Andrew Ranger, for all intents and purposes, clinched the 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 championship on Sunday at Riverside International Speedway in style by winning the Komatsu 300. All he has to do is start his No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford in the season finale next week.
With his single-season series record sixth win, Ranger, with a 189-point lead in the standings, is right on the cusp of his second series title in three seasons having won it in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series’ inaugural season of 2007.
Ranger, racing out of Roxton Pond, Que., won for the first time on an oval track on July 18 at SunValley Speedway in Vernon, B.C. He followed that up with another win on an oval at Mosport Speedway in Bowmanville, Ont., on Aug. 8 before taking a third oval-track win in this event. The accomplished road racer also won three times on road courses—Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., Rexall Speedway in Edmonton, Alberta and Circuit de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec—to account for his six victories this season.
Even when not finishing the race in Victory Lane this year, Ranger, 22, was a contender each and every race. He has eight top-five finishes and has yet to finish outside the top 10 in 12 events, so far, this season.
In the race, he drove his Walmart/Tide Ford to the lead for good on Lap 253 as he moved past Jeff Lapcevich, who led the previous 97 laps. From there, Ranger opened a sizeable lead and eventually beat Lapcevich to the line by 9.159 seconds.
The Ranger team came into the event with a conservative game plan, but that proved to be a winning strategy.
“We just wanted to come here and have a good top-10 run. Then, go to Kawartha and finish strong to win the championship, but things worked out for us today,” Ranger said. “The car was extremely tight, so I had to run the high groove. I could not keep it on the bottom.”
The race ended with a long green-flag run, so by not staying on the bottom of the track, Ranger perhaps gained a tire wear advantage.
“I don’t know if that’s what it was or not,” he said. “I just couldn’t keep the car down there.”
Meanwhile, the runner-up finish for Lapcevich was a series-career best.
“This was a great finish for the Tim Hortons Chevrolet. We’ve struggled with some things this year, but I think we’re getting a handle on it now,” said Lapcevich.
He felt that tire wear was the key to Ranger’s win.
“I think since he was running higher on the track, he was able to save his stuff better than we did,” said the resident of Grimsby, Ont. “We changed tires at the same time and he was able to pass me like I was standing still.”
Third place went to Mark Dilley as he notched his third straight top five. Ron Beauchamp Jr. had another strong run and finished fourth followed by local Antigonish driver Donald Chisholm in fifth.
Dilley displayed a strong car from the very beginning of the race. However, a procedural violation produced a one-lap penalty which left him having to play catch up.
“I wish the race were a little bit longer,” said Dilley. “We almost gained two full laps of track position without a caution. We sure could have used one, though. But, to battle back like we did, I’m really proud of my team. We battled back in the race and this season.”
Jason Hathaway, Kerry Micks, Brad Graham, Dave Whitlock and Jason White rounded out the top 10.
The race lead changed seven times among six drivers and was slowed just three times due to caution for a total of 25 laps.
In the point standings, Beauchamp moved ahead of DJ Kennington, who suffered transmission problems in the race, to take the second position and has the only mathematical chance of taking the title by winning the race and leading the most laps to garner 190 points should Ranger not start the race for some unforeseen reason.
Earlier in the day, Kennington won his second pole of the season and the third of his series career.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series wraps up the 2009 season next Saturday evening, Sept. 26, at Kawartha Speedway in the Z-Line Designs 250 presented by the Dodge Dealers of Ontario and Coca-Cola.
NASCAR CANADIAN TIRE SERIES presented by MOBIL 1-Komatsu 300 Unofficial Results
At Riverside International Speedway
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Lap length: 0.333 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (4) Andrew Ranger, Roxton Pond, Que., Ford, 300 laps, 66.110 mph, $7,500.
2. (5) Jeff Lapcevich, Grimsby, Ont., Chevrolet, 300, $6,000.
3. (11) Mark Dilley, Barrie, Ont., Dodge, 300, $7,500.
4. (2) Ron Beauchamp, Jr., Windsor, Ont., Dodge, 300, $5,000.
5. (6) Donald Chisholm, Antigonish, N.S., Chevrolet, 300, $3,500.
6. (14) Jason Hathaway, Appin, Ont., Dodge, 298, $3,600.
7. (8) Kerry Micks, Mt. Albert, Ont., Ford, 298, $3,000.
8. (9) Brad Graham, Glencoe, Ont., Dodge, 298, $2,900.
9. (16) Dave Whitlock, Petrolia, Ont., Dodge, 298, $2,700.
10. (15) Jason White, Sun Peaks, B.C., Chevrolet, 294, $2,500.
11. (13) Kent Nuhn, Williamsford, Ont., Chevrolet, 290, $2,200.
12. (18) Hugo Vannini, Repentigny, Que., Ford, 288, $2,000.
13. (10) Anthony Simone, Holland Landing, Ont., Chevrolet, 275, $1,900.
14. (12) Joey Hanssen, Venray, Holland, Dodge, 251, axle, $1,800.
15. (17) John Gaunt, Barrie, Ont., Dodge, 234, $1,700.
16. (19) Dexter Stacey, Kahnawake, Que., Pontiac, 218, $1,600.
17. (3) Scott Steckly, Milverton, Ont., Dodge, 216, $1,540.
18. (1) DJ Kennington, St. Thomas, Ont., Dodge, 141, transmission, $1,475.
19. (7) Don Thomson, Jr., Hamilton, Ont., Chevrolet, 15, transmission, $1,425.
Time of Race: 1 hour 30 minutes 40 seconds
Margin of Victory: 9.159 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: D.Kennington (80.365 mph, 14.917 seconds)
Caution Flags: 3 for 25 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Kennington 1-31; R. Beauchamp,Jr. 32-96; A. Ranger 97-102; M. Dilley 103-129; S. Steckly 130-154; M. Dilley 155; J. Lapcevich 156-252; A. Ranger 253-300.
Standings: 1. A. Ranger, 2047; 2. R. Beauchamp,Jr., 1858; 3. D. Kennington, 1838; 4. S. Steckly, 1793; 5. K. Micks, 1767; 6. D. Thomson,Jr., 1671; 7. J. Hathaway, 1669; 8. A. Simone, 1654; 9. M. Dilley, 1640; 10. D. Whitlock, 1604.