It was short-track racing at its best as D.J. Kennington gutted out a grueling 300 laps Sunday (July 1) on the 1/3-mile tri-oval at Barrie Speedway in a race that featured 13 lead changes among six drivers. Most of those lead changes involved Kennington and eventual third-place finisher and former Hamilton resident Don Thomson Jr.
For much of the race, the outside was the place to be on the two-groove track. Therefore, virtually every restart produced a new leader with the second ace car having the preferred line. NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, presented by Sirius Satellite Radio, rules mandate double-file restarts with lead lap cars at the front of the field like the initial start of the race.
“The double-file restarts are taking some getting used to,” said Kennington. “You’re not racing one or two cars; you’re racing four or five or six.”
Second-place finisher Mark Dilley of Barrie echoed Kennington’s comments on the double-file restarts.
“Those things are crazy. It makes it pretty hectic out there.”
The race was slowed 16 times for caution, but that did not disappoint the capacity crowd since the result was another exciting restart. Factor that in with the small size of the track leading to lapped traffic in fairly short order and it was a fan-friendly race. There was racing all around the track with every driver fighting for the last inch.
Kennington, racing out of St. Thomas, Ont., battled Thomson for more than 80 laps for the race lead over the final half of the event. The two were either door-to-door or nose-to-tail and exchanged the lead six times over the span. It was not until the final two restarts of the night that the leader, having the inside position, was able to fend off the second-place car on the outside. Kennington was able to get the nose of the No. 17 Castrol Dodge into turns one and two before Thomson in his No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet could sweep in from the outside and gain the advantage.
Thomson, now living in Ayr, Ont., ultimately surrendered the second spot very late in the race to pole sitter Dilley, who trailed Kennington to the finish line by 1.126 seconds. It was Dilley’s third top-10 finish of the season in his No. 9 Dodge-sponsored Avenger.
“That was some of the most fun racing I have ever done in my life,” said Kennington of his long battle with Thomson. “(Thomson) is such a great racer. It was an awesome time.”
Finishing fourth was Mount Albert’s Kerry Mix in the No. 02 Beyond Digital Imaging Ford Taurus with Quebec’s Andrew Ranger sixth. Both Mix and Ranger overcame poor qualifying performances to notch a top-five finish after starting the race in 17th and 16th positions, respectively.
It was the first visit to the bullring of a track for Ranger, a former competitor in the CHAMP Car Series. He also came into the race as the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship points leader. It was certainly a different style of racing than what he was used to and, possibly as a result, he got lapped early in the event. However, he did earn his way back on to the lead lap as the beneficiary on the lap 130 restart. The beneficiary car gets to earn back a lap by being the first car a lap or more down at the time of a caution period. Ranger took full advantage of that opportunity and drove his No. 27 Wal-Mart/Tide Ford Fusion to the front of the pack from there for the top-five finish.
Ron Beauchamp Jr., John Gaunt, Joey McColm, Caistor Centre’s Jim Lapcevich, and Derek Lynch rounded out the top 10.
The already tight championship point standings got even closer. Now, Ranger shares the lead with Dilley with Peter Gibbons, Beauchamp and Thomson all lurking less than 50 points away. Kennington has overcome a last-place finish in the season opener due to a mechanical problem and now sits in sixth position just 56 points off the pace set by Ranger and Dilley.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio heads west for its next event, the British Columbia Dodge Dealers Avenger 300, on July 14-15 at Sun Valley Speedway in Vernon, B.C. That race will be followed up the very next week with a road course event as part of the big Grand Prix Edmonton weekend in Alberta.