D.J. Kennington kicked off his chase for his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 championship with a victory in the season-opener Saturday. Kennington out-dueled JR Fitzpatrick over the closing laps to claim the Keystone Light 200 presented by Fleetwood Country Cruize-in at Delaware Speedway.
It was Kennington's second win at the half-mile oval located just west of London, Ont. He won the inaugural event at his home track last season. And it marked the fifth career win for the 32-year-old from St. Thomas, Ont., who has finished second in the series points in two of the last three years.
Contributing to those runner-up finishes in the point standings has been untimely equipment failures. The new season almost got started with another one. After just eight laps into practice the hood was up on Kennington’s Castrol Edge Dodge with his crew diagnosing some sort of engine problem. While they did not get the car back out for practice, the issue was remedied in time for qualifying in which he promptly went out and collected his fourth series-career pole.
“This is a great way to start the season. I thought we were going to get bitten by bad luck again, but my crew did a fantastic job of finding and fixing the problem,” said Kennington. “It’s just awesome to win one of these races because there are so many people out here that can win these things.”
Kennington led most of the early going before pit stops. He retook the lead with a move past leaders Ron Sheridan and Mark Dilley for good on Lap 160. On the night, Kennington led the race four times for a race-high 130 laps.
A late-race caution set up a dash to the checkers between good friends—Kennington and Fitzpatrick—as heavy rain was approaching. There were a few sprinkles throughout the final 70 or so laps of the race.
“If anyone was listening to our radio, they heard us going back and forth on wanting the rain to come and having it stay away,” he said. “In the end, though, it was great to race hard with (Fitzpatrick). He and I are good friends. We had a blast out there.”
Fitzpatrick, out of Cambridge, Ont., had to settle for second in his Schick Hydro Chevrolet, but he was pleased with the results after getting tangled with Kerry Micks in the very early going.
“We had that deal early with Micks that really could have ruined things, but we got lucky and were able to battle back,” said Fitzpatrick. “It came down to two friends racing for the win.”
Fitzpatrick is back to running a full schedule in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series after making just a handful of starts a year ago while juggling starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He is slated to make some NASCAR Nationwide Series starts this season, but the dates work out better than they did in 2009.
“We’re back to win the championship and this was a solid way to start,” he said.
Jeff Lapcevich navigated his way to a third-place finish in the Tim Hortons Chevrolet after closing out the 2009 season in strong fashion.
“Our team is really dedicated to getting this thing right. We ended last season running great and spent a ton of time over the winter making things better,” said Lapcevich. “We had a good car all day but it got a little crazy out there at the end and I wasn’t sure where we going to land. We’ll take third and move on to the road course at Mosport where we’ve had success in the past.”
Finishing fourth and fifth—John Gaunt and Pete Shepherd III, respectively—was a pair of drivers with all new situations in 2010. Gaunt has teamed with his brother, Marty, to form a new team to bring their Triad Racing Technologies Dodge to the track. Shepherd, meanwhile, spent the 2009 season away from the series after making four starts in 2008 for Jacombs Racing alongside two-time series champion Andrew Ranger. Now a family-run outfit fields the National Exhaust Dodge.
Pierre Bourque, Derek White, Ron Beauchamp Jr., Kerry Micks and Jason Hathaway rounded out the top 10.
The lead changed hands 16 times involving eight drivers and the race was slowed 13 times for caution covering 101 laps.
NASCAR and track officials moved the start of the race up 30 minutes from its scheduled 8:30 p.m. ET start in an effort to avoid some approaching bad weather. After a few sprinkles during driver introductions, the weather only caused a few short delays as it held off, for the most part, until the completion of the race.
The Keystone Light 200 will air on TSN on Saturday, June 12 at 2 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 is right back on the track next weekend at Mosport International Raceway—the first of five road-course races on the 2010 schedule—with practice and qualifying on Saturday, June 12 and the running of the Vortex Brake Pads 200 on Sunday, June 13.
NASCAR CANADIAN TIRE SERIES presented by MOBIL 1-Keystone Light 200 presented by Fleetwood Country Cruize-in UNOFFICIAL Results
At Delaware Speedway
Lap length: 0.5 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) DJ Kennington, St. Thomas, Ont., Dodge, 201 laps, 52.005 mph, $10,100.
2. (2) JR Fitzpatrick, Cambridge, Ont., Chevrolet, 201, $7,500.
3. (12) Jeff Lapcevich, Grimsby, Ont., Chevrolet, 201, $5,000.
4. (14) John Gaunt, Barrie, Ont., Dodge, 201, $7,300.
5. (4) Pete Shepherd, III, Brampton, Ont., Dodge, 201, $4,500.
6. (23) Pierre Bourque, Ottawa, Ont., Dodge, 201, $4,350.
7. (17) Derek White, Kahnawake, Que., Chevrolet, 201, $3,500.
8. (5) Ron Beauchamp, Jr., Windsor, Ont., Dodge, 201, $2,900.
9. (3) Kerry Micks, Mt. Albert, Ont., Ford, 201, $2,300.
10. (8) Jason Hathaway, Appin, Ont., Dodge, 201, $2,250.
11. (7) Ron Sheridan, Mt. Brydges, Ont., Ford, 201, $2,000.
12. (9) Mark Dilley, Barrie, Ont., Dodge, 201, $1,800
13. (13) Joey McColm, Ajax, Ont., Dodge, 200, $1,700.
14. (21) Brennan Didero, Ancaster, Ont., Chevrolet, 200, $1,650.
15. (19) Jason White, Sun Peaks, B.C., Chevrolet, 199, $1,600.
16. (11) Scott Steckly, Milverton, Ont., Dodge, 199, $1,500.
17. (16) Donald Chisholm, Antigonish, N.S., Ford, 197, $1,450.
18. (22) Dexter Stacey, Kahnawake, Que., Dodge, 196, $1,400.
19. (10) Steven Mathews, New Liskeard, Ont., Ford, 195, $1,350.
20. (15) Anthony Simone, Holland Landing, Ont., Chevrolet, 194, $1,325.
21. (6) Don Thomson, Jr., Hamilton, Ont., Chevrolet, 178, $1,250.
22. (18) Shawn McGlynn, Kitchener, Ont., Dodge, 102, $1,225.
23. (20) Trevor Monaghan, Hamilton, Ont., Chevrolet, 47, $1,200.
Time of Race: 1 hour 55 minutes 57 seconds
Margin of Victory: .492 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: D.Kennington (93.652 mph, 19.22 seconds)
Caution Flags: 13 for 101 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Kennington 1-6; K. Micks 7; D. Kennington 8-75; S. Mathews 76; D. Kennington 77-90; J. Fitzpatrick 91; P. Shepherd,III 92-93; J. Fitzpatrick 94-107; P. Shepherd,III 108-114; J. Lapcevich 115; P. Shepherd,III 116-127; J. Lapcevich 128-129; P. Shepherd,III 130; M. Dilley 131-154; R. Sheridan 155-158; M. Dilley 159; D. Kennington 160-201.
Standings: 1. D. Kennington, 190; 2. J. Fitzpatrick, 175; 3. J. Lapcevich, 170; 4. J. Gaunt, 160; 5. P. Shepherd,III, 160; 6. P. Bourque, 150; 7. D. White, 146; 8. K. Micks,143; 9. R. Beauchamp,Jr., 142; 10. R. Sheridan, 135