NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Barrie Speedway * Pizza Pizza 300 Notebook * Coke Zero 200 Post-Race Notebook * Barrie Speedway NASCAR Home Tracks Update Gaunt Ready To Turn Corner After a few years away from Canada's premier ...
NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Barrie Speedway
* Pizza Pizza 300 Notebook
* Coke Zero 200 Post-Race Notebook
* Barrie Speedway NASCAR Home Tracks Update Gaunt Ready To Turn Corner
After a few years away from Canada's premier stock-car racing series, John Gaunt returned with the advent of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio believing that getting back up to speed would be an easy proposition, but it was nothing of the sort.
The No. 12 Centennial Chrysler team scratched and clawed their way to a 12th-place finish in the 2007 championship points standings having just a single top-five finish on the year. That, however, was not the way it was envisioned.
"I didn't think we came into this thing with any grand illusions," said Gaunt. "We knew we weren't going to come in here and dominate, but being a mid-pack top-10 car, I thought, was reasonable."
In reality, getting into the top 10 was a chore for the Barrie, Ontario-based team.
"We struggled to get into the top 10 on a race-by-race basis," he said.
The hiring of crew chief Don Jacobson, who worked with Peter Gibbons for several years, kicked off the 2008 season and the impact of his arrival was felt immediately. There were also some changes made on the crew during the off season.
"Before we even got on the track for the first time, there was a new attitude on the team," Gaunt said. "Don is a calm, level-headed guy who handles stress really well and that trickles down through the team."
As the 2008 season has progressed, so has the performance of the Centennial Chrysler team. In July at SunValley Speedway, Gaunt notched his first podium finish with a third-place effort, which proved to be a much-needed shot in the arm.
"It was huge. There is no other way to say it," he said. "I needed it. The team needed it. My car owner needed it."
Barrie car dealer Gordon Coates is the owner of Gaunt's Dodge team and, like most successful businessmen, looks at the bottom line for his answers and expects to find good news there.
"He is a very supportive owner and I very much value this relationship," Gaunt said. "But he doesn't care if we ran in the top 10 all night except for the end. He sees 15th or whatever it is and that is how he judges it."
Gaunt understands that racing is about where the car finishes, but the progress his team is making is evident. "We've had some things go wrong just like everyone else, but the car is faster this year and we have made significant strides in both our oval and road-course programs."
Having raced for several years in the CASCAR Super Series before stepping away for a while to tackle some other racing ventures, Gaunt sees a marked change in the level of competition since his rejoining the ranks when NASCAR took over the series.
"The competition is unreal. It's like Survivor or a game of chess--one wrong move and you are done, whether or not that move was of your doing," he said.
A solid finish at his home track of Barrie Speedway this Saturday in the Pizza Pizza 300 would be another great stride for Gaunt and his team.
"If we can put together a great run for a win or even a podium at Barrie in front of all our friends, family and fans, it would be out of this world," said Gaunt. "We're at the point now where we need to string together some great performances to demonstrate the improvements this team has made. I love racing that track and I know it well. We did well there in the fall race last year and I'm confident we can set a new high-water mark."
The Race: Pizza Pizza 300
The Place: Barrie Speedway, Barrie, Ontario
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 6
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: TSN, 11 a.m., Sept. 13 (delayed)
Track Layout: .333-mile paved oval
Race Purse: $77,662 CAD
2007 Winner: DJ Kennington
2007 Pole: Kerry Micks
Schedule: Practice 12:45-2 p.m. Time Trials 4:15 p.m.
Hathaway Turning It On For Stretch Run
With back-to-back top-five runs, Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Super 8 Dodge) is laying the groundwork for a solid finish to the 2008 season.
Two races ago at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, the driver out of Appin, Ontario logged his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio podium finish with a third-place effort.
"It was a fortunate set of events that put us there, but we were in position to capitalize on the situation," said Hathaway.
Last Saturday at Cayuga Motor Speedway, he overcame difficult circumstances to finish in fourth place. The Hathaway camp decided to make an engine change following a sub-par practice session and causing them to miss time trials, which resulted in a start at the tail end of the field for the race.
The start of the race did not go much better. Hathaway found himself down two laps after a pit road miscue and an on-track incident. However, he was able to get the laps back by receiving the Tow Truck in a Box Free Pass twice before the race was half over.
From there is was smooth sailing for the No. 3 Dodge as it diced its way to the front of the field.
"We got behind early, but we never gave up," said Hathaway. "The guys worked hard to get the motor changed and it was up to me to show them what all their hard work could accomplish."
Hathaway will be looking to improve upon his 13th-place finish at the cozy .333-mile bullring of Barrie Speedway in June at this Saturday's running of the Pizza Pizza 300.
News & Notes
The Race: This event is the 11th of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio schedule. It is the series' fourth visit to the track.
The Procedure: The starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will be determined from two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 300 laps (99.99 miles).
