Delaware season opener preview

Delaware Speedway to host season-opening MOPAR 250 CASCAR Super Series race LONDON, ON - The CASCAR Super Series will kick off its 12-event national schedule this weekend at Delaware Speedway. The half-mile, London, ON area oval will play host...

Delaware Speedway to host season-opening MOPAR 250 CASCAR Super Series race

LONDON, ON - The CASCAR Super Series will kick off its 12-event national schedule this weekend at Delaware Speedway. The half-mile, London, ON area oval will play host to the MOPAR 250. Over 40 drivers and teams have registered for the race, which will be the first indication of just who will warrant consideration to be included on the list of contenders for the 2004 points championship.

Dave Whitlock is the defending winner of the race. The Avenue / NMT Dodge driver was - until last year - the only three-time CASCAR National champion. He has been joined in that elite club by Home Hardware Chevy driver Don Thomson Jr., who has won the last three Super Series titles. Both Whitlock and Thomson are at the top of their games and it's entirely possible that one of them will break the championship tie this season.

Heading into the Victoria Day long weekend, Thomson - who didn't win a feature race last year - admitted he's been forced to be more aggressive with his engine and car setups in '04, to give himself a shot at earning his fourth consecutive National title.

Former Super Series champ Kerry Micks finished second in the final points last year. The Mt. Albert, ON racer finds himself looking for a new primary sponsor for 2004. But according to Micks - who won the MOPAR 250 in an un-sponsored car in 2001 - he and his team are as well prepared as ever and plan on contending for wins and the overall points crown, as they work to secure primary backing.

Castrol Dodge driver DJ Kennington is coming off a third-place points season, in '03. The St. Thomas, ON resident is a perennial championship contender. For 2004, Kennington - who always seems to run well at Delaware - is returning to his traditional #17 Dodge after a season running the #37.

Mark Dilley finished fourth in last year's points chase. And if there is a driver to watch in Sunday's MOPAR 250, it could be the NTN Dodge pilot. The Barrie, ON racer was dominant at Delaware last fall. He qualified on the pole for the Great Canadian 300, walked away from the field to earn a $10,000 bonus in the CASCAR Challenge all-star event, and seemed set to take the win in the Great Canadian 300 until an extended green-flag run scuttled his pit strategy. Dilley recovered to finish third.

Another candidate for victory in the MOPAR 250 is Peter Gibbons. The Canadian Tire Chevy driver won his record fourth Great Canadian 300 last August and although he has a reputation for finishing seasons better than he starts them, Gibbons is adamant that he's better prepared than ever heading to the Delaware opener. If that's the case, then Gibbons has a good shot at adding to his already impressive Delaware resume.

One exciting aspect of this year's MOPAR 250 is that it is expected to feature several young rookie drivers. Kent Nuhn, Mark Swain, Ron VanEs, Rob Starr, Josh Wood, Jason Hathaway and John Ryan Fitzpatrick are all slated to make their inaugural Super Series appearances. They join other relatively inexperienced CASCAR pilots Pete Shepherd Jr., Sean Stafford and Marc Miller, who have some seat time under their belts competing in Canada's top stock car series.

The new drivers come from a variety of motorsports backgrounds - from stock cars, to road racing, to karts - and have a wide range of experience. All are welcome additions to the Super Series.

Qualifying for the MOPAR 250 at Delaware Speedway Saturday (May 22) at 5:45 p.m. Following a morning of activities on Sunday (May 23), the MOPAR 250 will take the checkered flag at 2:00 p.m.

CASCAR NOTEBOOK: Sunday's MOPAR 250 marks the 11th consecutive season that MOPAR has put its support behind the Victoria Day weekend CASCAR race at Delaware-- Four-time CARQUEST Sportsman Series champ Steve Robblee has registered for the MOPAR 250. The Dorchester, ON driver has over 100 CASCAR victories to his credit, one of which was a memorable win in the Great Canadian 300 in August, 2002-- Whitlock Motorsports stable-mates Mark Dilley and Dave Whitlock started first and second, respectively, in last year's MOPAR 250-- Although he isn't planning on competing in every CASCAR Super Series race in '04, veteran Neil Fair has registered his Dodge for competition at Delaware this weekend. It will be his 100th consecutive start--The second CASCAR Super Series race of the season will take place on Sunday, June 6 at Cayuga Speedway. The event is part of a two-day racing card at the 5/8-mile Hamilton, ON area oval, which will also feature the June 5 (Saturday) season opener for the CARQUEST Series--

<pre> WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY, MAY 22, 2004 4:00 p.m. Spectator Gates Open 6:00 p.m. CASCAR Time Trials 6:50 p.m. Anthems / Parade Lap 7:00 p.m. Racing (Modifieds / Street Stocks / King of the Hill)

SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2004 11:00 a.m. Spectator Gates Open 11:15, noon, 2:15 p.m. Autograph Session 12:35 p.m. Parade Lap 1:30 p.m. Welcomes: Delaware Management, CASCAR Management, MOPAR Representatives, Driver Introductions,Invocation, National Anthems 2:00 p.m. START: MOPAR 250 (250 LAPS)

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Series NASCAR Canada
Drivers Peter Gibbons , Dave Whitlock , Mark Dilley , Neil Fair , Kerry Micks , Don Thomson Jr. , Mark Swain , Pete Shepherd , Jason Hathaway , Kent Nuhn , Marc Miller