Van Es tunes up for Cayuga after penalty hurts Quebec outing

On Sunday (Aug. 26), Ron Van Es took part in the fourth and final NASCAR Canadian Tire Series road race on the 12-event 2007 schedule. The Stoney Creek driver started 21st in the 28-car field at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières and made considerable progress until an overzealous restart drew the attention of race officials, who tagged the #11 Chevy driver with a drive-through penalty, knocking him to 18th at the finish of the 41-lap race.

Van Es tunes up for Cayuga after penalty hurts Quebec outing. (Photo: Chris Mann)

All in all, Van Es was pleased with his weekend and the progress he and his team have shown in their road course outings this summer. The Quebec’s Trois-Rivières street circuit has unique challenges, but Van Es and company feel they rose to the occasion.

“The car wasn’t handing very well in practice [on Friday] because it wasn’t gripping the road very well,” said Van Es, who competes with associate sponsorship from Marshall Truck & Trailer Repair, Ingersoll Rand and G.P.I.C.S. Truck & Trailer Parts. “We made some changes after our crew chief Alex Nagy settled on a plan, and those changes worked well. After that, it was time for qualifying. The track at Trois-Rivières is extremely tight with walls everywhere. You can try to put down a fast lap, but you can never forget about having to keep it off the walls.”

Kerry Micks continued his dominance of Quebec road course races by winning another NASCAR Canadian Tire Series nail-biter over Quebec racer Andrew Ranger. Micks, from Mt. Albert, ON, edged Ranger at the finish line by 0.012 of a second after re-taking the lead on the last lap in a carbon copy of their recent battle at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Third place in the event went to BC racer Trevor Seibert.

For the first few laps of Sunday’s main event the #11 team had a plan. “Our goal early was just to stay clean. Last year, there was a big wreck at the start of the race and we were really trying to avoid that this time. That worked out, but we started to get a little more aggressive on some of the later restarts.

“Guys were checking up on the way to the green flag and a few times I got a really good run on the inside of a bunch of guys. On one of them, I guess I pushed it a little too much and I passed about four cars before getting to the restart line. We got busted for that by NASCAR and we had to come through for a drive-through penalty.”

And while Van Es agreed that the penalty was likely warranted, the result was that he was facing a big challenge to recover the lost ground. “With road course racing being all about track position, it really knocked us down a bunch of spots. After that, I pushed hard to stay on the lead lap, and we were able to do that until the next caution came out, so we dodged that bullet. But we were still at the end of the line and losing so many spots really hurt. But we were able to come back up to 18th.”

Over the summer, Van Es has developed a degree of confidence in the road course events, which allowed him to push the envelope at Trois-Rivières. “We were really trying hard in this race. We set our goal to get a top 10 finish and I was really getting aggressive on the restarts. But they got me for that. I was trying, anyway. I got away with it a few times, but when I passed four and didn’t give any spots up… I kind of wondered, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to get away with that one.’ And sure enough, half a lap later, Alex [Nagy] came on and told me I’d made up too many spots and was getting a penalty. We were running pretty good lap times at the end, which was important to us. We got three good road course runs under our belts this year, which was good experience for our team.”

Now the Van Es crew will turn their attention to their backyard. While all of the road course races on the 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule are over, four oval track races remain, including the Labour Day event at Cayuga Speedway, a 200-lap test on the 5/8-mile speedway, located south of Hamilton.

In this season’s opener at Cayuga, Van Es started on the outside of the front row thanks to a spectacular qualifying effort, and briefly held the lead after passing eventual race winner and former Hamilton resident Don Thomson Jr.

“We’re hoping for another strong outing at Cayuga, on Labour Day,” said Van Es. “We started on the front row and we were able to drive around Donnie [Thomson] and lead for a few laps. The track conditions will be different at this time of year, but Alex Nagy knows that place like the back of his hand, so I’m sure we can get a good setup there. It’s kind of our ‘home’ racetrack.”

The NASCAR series will conclude on Sept. 23 at Kawartha Speedway.