Championship back up for grabs
With four wins in four oval-track outings this season and three prior victories at Barrie (Ont.) Speedway, it was a good bet that D.J. Kennington would take a substantial step toward locking up his second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 championship on Sunday at Barrie.
That’s not how it shook out.
Kennington, who carried a 33-point lead into the Barrie event, struggled for the first time this season behind the wheel of his No. 17 Castrol Super Clean/Mahindra Tractors Dodge and finished a sub-par 21st which resulted in his lead shrinking to 14 points over two-time series champion Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Dodge/GC Motorsports Dodge) and 16 over friendly rival J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet). Defending series champion Scott Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge) is still in the mix, as well.
With a maximum field of 24 cars for the Wilson Equipment 300 on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S., there is not a scenario in which Kennington can clinch the championship in the penultimate race of the season. After reeling off a record five consecutive victories earlier this season it seemed to be a real possibility for the St. Thomas, Ont., driver to lock up the title early. The best-case scenario for Kennington is to return home from Nova Scotia with a 42-point lead over Ranger heading into the season finale on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Kawartha Speedway. Kennington would need to leave Antigonish with a 48-point lead as he wins all tiebreakers with his five wins in order to close out the title a race early.
As a three-time runner-up in the final Canadian Tire Series point standings Kennington – the 2010 series champion – is not one to take anything for granted.
“I’ve been around this sport for a long time and things happen,” said Kennington. “Nothing is guaranteed. You just go out and do the best you can and control the things you can control. We’re not going to hang our heads. We go into every race with our sights set on winning and that’s how we’ll approach the next two races.”
Ranger (2009), Kennington (2010) and Steckly (2011) have gone to Victory Lane at Riverside which certainly adds some spice to the Antigonish event. While Fitzpatrick has yet to win at Riverside, he does have second-place finishes in 2007 and 2008.
After leading a race-high 113 laps at Barrie, Fitzpatrick was relegated to a sixth-place finish after contact with race leader Steve Mathews on a green-white-checkered finish.
“We didn’t get the finish we wanted in Barrie, but the points have tightened up. We will give it our all – that’s for sure.
The wild card in this might be Ranger. His road-course program this season has been customarily stellar, but the oval program has been off a tick. However, the second-place finish at Barrie may be what rights the ship. He won the 2009 Riverside event by more than nine seconds to all but sew up his second series crown.
Whether it’s one of the contenders or a spoiler winning in Antigonish, the Wilson Equipment 300 will go a long way in determining who gets fitted for that coveted NASCAR championship ring.
- RACE: Wilson Equipment 300
- PLACE: Riverside International Speedway, Antigonish, N.S.
- DATE: Saturday, Sept. 15
- TIME: 7:15 p.m. AT
- TV SCHEDULE: TSN, Sat., Sept. 22, Noon ET; RDS2, Wed., Oct. 17, 10 p.m. ET
- TRACK LAYOUT: .333-mile paved high-banked oval
- 2011 WINNER: Scott Steckly
- 2011 POLESITTER: Scott Steckly
- EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice Noon-12:30 p.m., 1-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying 4 p.m.; Autograph Session 5:45 p.m.; Pre-Race Ceremonies 6:40 p.m.
- TWITTER: @Riverside_NS
- EVENT TWITTER HASHTAG: #WE300
The Race: This is the 11th event of the 2012 season for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 and the sixth of seven oval-track events on the schedule. This is the series’ sixth visit to Antigonish.
The Procedure: The starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 300 laps covering 99.99 miles.
The Track: Riverside Speedway originally opened in 1969 and was modeled after the legendary Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. In 2005, the track was completely demolished and rebuilt including a new racing surface, concrete walls, lighting, grandstands and control tower. Like its U.S. counterpart in eastern Tennessee, Riverside features high-banked turns. Here, the turns are banked 14 degrees. The frontstretch is 440 feet long with banking of six degrees while the backstretch is also 440 feet but with five-degree banking.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 14.484 seconds (82.767 mph), set by Scott Steckly on Sept. 18, 2010. The 300-lap race record is held by Andrew Ranger at 1 hour, 30 minutes, 40 seconds, set on Sept. 20, 2009 for an average speed of 66.110 mph.
ANTIGONISH RACE NOTES
No Repeats: The previous five NASCAR Canadian Tire Series events at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S., have produced five different winners with all three car manufacturers involved in the series represented. The inaugural event in 2007 was won by Mark Dilley in a Dodge while Don Thomson Jr. in a Chevrolet emerged victorious in 2008. The Ford of Andrew Ranger was in Victory Lane in 2009. The Dodges of D.J. Kennington (2010) and Scott Steckly (2011) won the two most recent Nova Scotia events.
Very Interesting: A trend has emerged in the last three Riverside races. Ranger claimed the win in 2009 while Kennington took the checkered flag in 2010. A year ago, Steckly emerged victorious. Each of those three drivers went on to claim the series championship the next week at Kawartha Speedway.
Another 300: After taking 307 laps to complete the Barrie (Ont.) Speedway event, Canadian Tire Series competitors will line up for another 300-lap race at Antigonish. The series also went 300 laps in July at Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, B.C.
Next Level: Local Antigonish driver Donald Chisholm looks to improve just a couple positions at his home track in the Wilson Equipment 300. A year ago, he registered his best series finish with a third-place effort.
LAST TIME OUT: BARRIE
Annual Occurrence: With his win in the Wahta Springs 300 Pete Shepherd III has wins in each of the last three seasons. He picked up his first win in 2010 at Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, Ont., and his second came in 2011 at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Sask.
Leading The Way: J.R. Fitzpatrick led the most laps for the fourth time this season. Two of those were in road-course wins at Bowmanville, Ont., and Montreal. He went on to finish third in Saskatoon, Sask., and sixth at Barrie, Ont.
High-Water Marks: Noel Dowler established a career best with a third-place finish at Barrie while Dexter Stacey scored his first career top-five finish with a fifth at Barrie to set a new career high. For Dowler, his previous best performance was a ninth earlier this season at Delaware, Ont. Stacey’s previous high was seventh in 2011 on the Road Course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont.
More Bests: In the Wahta Springs 300 Steve Mathews won his second career pole position and equaled his career-best finish of fourth originally accomplished in 2011 at Delaware, Ont. Series rookie Larry Jackson scored his first career top-10 finish with a 10th-place effort at Barrie.
NEXT TIME OUT: KAWARTHA
For the sixth consecutive season, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 will wrap up its season and crown a champion at Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, Ont., in the Pinty’s 250 presented by Dodge. The .375-mile track always provides great competition and sets a great scene for the championship festivities. Last season, D.J. Kennington led a race-high 108 laps en route to his second victory of the season. Scott Steckly finished second to clinch his second series championship having won the title in 2008.
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