CENTENNIAL CHRYSLER RACER JOHN GAUNT COMES HOME SEVENTH IN SUNDAY'S MOPAR 300 AT HIS HOMETRACK BARRIE SPEEDWAY BARRIE, ON -- If anyone knows how tough it can be to race at Barrie Speedway, it's John Gaunt. Before turning his attention to the ...
CENTENNIAL CHRYSLER RACER JOHN GAUNT COMES HOME SEVENTH IN SUNDAY'S MOPAR 300 AT HIS HOMETRACK BARRIE SPEEDWAY
BARRIE, ON -- If anyone knows how tough it can be to race at Barrie Speedway, it's John Gaunt. Before turning his attention to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in 2007, the driver of the #12 Centennial Chrysler-sponsored Dodge Avenger spent his Saturday nights in recent years doing battle at the high-banked, 1/3-mile tri-oval, located north of Barrie, Ontario.
Gaunt qualified 15th fastest in the 20-car field for Sunday night's MOPAR 300 NASCAR race at Barrie Speedway, and overcame several spins and incidents to bring the #12 Centennial Chrysler / AKN Sikkens / Vital Signs / Mobil1 / Unitec Dodge Avenger home in seventh place.
"It was a pretty rough night," said Gaunt, after the race. "I had a 'top 10' car, which was pretty good. I got 'turned' pretty early the race. I actually got 'turned' a couple of times during the race. But I was able to lead a lap, which was nice. We haven't led a lap in this class for 10 years, so that was a bit of a victory for us."
The Barrie, Ont. racer credited his crew for helping to keep his car in contention despite the on-track setbacks. "The guys gave me super pit stops tonight. I was having a bit of a tough time getting the car in gear for restarts, so we spun the tires a few times and got them pretty hot a few times. We changed six tires throughout the course of the night. We fought hard to stay on the lead lap -- we almost got lapped once -- but managed to stay on the lead lap. All in all, it was a pretty good result."
Gaunt's result was all the more impressive given that he and his team were unable to totally overcome the handling condition that troubled them throughout practice, qualifying and the race. "It [the car] was 'tight' all race, just the same as it was all day. We're just searching for the car's balance. Qualifying wasn't great because of the tight handling conditions. It gained a bit of grip as it cooled off into the night, but it just wasn't right."
Another high point for Gaunt and the Centennial team was the reception they received during the pre-race driver introductions. When Gaunt's name was announced to the packed grandstands, the Barrie Speedway crowd erupted in cheers.
"I picked up about 100 horsepower when they announced my name and the big cheer came up from the crowd. It was overwhelming and it was great to get so much support from the fans at Barrie Speedway."
Following the first three races of the 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season, Gaunt's #12 Centennial Chrysler / AKN Sikkens / Vital Signs / Mobil1 / Unitec Dodge Avenger sits seventh overall in the driver point standings.
LOOKING AHEAD to the next outings for Gaunt and company, the team will soon be heading to Western Canada for a pair of events. The first takes place on July 15 at Sun Valley Speedway in Vernon, BC. The following week (July 21) the #12 Centennial Avenger will be in action at the Grand Prix of Edmonton.
"We're looking forward to racing at Vernon, British Columbia [Sun Valley Speedway]. I've never raced at that track or in B.C. for that matter, so that should be fun," said Gaunt. "And I'm also anticipating being at the Grand Prix of Edmonton. I have a better approach to the road courses after we did so well at Mosport. I raced there [Edmonton] once before in an oval car that was switched over for the road course. Our current road course car is purpose-built for road racing, so it should be a better experience."
RACE SUMMARY: Dodge driver DJ Kennington won Sunday night's MOPAR 300 at Barrie Speedway. He was closely followed across the finish line by Dodge Avenger racer Mark Dilley. Don Thomson completed the podium finishers, in third.