Kawartha: Season finale preview

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Kawartha * Dodge Dealers Of Ontario Ram 250 Notebook * Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 Post-Race Notebook * NCATS Is A Good Fit For Shepherd Steckly Not Quite Out Of Woods For '08 Title In a...

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Kawartha

 *  Dodge Dealers Of Ontario Ram 250 Notebook

* Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 Post-Race Notebook
* NCATS Is A Good Fit For Shepherd

Steckly Not Quite Out Of Woods For '08 Title

In a perfect world, Scott Steckly wanted to simply start his car this Saturday at Kawartha Speedway to clinch the 2008 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by SIRIUS Satellite Radio championship.

The world, however, is an imperfect place and Steckly (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge) will have to do more than flip the ignition switch. Should Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) win the race and lead the most laps, Steckly will have to finish 13th or better to claim the title.

Steckly's season, while not entirely flawless, has been close. He established a series record with four wins and also has four runner-up finishes. The three times he has stubbed his toe have all been engine-related and have come in the last five events.

"When we've had problems, it hasn't been of our own doing," he said. "It's been things we can't control and they happen all the time in racing."

Steckly knows that championships are won not only with superior performance, but also a measure of luck. Both ingredients are in the mix for his season this year.

"We haven't done anything stupid -- well, I haven't done anything stupid like run into something and punch a hole in the radiator or tear the nose off," he said. "We've had a good car all year and we've been fairly lucky in some respects."

Last Saturday at the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300, Steckly seemed to be headed for a fifth win and the series crown, but his motor headed south and so did his finish in the waning moments of the race.

"The car was as good as it has been all year, but I had trouble getting around a car and I was not at all interested in racing anyone real hard," Steckly said. "After pit stops, we got the lead and were rolling right along until the motor started going downhill."

Thomson, meanwhile, did what he needed to do and won the race to set up a showdown in the season finale. "He's been so good all year, all I can ask for is to even have a shot," said Thomson.

Defending series champion Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Wal-Mart/Tide Ford) even has a scenario in which he can successfully defend his title.

Should Ranger win the race, and lead the most laps for the 10-point bonus, he needs Steckly to finish 24th or worse without leading a lap while Thomson can lead a lap but finish sixth or lower.

In any event, with a single race left in the season, the championship hangs in the balance with three drivers gunning for that coveted ring.

"This is why we all work so hard all year," Steckly said. "To have a chance to win the championship and be the best in a given year."

***

The Race: Dodge Dealers of Ontario Ram 250

The Place: Kawartha Speedway, Fraserville, Ont.
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 27

The Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: TSN, 11 a.m., Oct. 11 (delayed)

Track Layout: .375-mile paved oval
Race Purse: $78,047 CAD

2007 Winner: Scott Steckly
2007 Pole: Mark Dilley

Schedule: Practice 1:30-2:30 p.m. Time Trials 5 p.m.

***

Gibbons Closes Out Stellar Career

At the end of the Dodge Dealers of Ontario Ram 250, Peter Gibbons (No. 1 Canadian Tire/Mobil Super Chevrolet) will close out one of the most suc^_cessful careers in Cana^_dian motorsports history.

The 46-year-old driver, racing out of Stouffville, Ont., announced his retirement last week, stating after careful consideration that the time was right.

"We had some dis^_cussions with Canadian Tire about 2009, but I just feel this is the right time for me to get out of the car."

The winner of more than 30 CASCAR events over his career tipped his cap to his long-time sponsor.

"I just can't say enough about what a wonderful relationship our group has had with Canadian Tire and how good they have been to me," he said. "They have done a fantastic job helping to elevate the series in Canada. I have a real respect for all the hard work the people at Canadian Tire have put into this program."

Stepping away from something that has been such a major portion of his life will not be easy, but Gibbons is anxious to see what presents itself.

"I know I'll miss it and it will be a big adjustment for everybody," he said. "I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time with my wife, Denise, and my boys, Petey and Jake."

Among his career highlights are CASCAR Super Series championships in 1998 and 1999. He was also the 1994 CASCAR Rookie of the Year and won CASCAR Eastern Series titles in 1997 and 1998, as well as competing in several NASCAR series over his 30-year racing career.

***

News & Notes

The Race: This event is the 13th of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio schedule. It is the series' second visit to the track. The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will be determined from two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps (93.75 miles).

The Track: Kawartha Speedway is part of the Kawartha Downs and Speedway complex in Fraserville, Ontario, near Peterborough, east of Toronto. The 3/8-mile banked asphalt oval speedway is surrounded by a harness-racing horse track, the opposite of Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 17.704 seconds (76.254 mph), set by Mark Dilley last year on Sept. 23. The 250-lap race record is held by Scott Steckly at 1 hour, 50 minutes, 47 seconds also set last Sept. 13 for an average speed of 51.790 mph.

A Season Ago: On the night when Andrew Ranger clinched the first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship, Scott Steckly drove to Victory Lane for the first time in the series. Steckly led 62 laps en route to his win as he edged out Peter Gibbons.

A Different Look For Micks: After blowing a motor last weekend in Nova Scotia, the short turnaround between races is forcing Kerry Micks to rent a car from Bryan Cathcart to participate in the season finale. The new ride is a Dodge and it will be the first time that Micks has been in anything other than a Ford since the mid-1990s.

