Race No. 3: Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport ParkBy Ashley McCubbin
When the series was there back in May for the opening race on the 2.459-mile road course, J.R. Fitzpatrick emerged the winner after a thrilling battle with Scott Steckly and D.J. Kennington. While Fitzpatrick has three wins on the road course, his best finish on the oval is a second which came in 2010. In four starts at CTMP, the Cambridge, Ontario native has three top 10s and a pole, which came last year.
Fitzpatrick’s crew chief Don Thomson Jr. is the all-time win leader on the oval with a total of two wins. Thomson teamed up with Fitzpatrick at the beginning of the season.
Coming into the weekend, Fitzpatrick leads the points, one point over Andrew Ranger. This year’s CTMP race will mark Ranger’s first start on the oval since winning in 2009. Though he is on a roll as he has finished in the top five in his last five series starts and has finished in the top 10 in 24 of his last 25 series starts.
2011 Series Champion Scott Steckly won the 2011 edition of the race at CTMP and currently sits third in points. In five starts on the oval, he has finshed in the top 10 three times. Steckly is known for being consistant as he has had four consecutive top-five finishes dating back to last year and has scored a top 10 finish in six of his last seven series starts.
Steckly’s young teammate L.P. Dumoulin will make his first start on the oval after starting the year with back-to-back top fives on the road courses to sit fifth in points. Though he was the 2011 series rookie of the year, this just marks his fourth career oval start.
The last previous CTMP race winner not mentioned yet is Kerry Micks, who won the 2008 version, but will not be behind the wheel of the No. 02 this weekend. He is only running the road course events this year while series veteran Mark Dilley runs the ovals. This weekend marks his 2012 series debut at a track where he’s finished well before as he finished runner-up in 2007 and 2008. However, in his last three starts at CTMP, he has only one top 10.
Another driver looking forward to this weekend’s race at CTMP is D.J. Kennington, who currently sits third in points. Kennington finished second and fifth at the two road course events this year, though finds his comfort zone on the ovals.
“It’s not that I don’t like I don’t like road racing because I do,” Kennington comments. “It’s very challenging, but I’m just more comfortable on ovals.”
The St. Thomas, Ontario native says he’s off to a decent start to the year with only being seven points behind points leader Fitzpatrick.
“I think we had a top-three car at ICAR, but we made a few mistakes,” he says. “Third in the opener was solid. Anytime you can beat Andrew Ranger (fourth place) on a road course, that’s a good day.”
It’s no secret that Kennington is more successful on the ovals as 10 of his 11 series-career wins have been on the ovals. He has yet to reach victory lane at CTMP, with his best finish being third, which he got in 2008 and 2009. Last year, he finished in fifth.
“It’s a tough track. None of the turns are alike. I’m not sure I’ve ever hit the same mark twice in a row,” he notes. “I think I won a CASCAR race there in 2005, but for one reason or another we haven’t gotten a NASCAR win there.”
While most drivers are involved in single-car operations in the Canadian Tire Series, Kennington runs a multi-car team that sees him prepare cars for both Noel Dowler and Jason White.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have three cars to get ready, but sometimes it’s good to turn your attention to something else,” he comments. “It’s really a good way for us not to obsess on our own stuff.”
Last year, White finished 15th at CTMP driving one of Kennington’s cars while Dowler makes his CTMP debut this weekend.
Dowler is one of eight drivers making their CTMP debut as Steve Côté, Ray Courtemanche Jr., L.P. Dumoulin, Larry Jackson, Martin Roy, Howie Scannell Jr. and Mike Scholz are also slated to make their first start on the half-mile oval.
Meanwhile, Jeff Lapcevich will make his 41st career start this weekend at CTMP, looking to improve on the eighth place finish he got last year on his third start on the oval. With this being Lapcevich’s first full-time NASCAR season, it looks good so far as he currently sits sixth in points.
With this being the first oval of the season, it sets the tone for the rest of the year as it gives everybody a preview of what to expect going forward. It also begins a three-race oval stretch as the next pair of races – Delaware Speedway and Motoplex Speedway – are both on ovals.