DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 titlist D.J. Kennington will be focusing solely on checkered flags as the 2014 season hits the homestretch starting with the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
With a deficit of 52 points to championship leader L.P. Dumoulin and just three races remaining, Kennington finds himself in the unfamiliar position of not being in the thick of the title hunt. Although his numbers would normally support a championship bid – average race result of eighth, completed all but one lap, only two finishes outside the top 10 – his 2014 résumé is missing tallies in one important category: wins.
The winningest driver in Canadian Tire Series history with 19 total triumphs, Kennington’s current drought has reached 12 races, the second-longest of his distinguished career.
“We’re getting the car a lot better now, the new car has been a struggle all year for us,” Kennington said. “Whitey (crew chief Dave Wight) and the boys have worked hard on it. It’s gotten a hundred times better than we were at the start.”
With the last three dates on the calendar in his home province of Ontario, and at tracks where he’s found plenty of success in the past, Kennington – from St. Thomas – is focused on closing out the season with some checkered flags in hand.
“We got to try to win some races here,” Kennington said. “L.P. [Dumoulin] has had such a great season that he’s going to have to have a big problem at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for us to get him.”
Kennington won at CTMP in 2011, and has a series-best average finish of 3.7 at the 2.459-mile road course. He finished fifth in the series’ first trip there this year in May. But CTMP is also a strong track for Dumoulin, who won both 2013 races there.
Following the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200, the 2014 season will conclude with events at Barrie Speedway and Kawartha Speedway. Kennington has three wins apiece at the Ontario ovals.
After his first podium of the year last time out at Nova Scotia’s Riverside International Speedway, Kennington felt optimistic about ending the winless drought back in Ontario.
“It’s been a rough year, but hopefully the podium here (at Riverside) will get the ball rolling,” Kennington said. “We’ll head on to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and try to get a good run there. Then we’re going to Barrie and Kawartha, so hopefully the last four races here we can get on a roll.
“It’s one of those deals where you never want to give up, but we’ve just got to go try and win these last three races and see where we shake out.”
The Race: The Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 will be the ninth of 11 events on the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule, and the second of two dates at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 34 cars, including provisionals. The first 29 cars will have secured starting positions through NASCAR road race style group qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 51 laps (125.4 miles, 201.8 kilometers).
The Track: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park opened for auto racing in 1961. The 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course welcomed the Canadian Tire Series for the first time on June 17, 2007 in an event won by Andrew Ranger. This will be the 10th all-time race on the road course. The facility also featured a half-mile oval that held seven series events from 2007-13.
Race Winners: There have been four different winners in eight all-time races at the CTMP road course, led by J.R. Fitzpatrick with four. L.P. Dumoulin is the defending winner of this event.
Pole Winners: There have been four different pole winners at the CTMP road course, led by the four of Andrew Ranger. Fitzpatrick set the series’ track qualifying record at 83.286 seconds (106.289 mph) on May 19, 2013.
CTMP Race Notes:
Back to Ontario to Close Out 2014: The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 opened its 2014 schedule in Ontario on May 18, and will return to the province for the first time since then with this week’s Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In between CTMP dates the series visited Quebec four times and had single dates in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. The scheduled will now run to completion in Ontario with dates at Barrie Speedway (Sept. 6) and Kawartha Speedway (Sept. 20) after CTMP.
Double-Duty for Tagliani, Courtemanche: Alex Tagliani and Ray Courtemanche Jr. will both attempt to make their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debuts this weekend at CTMP in addition to their regular Canadian Tire Series duties. Tagliani will compete for Brad Keselowski Racing while Courtemanche is slated to run for SS Green Light Racing. Tagliani has already made two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts on road courses this year with Penske Racing, where he has turned in finishes of second (Road America) and fifth (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course).
Fitzpatrick Looks to Continue CTMP Success: There have been nine Canadian Tire Series races on CTMP’s road course since the series began competition in 2007, and J.R. Fitzpatrick has won four of them, including the 2014 season-opener in May. His four CTMP wins are tied for the most of any driver at one track in Canadian Tire Series history. In the five races he hasn’t won, Fitzpatrick finished second twice with two additional top-fives. A broken drive shaft in the 2013 opener is his only career finish at the 2.459-mile course outside the top five.
Dumoulin’s Top-Five Streak Ends: Points leader L.P. Dumoulin saw his streak of top-five finishes end last week at Riverside International Speedway when he crossed the finish line sixth. Dumoulin had finished in the top five in each of the season’s first seven events, including five in a row on the podium. Riverside provided the first real adversity of the season for the No. 47 team, which had to change motors following practice and start at the rear of the field, but Dumoulin persevered and preserved the 26-point lead he entered the event with.
… But His CTMP Streak Remains Active: Dumoulin’s debut at CTMP in 2011 resulted in a crash and DNF, but in the four return trips since, he’s posted finishes of fifth, first, first and fourth. His 2013 season sweep at CTMP marked the first time a Canadian Tire Series driver had won back-to-back races at the famed road course.
Buck Makes the Most of Limited Appearances: A part-time competitor since the Canadian Tire Series began in 2007, Robin Buck has made the most of his limited appearances in recent seasons. In his last 14 starts dating to the middle of the 2010 season, Buck has registered seven podium finishes. He finished third in the CTMP opener, his only previous race this year. Although he has two series victories to his credit, Buck has yet to reach the Winner’s Circle at CTMP.
Klutt Family Reunion in Bowmanville: The Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 entry list includes three Klutts among the 33 drivers. Father, Peter Klutt, and sons Gary and Ryan will all attempt to make the starting grid, which would be a family first. Peter and older son Gary have raced four times together, and both of Ryan’s starts have been alongside his father, but all three have not previously taken the green flag together in a Canadian Tire Series race.
Last Time Out: Riverside
The previous event for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 was held on Aug. 16 at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S. Here are some highlights from the Wilson Equipment 300:
• Donald Chisholm put on a show for the hometown fans as he earned his first career win and pole. Chisholm’s family founded and owns the .333-mile racing facility.
• Alex Labbe crossed the line second for his best finish in nine career starts.
• A stretch of nearly 100 green flag laps in the second half of the race resulted in only four cars finishing on the lead lap.
Next Time Out: Barrie
Following the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 will get right back at it next week with the Wahta Springs 300 on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Barrie Speedway. It will mark the series’ 10th all-time event at the .333-mile oval located just northeast of Barrie.
NASCAR IMC – Photo by Getty Images for NASCAR