Late charge carries Fitzpatrick to checkered flag

J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Chevrolet) used his one and only chance to get to Victory Lane for the first time since Edmonton last July. The chance came on the final lap of the Dickies 200 at Mosport International Raceway when he had to work past two cars on a wet race track. On that final lap, the Cambridge driver overtook D.J. Kennington (No. 17 Castrol/NPP Dodge) and teammate, former Hamilton resident, Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet).

Fitzpatrick had contact late in the race with Alex Tagliani (No. 7 Wal-Mart/Ubisoft Ford), as well as, having some problems with the jack while switching to rain tires. “I was a little upset about some of the stuff that happened out there, but I just kept my focus,” he said. “That was the key, really. I get upset sometimes, but I’m trying to not let those things get in the way as much.”

Rain began to fall on the track during lap 41. Once the skies began to darken, Thomson and Kent Nuhn (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) were the first two competitors to make the move to the grooved rain tires. Race leader Peter Gibbons (No. 1 Canadian Tire/Mobil Super Ford) remained on the track on race slicks even after the track was entirely wet. Thomson closed to within a few car lengths of Gibbons on lap 47. The caution flag waved on lap 48 after a spin by Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1 Dodge) giving every driver the opportunity to change over to rain tires. However, Gibbons decided to roll the dice and not forfeit the track position.

Once racing resumed on lap 51 for a green-white-checkered finish, Thomson was easily able to work past Gibbons, who was a sitting duck on slick tires. Thomson’s gamble to change tires early on almost resulted in a win, but Fitzpatrick had other ideas.

“I thought (changing tires) was going to pay off, but (Fitzpatrick) drove the wheels off that thing considering the conditions,” said Thomson.

Kennington had to start at the tail of the field after assuming the reigns from Kenny Forth, who qualified his car on Saturday. Kennington was at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event. He made the nine-hour drive north arriving at the track early Sunday morning. It took Kennington just eight laps to get just outside the top 10.

“This was a brand new racecar, so we weren’t totally sure what we were going to get, but it did great,” said Kennington. “I’m pretty tired, but happy with the results.”

Kerry Micks (No. 02 Beyond Digital Imaging Ford) beat polesitter Scott Steckly (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge) around the 2.459-mile road course to lead the first lap. Micks led the first six laps before succumbing to Peter Gibbons (No. 1 Canadian Tire/Mobil Super Ford), who paced the field until lap 22 when he made a scheduled green flag pit stop.

Once the field cycled through green flag stops, Gibbons, once again, assumed the lead on lap 30 with Steckly on his rear deck lid. However, the caution flag waved on lap 35 due to fluid on the track in Turn 1 and erased a large lead by Gibbons.

The veteran Gibbons has yet to win a Canadian Tire Series race despite having the dominant car on more than a few occasions. Whether it was a mechanical problem or contact with another car, something always happened to squelch his hopes and today was no exception. Gibbons led 38 of the 53 laps and seemed to have an answer for every challenge except the rain.

The Canadian Tire Series is back on the track on June 28 at Barrie Speedway for the A&W 300.

Halton Hills’ Peter Klutt finished eighth after starting No.22 and Brantford’s Doug Brown came home 10th after starting in 17th place. Finishing 12th, from 16th was Grimsby’s Jeff Lapcevich, while Grimsby’s Jim Lapcevich was 20th, falling back from his No. 11 pole position Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert, dropped to 21st place from his No. 2 start spot.