Steckly not quite a lock

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

The Ontario Dodge Dealers 200 on Saturday at Kawartha Speedway marks the end of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season with the championship still on the line.

But just by a thread.

Scott Steckly, in the No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge, sits atop of the standings with a 67-point cushion over six-time national champion Don Thomson Jr. in the No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet.

Defending NACTS champion Andrew Ranger is 100 points back.

Steckly is having something of a dream season with four wins and four second-place finishes -- the best record in the series history going into the final race Saturday.

All it would take, however, is a 13th or worse finish on the No. 22 team's part, combined with a win by Thomson, to wash all that away at Kawartha's banked oval.

"We haven't done anything stupid -- well, I haven't done anything stupid like run into something and punch a hole in the radiator or tear the nose off so far this season," Steckly said. "We've had a good car all year and we've been fairly lucky in some respects."

Thomson feels that his experience under the pressure of a championship run will help him in the deciding race. After all, he didn't win six titles by not knowing what to do when money was on the line.

"Scott has been so good all year, all I can ask for is to have a shot," Thomson said.

The NASCAR folks in Daytona have to be feeling pretty good about the series -- in just its second season -- that has provided the best auto racing in the country this season.

Races in Edmonton, Vernon, B.C., Montreal and Nova Scotia have had finishes that other series can only wish for.

Ranger's victory at the NAPA 100 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the run to the checkers by Alex Tagliani at the Rexall Edmonton Indy were just two of the superb races in the series this season.

Now it all comes down to one race on Saturday.

"This is why we all work so hard all year," Steckly said. "To have a chance to win the championship and be the best in a given year."

GIBBONS TO RETIRE

The question of the week is who will inherit the rich Canadian Tire sponsorship from Peter Gibbons in 2009.

Gibbons announced after last week's NACTS race at Riverside Speedway that he was stepping out of the No. 1 Canadian Tire Chevrolet after Saturday's race.

The 46-year-old native of Stouffville, Ont., has chalked up more than 30 wins during his career and has gained international recognition as an engine builder.

"We had some discussions with Canadian Tire about 2009, but I just feel this is the right time for me to get out of the car," Gibbons said.

It isn't known yet if Gibbons will keep the team together for another driver or just stick to his engine business in Charlotte, N.C.

SPRINT CROWN ON LINE

It will be an east-west, north-south battle for the Canadian Sprint Car National championship starting tomorrow night at Ohsweken Speedway near Brantford, Ont.

Gord Kynoch of Spruce Grove, Alta., and Dale Blaney of Hartford, Ohio, will go head to head at the little dirt track over two days -- tomorrow and Sunday.

Kynoch locked up the 2008 Alberta Sprint Tour championship with a fourth-place finish last weekend at Edmonton's Castrol Raceway.

He becomes the first Albertan to advance to the national Sprint championship.

Blaney is the brother of NASCAR Sprint Cup series star Dave Blaney, who in his own Sprint Car days was known as the "Buckeye Bullet" for his efforts on dirt tracks throughout Ohio. Tickets are available at the gate.


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