Thomson’s charge falls short in NASCAR title finale

Scott Steckly wrapped up his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship Saturday night (Sept.27) holding off a late-season challenge from former Hamilton resident Don Thomson Jr.

Steckly finished 17th in the Dodge Dealers of Ontario 250 at Kawartha Speedway (with Thomson fifth), to earn his first NASCAR championship by 24 points. Jason Hathaway picked up his first career victory in a race that was called after 174 of the scheduled 250 laps because of rain.

Steckly won three of the first four races of the season and held the points lead for the entire schedule. The 36-year-old from Milverton, Ont., finished with four wins, nine top fives and nine top 10s in 12 races. He is the second champion in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series history. Andrew Ranger won the inaugural run in 2007.

Thomson had been able to close the gap late in the season with a win, a third, and a seventh-place finish in the three races heading into the finale. In that span, Steckly – who hadn’t finished worse than fourth in the first seven events – sandwiched his fourth win of the year with finishes of 13th and 18th. Steckly brought a 67-point lead to Kawartha.

Thomson won his seventh pole position of the season and led the first 42 laps before pitting. Steckly assumed the lead – picking up the five valuable bonus points – and stayed out front for 18 laps. D.J. Kennington took the lead for 43 laps before trading the lead with Steckly over two laps. Hathaway moved to the front on lap 107 and led the rest of the way. A steady rain brought out the red flag on lap 173.
Nik Lapcevich of Hamilton finished 18th while Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby placed 20th.

As the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion, Steckly earned a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The Showdown will be Jan. 23-24, 2009 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). Last year, Ranger represented the series in the prestigious postseason event.