Stoney Creek’s Ron Van Es finished the 2006 racing season with the feeling that a piece was missing from the puzzle. He thinks, now, that the sometimes elusive final component of the equation is in place and is ready to step into contention on a consistent basis.
After a complete evaluation of everything from driving style to singular components, the 28-year-old Van Es and his team concluded that their overall motor program was one of the main sources of concern. So, they made the difficult decision to change engine builders for the 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
“A lot went into our decision,” Van Es said. “We had to determine what we could pinpoint as the problem, or problems. Kind of a recurring theme was engine failures, so we made up our minds to go with Peter Gibbons as our engine builder.”
Gibbons is also a current competitor in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series as well as a two-time champion of the former CASCAR Super Series. More importantly, however, he operates his motor shop from Mooresville, N.C., an area where many NASCAR teams are based and the heart of where most of the engine research and development is done.
“Peter has been awesome to work with,” said Van Es. “He is more than willing to spend time with us, even at the track, and provide advice and input.”
Even though Van Es’ No. 11 Star Van Systems/Ingersoll Rand Chevrolet finished 20th after being caught up in an accident, the season-opener at Cayuga Speedway Park was a solid debut with the Gibbons-built motor. He posted the second-fastest time in practice and qualified third for the race. His starting position on the inside of the second row was new territory for the Van Es race team, but after the solid effort in practice they felt confident there.
“We know that we are good enough to run with the leaders. We just had to go out and prove it,” he said.
Which they did. For the first half of the race, Van Es firmly held his ground in the top five. At one point, he made a move on the eventual race winner, Hamilton native Don Thomson Jr., and made the pass for the lead. Unfortunately for Van Es, the caution flag quickly followed, setting up another new experience: a restart as the leader.
“I had never before restarted a race (at this level of competition) in the lead, but I had just passed Thomson, the guy who ended up winning the race, for the lead, so it was time to give it a go. I was a little tentative on how to handle it, and Thomson pulled a veteran move and taught me a lesson,” Van Es said.
The remainder of the race was entirely forgettable for the Van Es team. On lap 98, Kerry Micks and Mark Dilley became entangled in turn two. Van Es dove down to the infield grass to miss the trouble, but could not avoid Micks’ machine as it slid down the track and onto the grass. The damage sustained to the front of Van Es’ car ended all hope for contention. He eventually retired the car with suspension problems.
The disappointing end did not dampen the enthusiasm of Van Es or his team.
“We feel that we have a program that can compete each every time. Sure, the finish didn’t work out the way we would have liked, but it was not of our own making,” said Van Es. “The look on my guy’s faces was very gratifying. They put a lot of work into this car, and now with that performance our morale is at an all-time high.”
A different kind of beast awaits Van Es, one that he admittedly termed as a downfall in the past. The next event for the Canadian Tire Series, The Dickies 200 presented by Canadian Shield Anticrime, will be held on the 2.5-mile, 10-turn road course at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, on Toronto’s eastern outskirts.
“The road course races had been the places where we suffered the most motor problems, so maybe this will be a more accurate test of where our new engine program is,” said Van Es.
“I really like the track, though. It has changes in elevation and challenging turns. It is really a fun place to compete. Like all road course tracks, Mosport demands a good handling car. Alex Nagy, my crew chief, has always given me a great handling car and now that we have seemingly solved our motor problems, I am very excited and looking forward to the event.”
Ticket information for the Dickies 200 can be obtained by calling Mosport International Raceway at (905) 983-9141 or by logging onto www.mosport.com.
What: Dickies 200 presented by Canadian Shield (Race No. 2 of 12 in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series).
Where: Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, Ont.
When: 2:15 p.m. ET (approx.), Sunday, June 17, 2007.
Track layout: 2.5-mile road course.
Race length: 50 laps/125 miles.
Posted awards: $67,524 CAD.
TV: TSN (Sun., June 24, Noon ET).
Top 10 in Points: 1. Don Thomson, Jr., 190; 2. Mark Dilley, 175; 3. Peter Gibbons, 165; 4. Andrew Ranger, 160; 5. Derek Lynch, 155; 6. Jason Hathaway, 151; 7. John Gaunt, 150; 8. Joey McColm, 142; 9. Kerry Micks, 139; 10. Kent Nuhn, 138.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 6/16 – 6:30 a.m. Registration Opens; 10:05-10:35 a.m. Practice; 11:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Practice; 4:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying. Sun., 6/17 – 10:00 a.m. Registration opens; 2:15 p.m. Dickies 200 presented by Canadian Shield.