The Track: Barrie Speedway opened in 1965 and has had substantial improvements made since 1999. At that time, the track was widened and lengthened from a .25-mile oval to its current unique .333-mile tri-oval config-uration. The tri-oval and pit road are situated on the backstretch.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 13.903 seconds (86.226 mph), set by Don Thomson Jr. earlier this season on June 28. The 300-lap race record is held by DJ Kennington at 1 hour, 43 minutes, 59 seconds set Sept. 8, 2007 for an average speed of 57.644 mph.
A Season Ago: Pulling off the Barrie sweep in 2007 was DJ Kennington. He overcame a broken throttle-return spring by rigging a bungee cord to the steering wheel to keep the pedal off the floor. Dave Whitlock established a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series career-best mark by finishing second.
Also On Tap: The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Canada's premiere stock car division, will be joined by the Rama Moccasin & Smoke Thunder Cars, the Davenport Subaru Pure Stocks and the Yanch Heating & Air Chargers, all part of Barrie's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program.
Coke Zero 200 Post-Race Notebook
Different Feelings This Time Around: A more jubilant Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries/Maple Lodge Farms Dodge) was in Victory Lane at Cayuga Motor Speedway. His first and only other NASCAR Canadian Tire Series win came last September at Nova Scotia's Riverside International Speedway, but it came just days after the death of his mother. The emotionally-spent Dilley had more relief than celebration in him after that initial series win.
Flip A Coin: Having raced both a Chevrolet and Dodge in the last month, JR Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports) and his team are still in the learning process on the Dodge, so the Chevy still comes out once in awhile. At Cayuga, he competed in a Chevy.
Tightening Up: With Scott Steckly's (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge) trouble-filled evening and resulting 18th-place finish, his lead in the points standings took a healthy hit. Going into the night his lead was 113 points, but just 68 at the end of the evening.
Overdue Debut: Making his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series debut at Cayuga was Pete Shepherd. The Brampton, Ontario, driver lost out in a numbers game after signing a contract with Roush Fenway Racing. He competed in four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events last season. The spot in the Canadian Tire Series opened up when Alex Tagliani jumped out of the No. 7 Wal-Mart/Ubisoft Ford to fill in an opening in the Indy Car Series.
Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Cayuga Motor Speedway, Dilley collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort. Mopar Fast Five: This program awards the top five finishing Dodges in the race. In the Coke Zero 200 presented by Sicard Holiday Campers, Dilley, with the victory, was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Third-place finisher Derek Lynch (No. 77 Allied Steel Buildings/Canadian Shield Dodge) was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,250. Picking up $1,000 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Super 8 Dodge). Collecting $500 for placing fourth among the Dodge entrants was Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar Mobil 1 Dodge). Rounding out the top five Dodges was Dave Whitlock (No. 39 Dickies/NMT Dodge), who receives $250.
POWERade Power Move: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Hathaway. After starting dead last on the grid, he worked his way forward and finished fourth. As a result, he earned the $1,000 award.
Tow Truck in a Box Free Pass Award: In a new program in 2008, the driver who receives a free pass during the event and has the highest finish wins the award. Hathaway also added this award to his coffers. He earned a pair of free passes to recapture two laps before the halfway point of the race. This was the first time for Hathaway to collect the $1,000 award this season.
A Brand New Car!: Mobil's flagship "Hear the Roar 4" contest came to a conclusion at the Coke Zero 200. Consumers all over Canada entered after purchasing Mobil products at Canadian Tire and PartSource stores. The four finalists were on hand to see who would take home a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette. Cristian Ramirez, of Brossard, Quebec, proved to be the grand prize winner.
In Case You Missed It: TSN and TSN HD's coverage of the Coke Zero 200 presented by Sicard Holiday Campers will premiere on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. ET.
Tight Points Battle Highlights Barrie's Late Model Division
As the number of races dwindles, the points battle in the Classic Pro Tube Late Model division, Barrie Speedway's top NASCAR Whelen All-American Series classification, heats up.
Last season's track and provincial runner-up, Keith McLeod, with four victories in 16 outings this season, holds a slim advantage over Gord Shepherd with Dave Lewis lurking in third. Both Shepherd and Lewis have a pair of feature wins in 2008.
Defending track and provincial champion Dwayne Baker has fallen back in the standings and will need some help if he is to defend his title.
McLeod and Garry Reynolds lead the way with four victories each, but McLeod's division-best 13 top-fives has fueled his way to the top of the chart.
In their last outing on Aug. 30, Shepherd collected his second win of the year after winning the season opener in May. Baker followed closely in second while points leader McLeod brought his Dodge home in the fourth position.
The late models have just a pair of 30-lap dashes left on the schedule on Sept. 13.
In the other divisions, Frank Davey leads Ed Tremblay in the Rama Moccasin and Smoke Thunder Car standings. The Davenport Subaru Pure Stock division has Brandon Crumbie in the top slot followed by Mike Meyer. And Desiree Walt is battling it out with Billy Melenhorst in the Yanch Heating and Air Charger classification.