DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — The hottest oval driver competing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 right now faces a big opportunity with two such races in a six-day span starting with Friday’s Alberta Has Energy 300 at Edmonton International Raceway.
Jason Hathaway has won three of the last four oval races the series has contested dating back to the end of the 2013 campaign, including the first circle track event of the current season at Autodrome Chaudiere on June 15.
Although he won’t yet rank himself alongside the D.J. Kenningtons and Scott Stecklys of the world – who have combined for 31 circle track victories – Hathaway is confident that his No. 3 Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet is as formidable as any other on the ovals.
“I don’t know about elite, but I would classify us one of the teams that can win at every oval we go to,” Hathaway said. “This series is so competitive with Kennington, Steckly, J.R. [Fitzpatrick] – and to have Andrew [Ranger] back this year – it’s such a competitive series.
Although he won a race in 2008 and recorded a career-high for top 10s in 2010, Hathaway has emerged as a legitimate championship contender in the last two seasons with the ability to consistently contend for wins on the ovals. He and Ed Hakonson Racing finished third in points in 2013.
“We put a lot of emphasis into our oval program, and it’s kind of my background and what I grew up doing,” Hathaway said. “I would say there’s been some luck involved, and things have to go your way week-in and week-out, but we’ve had really good luck on the ovals and we definitely want to keep that streak going.”
The upcoming western swing, starting with Edmonton and continuing on to Auto Clearing Motor Speedway on July 16, provides the Dutton, Ontario, native with a big opportunity to build a championship campaign. He ranks fourth after three events.
“With only 11 races, there’s not much room for error, so the ovals are definitely where I want to pick up as many points as I can,” Hathaway said.
But first things first, Hathaway must learn a new track. Friday’s Alberta Has Energy 300 will be the inaugural trip for the Canadian Tire Series to the quarter-mile oval. Much like he and a number of drivers did before the first series trip to Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere, Hathaway has done as much research as he can on YouTube watching past feature races there.
In addition to it being the first time Hathaway and many of his fellow competitors will see Edmonton, the quarter-mile was very recently repaved and raced on for the first time this past weekend.
Hathaway recalls racing on a new surface shortly after Ontario’s Barrie Speedway was repaved in the early 2000s, but said this will be a new experience.
“Never [raced] on anything this green before,” Hathaway said. “It’ll only be two-week-old pavement by the time we get there. It’s either going to have a lot of grip, or won’t have any at all, but we’ll see when we get there.”
The Race: The Budweiser 300 will be the inaugural event for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 at Edmonton International Raceway and the fourth of 11 events on the 2014 season schedule.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will have secured starting positions through two-lap time trials while the remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 300 laps (75 miles) and will have a 10-minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 150.
The Track: Edmonton will become the 17th different track overall, and the 11th oval, to play host to a Canadian Tire Series event since the series’ inaugural 2007 season. The track was first paved in 1994 and received a new coat of asphalt and other improvements just prior to this race. Edmonton, under the ownership of Ron and Loretta Thiering for nearly 20 years, has been a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series member track since 2005.
Edmonton Race Notes:
Second of Two New Oval Events: The 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule includes two facilities new to the series. Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere played host to the series for the first time on June 15 and now Edmonton will become the 11th different oval the series has visited since 2007.
Home Track Advantage for Thiering: Erica Thiering is set to make just her second Canadian Tire Series start this week, but it will come on the familiar grounds of her family’s track. Thiering is a five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion at Edmonton, and one of the very few drivers entered for the Alberta Has Energy 300 that has ever raced the track before. Thiering made her series debut at Autodrome Chaudiere and finished 13th.
Tight at the Top: Three races into the season and the championship chase is already heating up. J.R. Fitzpatrick, a winner in the season-opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, brings a slim two-point lead atop the standings on L.P. Dumoulin to Edmonton while two-time titlist D.J. Kennington is 14 points back in third. The season’s other two race winners, Jason Hathaway (Chaudiere) and Andrew Ranger (Circuit ICAR), as well as reigning champion Scott Steckly are all within 26 points of Fitzpatrick.
Last Time Out: Mirabel
The third race of the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 was contested on July 6 at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Quebec. Here are some highlights from the Jiffy Lube 100 presented by La Petite Bretonne:
• Andrew Ranger made it three-in-a-row at Circuit ICAR with another impressive performance that resulted in a trip to Victory Lane. It was his 18th career victory overall, 15 of which have come on road courses.
• Alex Guenette led a career-high 14 laps and tied his personal best with a runner-up finish.
• L.P. Dumoulin crossed the line third for his third top-five in a row to start the season.
• Ranger captured his 14th career pole Saturday prior to the race, which tied J.R. Fitzpatrick for the most poles in series history.
Next Time Out: Saskatoon
Following the Alberta Has Energy 300, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 will continue its western swing with the Velocity Prairie Thunder 250 on July 16 at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It will mark the sixth season in a row the Canadian Tire Series has visited the third-mile oval. Scott Steckly is the defending winner of the race.