This summer, Blenkhorn tore up the tour standings, hanging around the leaderboard all season long, and becoming just the fourth Canadian to win the Atlantic Cat 250 at Scotia Speedworld in the last 15 years.
This weekend, Blenkhorn will be rewarded when he’s handed the Tim’s Corner Motorsports Breakout Performer of the Year award at the Maritime tour’s awards banquet.
“It feels pretty cool,” Blenkhorn, 20, said. “It’s really not something I expected, but then again the whole season has been something kind of unexpected.”
Last winter, Blenkhorn sat down with his father, Paul, and his crew and discussed their goals for the forthcoming summer. The younger Blenkhorn had his sights set on finishing in the top five in the standings, and maybe winning a race.
On June 21, just the fourth run of the season, Blenkhorn topped the podium at Halifax’s Scotia Speedworld. He’d completed one half of his goal.
The next weekend, he did it again.
“We were pretty surprised at how well we started,” Blenkhorn said. “As a driver, I was a little more calm and patient. As a crew, I guess we all just meshed better with time.”
A big component of his success, Blenkhorn earned pole position five of 12 races. Despite spending most of his life racing, Blenkhorn had never had to race in qualifiers before coming to the Pro Stock tour in 2013.
“I didn’t do that well at it last year either,” he said. “I don’t know where it came from all of a sudden. I enjoy it though, just grip the wheel a little tighter and go for a fast one.”
Despite winning three races during the season (the second most first-place finishes on the tour), the Blenkhorn team finished just outside the top five. Landing in sixth spot, the Brookside native finished nine points back of fifth place.
“When you look back, there’s some things you wish could have gone differently,” he said, adding the team suffered four flat tires during the year. “But you learn from it. Patience is a big thing – you can’t win a race in one lap.”
As his own crew chief, Blenkhorn puts a lot of trust in his team while he’s busy on the track. He also gets a lot of help from his family, who are also prominent on the Maritimes racing scene.
“I really couldn’t do it without all the support from my grandparents, and my father, and my crew – Jim and Wendy MacKinnon, Wade and Stewie Slaunwhite, Matt MacDonald and Andy Johnson.”
Last November, Blenkhorn attended the awards ceremony to accept the Rookie of the Year award, after finishing eighth in points as an 18-year-old. This year, it’s breakout performer. So what’s next year?
“I know people say you’re going to jinx yourself, but next year we’re going for it all. We’re going for the championship.”