Season-Long Back And Forth Battle To End At Kawartha
After a season of swapping the points lead back and forth all season long, the battle between good friends DJ Kennington and JR Fitzpatrick will reach a conclusion in Saturday's 2010 season finale.
Kennington (No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge) enters the event with a 40-point advantage over Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Schick Hydro Chevrolet) in the scuffle that began at the season opener in which Kennington won and Fitzpatrick finished second.
The latest twist to this season-long epic came last Saturday at Riverside International Speedway in Nova Scotia. While leading the race on Lap 184, Fitzpatrick suddenly fell off the pace with clutch problems which handed both the race and points lead to Kennington. It was the sixth time this season that the two drivers exchanged the spot at the top of the standings.
"I hate it that their car broke," said Kennington. "I've been there before. It's a tough pill to swallow.
"I'll tell you this, though. This thing is far from over. I know that kid too well. He'll be chewing on the wheel at Kawartha," he added.
Even though the lead in points has been greater than 40 just two times all season, it is still a workable number for Fitzpatrick, who had a 21-point lead going into last Saturday's race and suffered a swing of 61 points after finishing 13th while Kennington collected his fifth victory of the season.
The potential greatest differential in the final race is 105 points, so there is plenty of opportunity. Should Fitzpatrick win the race and lead to the most laps, Kennington would have to finish sixth or better should he not lead a lap. He could finish seventh and still win the championship if he were to lead a lap in the 250-lap event.
Kennington finished as the runner-up to Andrew Ranger in both 2007 and 2009. In 2008, he finished third behind Scott Steckly and Don Thomson Jr.
Fitzpatrick closed out the 2007 season in sixth place and the 2008 campaign in seventh. He did not race a full schedule of events last season.
"My goal at the beginning of the season was to win the championship," said Fitzpatrick "And you never know what is going to happen in one of these races."
Should it come down to the closing laps and a battle for position, friendship aside, Fitzpatrick clearly stated his intentions.
"I'll move him," he said. "He'll do the same to me. That's the way it's supposed to be."
The Race: Kawartha 250
The Place: Kawartha Speedway, Fraserville, Ont.
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 25
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
The Distance: 250 laps / 93.75 miles
Race Purse: $86,998 CAD
TV Schedule: Sunday., Oct. 10, 1 p.m. ET
2009 Winner: DJ Kennington
2009 Polesitter: Ron Beauchamp Jr.
Practice: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.; Qualifying: 2:30 p.m.
A What-If Season For Thomson
If racing were like the occasional cooperative school teacher who would allow the worst or lowest mark to be thrown out, then Don Thomson Jr. might be closer to the points lead than he already is.
Aside from a 21st-place finish in the season opener at Delaware Speedway and a 22nd-place showing in Trois-Rivieres, Que., the remainder of Thomson's (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) finishes have come inside the top 10 including eight in the top five.
With a third-place finish last Saturday at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S., the veteran driver out of Hamilton, Ont., has recorded a podium finish in four consecutive races.
"We dug ourselves a hole with that finish of 21st at Delaware," said Thomson. "Then, we had a little problem at Trois-Rivieres. Other than that we've been good all season."
As a five-time champion of the former CASCAR Super Series, he knows what it takes to end up on top.
"We learned a lot this year about this new car," he said. "We have one more this year to get ready for, then it will be time to start planning for 2011."
Kawartha News & Notes
The Race: This event is the 13th of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule and the eighth of eight races on oval tracks this season. It is the series' fourth visit to the track and the fourth time the season has concluded at Kawartha.
The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will be determined through two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps covering 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 .375-mile banked asphalt oval speedway with progressive banking 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 on Sept. 23, 2007. The 250-lap race record is held by Scott Steckly at 1 hour, 50 minutes, 47 seconds also set on Sept. 23, 2007 for an average speed of 51.790 mph.
Last Year: In a rain-shortened event, DJ Kennington mounted a late charge and took the lead from Kerry Micks about 20 laps before the weather hit. Ron Beauchamp Jr. picked up his second career pole position. And Andrew Ranger was crowned as series champion for the second time in three years. He clinched the title by simply starting the race.
Dodge Race: In the three series events at Kawartha, Dodge has posted a top-five finish 11 times and all three wins while Chevrolet has three and Ford just one.
First Timers: For two of the three Kawartha winners -- Steckly and Jason Hathaway -- the win was their first in the Canadian Tire Series.
Bad Luck: This event for the last two seasons has been shortened due to inclement weather.
In His Wheelhouse: The only driver to finish inside the top five in all three of the Kawartha events is Ron Beauchamp Jr. He finished fifth last season and third in his first two trips to the track.
NCATS Notebook: Komatsu 300 Wrap-Up
Racking Them Up: With his Komatsu 300 win, DJ Kennington (No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge) now has five victories -- all on ovals -- in 2010. The new total eclipses Scott Steckly's (No. 22 Canadian Tire/MotoMaster Dodge) mark of four wins in his championship season of 2008. With nine career triumphs, Kennington now has sole possession of second-place on the series' all-time wins list.. Andrew Ranger leads all drivers with 12 career wins and six in a single season.
A Little Too Warm: In an odd twist of fate, both of the local Nova Scotia drivers -- Donald Chisholm and Wayne Smith -- had to retire their cars early due to overheating problems.
Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race: Steckly collected $1,500 from Mobil 1 as the Command Performance Driver of the Race Award winner. It was his third Mobil 1 award this season.
Autolite Time To Change Your Position: This award goes to the driver who improves his finishing position the most over the previous event. Kerry Micks (No. 02 Dickies/Beyond Digital Imaging Ford) earned the $1,500 prize by bouncing back from a sub-par performance at Barrie on Sept. 11 to finish sixth at Riverside Int'l Speedway.
Dodge-Mopar Fast Five: This program rewards the top five finishing Dodges in the race eligible for the award. In the Komatsu 300, race winner Kennington had the top-finishing Dodge and earned $2,000. Steckly placed second among the Dodges with his runner-up effort and earned $1,500. Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1 Dodge) grabbed the third spot and $1,000 after finishing fourth overall in the event. The fifth-place performance of Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Vortex Brake Pads Dodge) ranked him fourth among the Dodge entrants and netted $750. Mark Dilley (No. 9 PartSource/Dickies Dodge) finished eighth overall and was the fifth highest-finishing Dodge and collected $500 in the process.
Coca-Cola Move of the Race: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Beauchamp. He started from the 10th position and finished fourth, which earned him the $1,000 award from Coca-Cola.
MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race: The driver who compiles the most points in a specialized system involving qualifying, race finish and laps led collects this $1,100 special award. Kennington garnered the most points to earn this bonus in Nova Scotia.
Vtech Free Pass: Vtech is honoring the driver who logs the highest race finish after receiving a 'free pass' during the event with a $1,000 award. Jeff Lapcevich (No. 23 Tim Hortons Chevrolet) was a lap down early and worked his way back into contention before finishing the race in the ninth position.
Up Next: Awards Banquet
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 teams will gather at the newly opened NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., for the Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Dec. 11.
In a tradition began a year ago, all of NASCAR's Developmental Series gather at the industry's hub to get acquainted, exchange ideas and honor the each other's accomplishments.
In addition to the new NASCAR Hall of Fame complex, the region is the home of the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., as well as a majority of today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams.
Fans throughout the U.S., Canada, and around the globe, will again be able to watch the festivities from both nights via a live webcast on nascarhometracks.com.