Wheeler kicked off the 2014 season of the Northern Provincial Pipelines Late Model Series the same way he ended the 2013 season and that was with a trip to victory lane. The defending NPP Series Champion got by pole sitter Dwight Kennedy at the halfway point of the Feature and then held off a last corner challenge by Kennedy to win the first race of the season. “Two corners in a row I kept messing up and I was waiting to see the 81 [on that last lap]. He made a good try for it but we still came up on top. It was close.” The Feature victory, along with a heat race win earlier in the night, gives the Whitecourt, Alberta driver the early season lead in the NPP Series Championship points chase. Wheeler is also the first driver in the 14 year history of the NPP Series to win back to back season openers. “Going into the year with a win under your belt, right out of the gate, is great,” adds the driver of the Bill Weins Trucking/Tundra Oilfield # 3 Dodge, “we are definitely not going to hold back. My crew nailed the setup and it showed tonight.”
Despite finishing second in Saturday night’s Feature, two-time NPP Series Champion Dwight Kennedy was not happy with his performance. “I didn’t have a good night. How lucky do you have to be to get two poles in one night and come away empty handed. I blew both of them.” Kennedy had the pole position for his heat race and finished third. The driver of the Northern Provincial Pipelines/All Weather Windows #81 Dodge also had the pole position for the Feature. Both pole positions were earned by a random pill draw. “In that first heat I thought I had a flat tire so I slowed right down. It must have been some mud [in the wheel well].”
The 2014 season opening Feature was not without controversy. On the start of lap 14, just a few laps after Kevin Wheeler took over the race lead, Kennedy would spin Wheeler going into turn one. The caution flag would fly. NPP Series officials viewed the bump as intentional and Wheeler was given his spot back. Officials however neglected to send Kennedy to the back for causing the yellow flag. “I didn’t know what was going on,” admits Kennedy, “Kevin got his spot back so I thought I was heading to the back. The next thing I know we are seeing the green flag.” NPP Series officials were asked a lot of pointed questions by several drivers after the race and have admitted that it was a terrible oversight and huge mistake on there part. Ironically Kennedy was black flagged at the season opener in Drumheller back in 2007 after he and Kevin Wheeler got together on the final lap. Wheeler was sent spinning across the finish line backwards and was awarded second after Kennedy was DQ’d.
In only his seventh start in a NPP Late Model race car, Mark Miller served notice to his fellow competitors that he is adapting very well to racing on the dirt after spending more than a decade on the pavement. The Calgary, Alberta driver scored his first podium finish in NPP Series competition Saturday night with a third place finish. “The car was all hooked up. The guys back in the garage did a lot of changes to the car this past winter.” In his rookie season Miller finished 9th overall in last year’s NPP Series Championship points chase. At the final race of the 2013 season at Sangudo Speedway, Miller drove his A1 Autobody #69 Chevrolet to a sixth place finish. Miller currently sits third in NPP Series championship points after the season opener, just 7 points back of second place Kennedy and 14 back of point leader Wheeler. “I hope we can turn it up. A lot of good drivers in this Series. We just have to keep the car going good. Keep all four wheels on the ground.” Miller and the rest of the NPP Late Model Series returns to Sangudo Speedway in Sangudo, Alberta on the Canada Day long weekend [June 28th & 29th] for the first two-day show of the 2014 season.