DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — When the checkered flag falls on the season finale Pinty’s 250 Saturday at Kawartha Speedway, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 will have a first-time titlist as either L.P. Dumoulin or J.R. Fitzpatrick will take home the championship trophy.
Dumoulin enters the season-ending event with a 16-point advantage on Fitzpatrick, 418-402. The Trois-Rivieres native can become only the second driver from Quebec to capture the championship in series history, joining two-time titlist Andrew Ranger.
In the point-per-position scoring format that also includes bonus points for winning the race, leading a lap and leading the most laps, there are a number of combinations that would see Dumoulin crowned the champ. Simply put, however, the championship hardware would head home with Dumoulin’s No. 47 Dodge team with a finish of 11th or better at Kawartha, a .375-mile oval in Fraserville, Ontario.
Dumoulin has posted a pair of wins and a series-high nine top-five finishes through 10 races this year. His only result outside of the top five was a sixth-place run at Nova Scotia’s Riverside International Speedway. Nothing is guaranteed at Kawartha, however, where Dumoulin has posted an average finish of 16th in three previous starts.
A two-time championship runner-up, Fitzpatrick has a tough hill to climb for his first crown. Not only does he have the 16-point deficit to overcome, but he’s not fared much better at Kawartha through the years than Dumoulin, with an average finish of 15th across seven starts. The Ayr, Ontario, native does bring plenty of momentum into the finale, however, with finishes of first and second the last two times out this year.
Dumoulin or Fitzpatrick will become just the fourth different champion since the Canadian Tire Series began competition in 2007. In the seven previous seasons, Scott Steckly has captured the title three times with two apiece from D.J. Kennington and Ranger.
The Race: The Pinty’s 250 will be the 11th and final event on the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule, and the eighth all-time trip to Kawartha Speedway.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 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 250 laps (93.75 miles).
The Track: Kawartha Speedway is part of the Kawartha Downs and Speedway complex in Fraserville, Ontario, east of Toronto near Peterborough. The .375-mile asphalt oval speedway with progressive banking is surrounded by a harness-racing horse track.
Pole Winners: The seven previous Kawartha races have each produced a different pole winner. Mark Dilley set the series’ track qualifying record on Sept. 23, 2007 at 17.704 seconds (76.254 mph).
Race Winners: There have been four different winners in the first seven Canadian Tire Series events at Kawartha, led by D.J. Kennington’s three triumphs.
Kawartha Race Notes:
Kennington Looks to Keep Win Streak Alive: Two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 titlist D.J. Kennington has earned at least one win in six of the seven previous season of series completion, including the last five years in a row, but he has yet to reach Victory Lane in 10 outings this year. Kennington’s last shot at a 2014 win will be this week at Kawartha Speedway, where he has three victories in seven starts.
Top Five Points Streak on the Line for Steckly: Three-time champion Scott Steckly has finished in the top five in the final points standings each year since 2008, but enters the Kawartha finale ranked sixth, a single tally behind Jason Hathaway. Steckly’s only year outside the top five was a 10th-place finish in the 2007 inaugural season.
Kawartha Winner, Series Champion: In each of the two previous seasons, the Pinty’s 250 winner has also earned the season championship. Kennington took home both trophies in 2012 and Steckly matched the feat a year ago. Current season championship contenders L.P. Dumoulin and J.R. Fitzpatrick will vie not only for their first title, but a first win at Kawartha as well.
McColm Positioned for Best Season: Joey McColm has essentially locked-up the best season of his Canadian Tire Series career. Mostly a part-time competitor since 2007, this is just his second full-time campaign. In 2010 McColm posted three top 10s across 13 events and finished 11th in points while this season he’s already recorded a career-best five top 10s and ranks eighth.
Solid Debut Season for Thiering: Rookie Erica Thiering has performed admirably in her first foray in the Canadian Tire Series. In four starts, the Alberta native has posted an average finish of 10.5 and has been the rookie of the race a series-high three times. Thiering ranks second in the rookie standings behind Matthew Scannell, but Saturday’s Pinty’s 250 will be just her fifth start, so she will not meet the required eight starts to be eligible for rookie of the year.
First Oval Race for Camirand, Klutt: They may have a combined 11 Canadian Tire Series appearances between them on road courses, but Saturday’s Pinty’s 250 will be the oval track debuts for Marc-Antoine Camirand and Gary Klutt. Camirand finished third in his most recent series appearance at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in September for his best result in six starts. Klutt’s five previous starts have resulted in a best finish of sixth in that same CTMP race.
Chisholm Looks to Stay Perfect: Donald Chisholm will put his perfect 1-for-1 record this year on the line Saturday at Kawartha. Chisholm took home the checkered flag at his home track, Riverside International Speedway, in his only previous Canadian Tire Series appearance this year. Chisholm has 16 career series starts, 14 of which have come between Riverside and Kawartha. In six previous Kawartha races he has an average finish of 13th.
Last Time Out: Barrie
The 10th race of the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 season was contested on Sept. 6 at Barrie Speedway. Here are some highlights from the Wahta Springs 300:
- Jason Hathaway captured the checkered flag at Barrie for the second year in a row when he won a drag race to the finish line with J.R. Fitzpatrick. It was his fifth career victory.
- Fitzpatrick finished as the runner-up while D.J. Kennington crossed the line in third to tie his season-best finish.
- Fitzpatrick earned his 15th pole prior to the event to move back into a tie with Andrew Ranger for the series’ all-time lead.
- Rookies Eric Thiering and Matthew Scannell, who finished eighth and ninth respectively, registered the best finishes so far in their first year of competition.
Next Time Out: Touring Awards
Following the season finale at Kawartha Speedway, the next engagement on the calendar will be to celebrate all of the NASCAR regional touring series champions at the 2014 NASCAR Touring Awards. The annual postseason event will take place in the Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Dec. 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina.