Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kennington claims Canadian Tire Series opener

Before the opening race of the 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in Delaware, ON on Saturday, DJ Kennington talked about having a terrific opportunity to win the national championship. He followed up with a win on his home track to start the year with the points lead.

Kennington, from nearby St. Thomas, started on the pole and led 130 of the 201 laps to claim the Keystone Light 200 at the half mile oval. He took the lead for the final time with 40 laps to go and held the lead through a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race by one lap.

“It feels awesome to start the season off,” said Kennington, who also won here last year. “The last four years we’ve started the season off in the hole and to get out of here with a win is just awesome. I just hope we can keep the momentum going.”

Kennington blew up his motor in practice earlier in the day and his team rolled up their sleeves in the afternoon to replace the powerplant before qualifying.

“For the day we had and the guys having to work hard and change the motor,” Kennington said. “We only got eight laps of practice and to come out here and do this is pretty awesome.”

Kennington has finished second or third in the standings in all three seasons that the series has been run under the NASCAR banner and said that he is focused on winning the championship this season.

“You’ve got to finish every race (to contend for the championship),” Kennington said. “So far, one is in the books and I just hope we can keep rolling.”

Kennington edged JR Fitzpatrick, who is in the series full time this season while also running in some Nationwide Series races for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports.

“That was great – I can’t wait to watch that on TV,” said Fitzpatrick, who pushed hard for the win late in the race but had trouble getting past Kennington on a track that was getting slick with a light rain falling in the closing laps.

“I couldn't have tried any harder than that. I gave it everything I had.”

Jeff Lapcevich finished third while John Gaunt claimed fourth place and Pete Shepherd III rounded out the top five in his first race in the series since running four races in the 2008 season.

“It feels good,” said Shepherd, who won the rookie of the year award in the old CASCAR Super Series in 2004 before signing a development deal with Roush Racing. “They don’t put the yellow stripes back on you for nothing. If you’ve been out of the series for a while you need to get the experience.”

The series continues next Sunday on the road course at Mosport in Bowmanville, ON.

Photo: Aaron Bell

2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Season Opens Saturday

Even though summer doesn't officially arrive for another few weeks, the unofficial start of summer comes this Saturday when the 2010 season for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series gets underway at Delaware Speedway.

The NCATS is Canada's top national touring racing series with 13 events in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. This is the fourth season under the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series banner.

Here are five questions that fans are looking forward to having answered during the next three months.

1. Can DJ go all the way?
DJ Kennington has finished second or third in the first three seasons of NCATS competition and is a good bet to claim his first championship this year. Kennington, who made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in Martinsville in March, won a pair of races last year and his nine top-five finishes were tied with 2008 champ Scott Steckly for the most on the circuit.

2. Who will take over for Andrew Ranger as NCATS most dominant driver?
After winning the championship in two of the first three seasons of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Andrew Ranger has moved south to compete full time in the K&N Pro Series. Will another driver step up and dominate the season like Ranger did last year with six wins? Kennington is a good bet while JR Fitzpatrick is also back in the series full time this year and the former CASCAR Canadian Tire Series champ has all the tools to take home another title.

3. Will Pete Shepherd get his career back on track in the NCATS?
The talented Brampton, ON native was tabbed by Jack Roush as a potential part of his Camping World Truck Series team but that didn't pan out and Shepherd is hoping to run a full season in the NCATS. Shepherd was the CASCAR Super Series rookie of the year in 2004 and could be a title contender if he gets the sponsorship he needs to run the full schedule.

4. Does Don Thomson Jr. have another championship in him?
Five years ago Don Thomson Jr. was coming off an tremendous streak of five straight CASCAR Super Series championships and was quickly becoming Canadian stock car racing's biggest star. But he took a step back to help his team focus on Fitzpatrick and Thomson tutored his protégé into a starring role in Canadian's top series. Thomson won at Barrie Speedway last season and fans are anxious to see if the career lap leader can add a NCATS championship trophy to his impressive collection.

5. Who will be a road warrior?
With five of the 13 events on the schedule this year being run on road courses, NCATS drivers are going to have to be just as comfortable turning right as they are left if they want to win the championship. Ranger won three of the four road course events last year while Fitzpatrick took the checkered flag in Montreal. Kennington and Steckly are usually contenders on the street circuits as well while sophomore Anthony Simone recorded runner-up finishes last year at Trois-Rivieres and the Mosport road course.

You can follow the action from the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series here.