DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — And then there were just two – two races left to decide the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 champion.
Second-place J.R. Fitzpatrick drew closer last week with a victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, but as the series heads to Barrie Speedway for Saturday’s Wahta Springs 300, points leader L.P. Dumoulin remains in the proverbial driver’s seat in pursuit of his first championship.
Dumoulin’s remarkable consistency this year has resulted in top-five finishes in eight of nine events. In fact, Dumoulin has been so consistently remarkable that the one race in which he faced adversity, the Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, native still rallied for a sixth-place finish.
The 2014 title will be decided in the season finale at Kawartha Speedway on Sept. 20. It is not mathematically possible for Dumoulin to push his 19-point lead on Fitzpatrick out far enough to officially clinch if they both take the green flag at Barrie, but that doesn’t mean that Saturday’s event won’t play a big factor in deciding the championship.
In three previous starts at the .333-mile Barrie tri-oval, Dumoulin has an average finish of 13th and a best result of 11th while Fitzpatrick has posted top 10s in six of his eight career appearances there. If history holds true, Fitzpatrick has a good opportunity before him this week to tighten the gap even more heading into the finale.
The Race: The Wahta Springs 300 will be the 10th of 11 events on the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule, and the 10th all-time trip to Barrie Speedway.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will have secured starting positions based on two lap time trials and the remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 300 laps (99.99 miles).
The Track: Barrie Speedway opened in 1965 and has had substantial improvements made since 1999. At that time, the track was widened and lengthened from a .25-mile oval to its current unique .333-mile tri-oval configuration. The tri-oval and pit road are situated on the backstretch.
Pole Winners: The nine previous Barrie races have produced seven different pole winners, led by two apiece from Scott Steckly and Don Thomson Jr. Thomson set the series’ track qualifying record on June 28, 2008 at 13.903 seconds (86.226 mph).
Race Winners: There have been six different winners in the first nine Canadian Tire Series events at Barrie, led by D.J. Kennington’s three triumphs. Kennington won the series’ inaugural race at Barrie on July 1, 2007.
Barrie Race Notes:
Six Years, Six Winners: Each NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 race at Barrie Speedway since the fall of 2008 has featured a different winner. D.J. Kennington and Scott Steckly combined to win the first four series events there, but starting with Steckly’s September 2008 triumph, the last six races have seen a different driver take home the checkered flag. Jason Hathaway was last year’s victor.
Costly DNF for Ranger: Prior to last week Andrew Ranger was tied for second in the standings with J.R. Fitzpatrick. Ranger’s fuel pump failure and resulting DNF at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park nearly dealt a death blow to his championship aspirations, however. Despite a solid record of success at Barrie, Ranger’s current 51-point deficit to L.P. Dumoulin will be a challenge to overcome.
Fitzpatrick’s Crew Chief a Barrie Victor: Fitzpatrick has yet to etch his name on the series wins list at Barrie, but his crew chief Don Thomson Jr. has. Thomson took the Canadian Tire Series checkered flag at Barrie in the 2009 race, which coincidentally was the only visit the series has made there that Fitzpatrick didn’t attend. It’s safe to say that, as a driver, Thomson had Barrie figured out. He posted a series record average finish of 2.6 in seven starts at the .333-mile oval.
Home Tracks: Walt Leads Ontario Standings
Barrie Speedway is a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned facility that features three divisions of weekly racing, headlined by the limited late models. Racing was rained out last week, but Gord Shepherd has complied 1,098 track points in limiteds and leads Dwight Brown by 18 tallies with Rick Walt in third. In the NWAAS Ontario province standings, Walt has totaled 413 points to lead the way, 11 ahead of Shepherd.
Last Time Out: CTMP
The ninth race of the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 season was contested on Aug. 31 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Here are some highlights from the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200:
• J.R. Fitzpatrick led a race-high 23 laps en route to his 10th career victory. It extended his record for victories at CTMP to five.
• Jeff Lapcevich tied his career-best finish when he crossed the line second. He’s finished second in three of the last four races at CTMP.
• Marc-Antoine Camirand earned a third-place finish, the best of his young Canadian Tire Series career.
• Andrew Ranger earned a record fifth pole at CTMP, and in the process established a new overall series career mark for poles with 15.
Next Time Out: Kawartha
The 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 season will conclude and a champion will be crowned with the Pinty’s 250 on Sept. 20 at Kawartha Speedway. The .375-mile oval in Fraserville, Ontario, has played host to the series each year since 2007. Scott Steckly won last year’s event from the pole to clinch his third career championship.