***

Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 Post-Race Notebook

Odd How Things Work Out: Having won the pole at every oval track this season at which time trials were held, Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) was not the fastest car during qualifying, but he did prove to have the winning car. Thomson's teammate, JR Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Chevrolet), snapped his oval-track pole streak.

There Was A Dejà Vu Feeling: The winning recipe for Scott Steckly (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge) in his four wins this season has been to stay in touch with the leaders in the early going all while working to get the car better to set up for a dominating run to the finish line. The Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 had that feel when he took the lead with just over 100 laps remaining. However, the motor didn't hold up and he was relegated to a finish in 13th.

Not How He Envisioned It: As expected, local Antigonish, N.S., driver Donald Chisholm (No. 98 Nova Construction/Pioneer Coal Chevrolet) displayed a strong car to go along with an intimate knowledge of his home track. He easily was able to keep pace with the leaders, but contact with another car resulted in a broken tie rod and a disappointing 14th-place finish.

Hard Impact: On Lap 103, DJ Kennington's No. 17 Castrol/NPP Dodge slammed hard into the wall between Turns 1 and 2 due to a suspension part failure giving the veteran driver one of the hardest crashes of his career. "I've wrecked at Talladega, crashed at Charlotte and Phoenix, but, man oh man, that was big," he said.

Rookie Battle: The race for the 2008 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Rookie of the Year has come down to a two-man battle. After the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300, Jason White (No. 21 A&W/Zimmer-Wheaton GMC Chevrolet) holds a slim four-point advantage over Anthony Simone (No. 95 Crown Modular Chevrolet). The winner of the series' first top rookie award will be decided at the season finale at Kawartha Speedway.

Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Riverside International Speedway, Thomson collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort. He now has four career series wins to his credit including a pair this season.

Mopar Fast Five: This program awards the top five finishing Dodges in the race. In the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300, Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1 Dodge), with his third-place finish, was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Fourth-place finisher Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries Dodge) was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,250. Picking up $1,000 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Dave Whitlock (No. 39 Dickies/NMT Dodge). Collecting $500 for placing fourth among the Dodge entrants was Brad Graham (No. 19 Full Throttle/Logel's Auto Parts/Challenger Motor Freight Dodge). And rounding out the top five Dodges was Doug Brown (No. 10 Haldex Dodge), who receives $250.

POWERade Power Move Award: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Whitlock. After starting 17th on the grid, he battled his way forward and finished fifth. As a result, he earned the $1,000 award from POWERade.

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. Fitzpatrick earned a free pass in the early going before battling back to finish second and collect the $1,000 award.

In Case You Missed It: TSN and TSN HD's coverage of the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 from Riverside International Speedway will premiere on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. ET.

***

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Is A Good Fit For Shepherd

Networking is the key to any profession and auto racing is no exception. It is as equally important to maintain those relationships because that all-important call may come at anytime.

Pete Shepherd, III (No. 7 Wal-Mart/Ubisoft Ford) kept open communication with Dave Jacombs and when the need of a driver for his car arose, Jacombs' first call was to Shepherd.

For the first two-thirds of the season, the car was piloted by Alex Tagliani. However, once he returned to the open-wheel racing world after a spot opened in the Indy Car Series, it opened the door for Shepherd to slide into that seat.

"I've always had a good relationship with Dave Jacombs and kept those lines of communication open and it worked out pretty well," said Shepherd.

Being familiar with both NASCAR -- having competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- and the Canadian racing landscape, Shepherd, out of Brampton, Ont., was more than a perfect fit.

He is just as excited about the specter of what the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will become as he is about his opportunity to race in it.

"The series is really great. It's super competitive and will become very special down the road," he said. As a veteran of the former CASCAR Super Series, Shepherd has noticed what the influx of new drivers and the improvement of all the teams has brought to the table.

"The veteran guys are as tough as ever, but then you factor in the addition of an Andrew Ranger and the improvement of guys like JR Fitzpatrick and the field as a whole. It's a real handful out on the track," said Shepherd.

In three NASCAR Canadian Tire Series events, Shepherd has logged a pair of top-10 finishes including a 10th-place effort last Saturday in the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 in Nova Scotia.

"The car has been competitive and we've done pretty well with it," said Shepherd. "There's not much room for error in both preparation of the car and on the track. I'd like to get a top five at Kawartha and end on a high note."

The 22 year-old already has his sights set on next season and plans to run a full slate of races.

"We are working now on getting the sponsorship situation cleared up," Shepherd said, "and see what improvements we can make to the car."

However, the eventual goal of getting a gig in one of NASCAR's top three series has and will not change.

"Getting back into the mix down south is certainly something I want to do, but the focus right now is on this series," he said.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Canada
Drivers Jason White , Dave Jacombs , Peter Gibbons , Dave Whitlock , Mark Dilley , Ron Beauchamp Jr. , Brad Graham , Kerry Micks , Don Thomson Jr. , Scott Steckly , Bryan Cathcart , Doug Brown , Andrew Ranger , Pete Shepherd , Anthony Simone