[media-credit name=”canadiantiremotorsportspark.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]With a sigh of relief, D.J. Kennington is ready jump into his comfort zone. The 2012 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season started off with a pair of road-course events, but the Clarington 200 at the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park near Bowmanville, Ont., on June 16 opens a three-race stretch of competition on oval tracks – the EMCO 200 on June 23 at Delaware (Ont.) Speedway and the A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300 at Motoplex Speedway and Event Park in Vernon, B.C., on July 14 follow.
“It’s not that I don’t like I don’t like road racing because I do. It’s very challenging, but I’m just more comfortable on ovals,” said the 2010 series champion.
Despite professing not to be a road racer Kennington, out of St. Thomas, Ont., produced a pair of top-five finishes to open the season including a third-place effort to start the year at the Road Course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and a finish in fifth at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que.
“It’s a pretty decent start. I think we had a top-three car at ICAR, but we made a few mistakes,” said the driver of the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors Dodge. “Third in the opener was solid. Anytime you can beat Andrew Ranger (fourth place) on a road course, that’s a good day.”
Sitting third in the championship point standings – seven behind leader J.R. Fitzpatrick – Kennington is ready to turn some laps on oval tracks. Of his 11 series-career wins, 10 have come on ovals, but he has yet to reach Victory Lane on the Speedway at CTMP. His best results at the track were third-place finishes in 2008 and 2009. Last year, he crossed the line in the fifth position.
“It’s a tough track. None of the turns are alike. I’m not sure I’ve ever hit the same mark twice in a row,” he noted. “I think I won a CASCAR race there in 2005, but for one reason or another we haven’t gotten a NASCAR win there.”
Kennington, sort of a Canadian version of Rick Hendrick or Jack Roush, prepares three cars out of his shop as both Noel Dowler and Jason White run Dodges out of the DJK Racing stable. But he doesn’t feel that detracts from his own championship-caliber program.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have three cars to get ready, but sometimes it’s good to turn your attention to something else,” he said. “It’s really a good way for us not to obsess on our own stuff.”
The Clarington 200 winner will set the tone for the seven-race oval-track season perhaps making this race the most important one on the calendar and Kennington, owner of 45 top-five finishes in 65 series starts, almost assuredly will have some say in the matter. EVENT SCHEDULE | ENTRY LIST
Clarington 200 Race Notes
New Date: After four consecutive August races and a May date to open the 2011 season, the Clarington 200 will be run in June for the first time. Traditionally, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series visits the Road Course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in June, but this year the opener was held on the legendary road circuit on May 20.
Dynamic Duo:Scott Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge) and Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Dodge/GC Motorsports Dodge) have combined for four Canadian Tire Series championships and are the only two drivers in the field who have won on the Speedway at CTMP. Don Thomson Jr. is now the crew chief for J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet), and Kerry Micks gives way to Mark Dilley (No. 02 Leland/BDI/PartSource Ford) with whom he is sharing seat time this season.
Curtain Raisers:Dilley and Pete Shepherd III (No. 7 National Exhaust Dodge) are making their 2012 debut in the Clarington 200. Both drivers will compete almost exclusively on the ovals this season. Together, they have combined for five series wins including two last season.
First Timers:Eight drivers – Steve Côté, Ray Courtemanche Jr., Noel Dowler, L.P. Dumoulin, Larry Jackson, Martin Roy, Howie Scannell Jr. and Mike Scholz – are slated to make their first start on the tricky half-mile oval in a Canadian Tire Series car.
Not Alone:While the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will rule the roost on Saturday evening at the Speedway, up the hill on the Road Course the daylight hours will be consumed by the 33rd Annual Vintage Racing Festival. Tickets for the Clarington 200 are still available by phone and through the track’s website atwww.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com.
ICAR Lucas Oil Grand Prix Wrap-UpFamiliar Look: The top-five finishers – L.P. Dumoulin, J.R. Fitzpatrick, D.J. Kennington, Andrew Ranger and Scott Steckly – at Circuit ICAR were the same five drivers as the season opener at the Road Course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park although the order was a little different.
Impressive Start: Alex Labbe (No. 36 VR Victoriaville Dodge) scored a sixth-place finish in his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series debut and joined an elite group – Jason Bowles, Steve Mathews and Chris Raabe – who registered a top-10 finish in a series debut since the beginning of the 2009 season.
Touch ‘Em All: With his victory in the ICAR Lucas Oil Grand Prix at Circuit ICAR Andrew Ranger now has wins at every road course the series has visited in just over five seasons. All told, he has 12 road-course wins and 15 overall as the 25-year-old out of Roxton Pond, Que., leads the all-time victories list.
High-Water Marks: In addition to Labbe, six other drivers at Circuit ICAR established or equaled series-best finishes. The Dumoulin brothers – Jean-Francois and Louis-Philippe – tied their career marks at seventh and fourth, respectively, and Steve Côté equaled his best finish of 11th. Setting new highs were Martin Roy (10th), Larry Jackson (12th) and Ray Courtemanche Jr. (15th).
NEXT TIME OUT: EMCO 200
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series makes annual visit to Delaware (Ont.) Speedway on Saturday, June 23 for the EMCO 200 presented by Niagara Plumbing Supply and McKeough Supply. It will be the fourth time for the series to compete on the half-mile oval in Southern Ontario. D.J. Kennington has a pair of wins at his home track, but last year Don Thomson Jr. prevailed over Scott Steckly and Kennington to take the win.