Ranger living the dream

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

When he was growing up in Roxton Pond, Que., it was the dream of Andrew Ranger to one day race in front of thousands of adoring fans who would be cheering his name at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

For the longest time, he was convinced the only way to live that dream was to make it to Formula One's Canadian Grand Prix.

But in August of last year, shouts of "Ranger! Ranger!" rained down from the packed grandstands on the Ile Notre-Dame track as he raced side by side with Kerry Micks in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series NAPA 100, producing one of the most thrilling finishes in Canadian stock car racing history.

The only thing that spoiled the dream-come-true for Ranger was that Micks beat him to the finish line.

The 21-year-old Ranger will be back this year to try for a victory when the NCATS is in Montreal as part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 weekend on Aug. 1-2.

And when he does go back, it will be as defending series champion.

Ranger has signed a deal to drive the No. 27 Dave Jacombs Racing Ford again this season with the backing of Wal-Mart, Tide and Charmin and is hoping for a repeat of his 2007 championship run.

"We have a brand new Ford Fusion," Ranger said yesterday. "And I have Bill Burns back as crew chief. I am really excited about getting the season started."

Besides a win in Montreal, Ranger also is insistent that his sights are firmly set on getting a victory at he Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton -- a race that he also lost on the final lap in 2007, that time in a duel with J.R. Fitzpatrick.

"I want to win that one for sure," he said. "I made the mistake of using up my tires too early last year. In the final laps, I didn't have anything left for J.R."

It was all part of a steep learning curve for Ranger, who had spent the previous two seasons in the Champ Car World Series and, before that, in the Atlantics series.

This season, he hopes to have a teammate at Jacombs -- namely Alex Tagliani, another Champ Car refugee -- to help get him through his sophomore season.

Known as one of the best technical drivers anywhere, Tagliani comes out of the newly united open-wheel world without a ride after a solid 10-year career.

"It would be so great to have Alex as a teammate, but nothing is for sure right now," Ranger said.

Both Ranger and Tagliani also share a passion for the Children's Miracle Network through their "Victory Lap" program that raises funds for hospitals for sick children across the country.

"Since I have been part of the program, we have raised more than $700,000," Ranger said. "I am aiming to get to the $1-million mark this season."

He and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will get a start on that beginning May 24 at Cayuga Speedway Park.

FINISH LINES

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Sterling Marlin will sub for Dario Franchitti on Saturday night in the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway in the No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge. Franchitti is still recovering for a broken ankle suffered at Talladega during a Nationwide series race ... Formula One's Super Aguri team has been put into a form of receivership after owner Aguri Suzuki announced he had closed the team when he failed to find a buyer for the Honda-powered squad ... It must be May because Al Unser Jr. is again entertaining hopes that he will get another shot at the Indianapolis 500 before old age, or another DUI, render him finished for good ... Newman-Hass-Lanigan Racing engineer David Evans died as a result of a suffering a stroke on Monday after being attacked by a stranger outside a restaurant in Indianapolis. The 63-year-old Evans was a 20-year veteran of CART/Champ Car/IRL wars.


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