Ranger wins battle of young guns

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

BOWMANVILLE -- Give Round 3 in the battle of Canada's best young NASCAR drivers to Andrew Ranger.

Ranger, 22, hung on to win the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Dickies 200 yesterday at Mosport International Raceway, re-igniting a rivalry with 21-year-old J.R. Fitzpatrick, who finished third.

Anthony Simone, 29, finished second in the No. 95 Crown Modular Chevrolet.

The story of the day, however, was Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., in the No. 27 WalMart/Tide Ford and Fitzpatrick of Cambridge in the No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Both smalltown boys -- one English the other French -- and fiercely competitive after, first, Ranger won a side- by-side struggle at the inaugural Mosport NASCAR race and then Fitzpatrick evened the score with a dramatic win at the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Ranger, yesterday, showed how serious he was when -- after starting from the pole -- he was passed by series champion Scott Steckly in the No. 22 Dodge.

Before he reached the start-finish line on the next lap, Ranger got into the back of Steckly's Dodge and pushed him out of the way like an angry thoroughbred swatting away a fly.

"I was p----- that he passed me," Ranger said in the winner's circle. "So I gave him a nudge to let him know I was there."

And when Simone took the lead by taking only two tires on a pit stop, Ranger set his sights on the No. 95 and never let up until he got by him -- erasing an eight-second lead.

"When (his crew chief) told me I was eight seconds behind I just pushed and pushed and pushed," Ranger said. "I knew that he had only two new tires and that eventually my four new tires would give me an advantage and it did."

For Fitzpatrick, he came to Mosport as defending champion of the Dickies 200.

In part because of that win, Fitzpatrick was able to leap-frog into the NASCAR Camping World Truck series this season where he is employed by the powerhouse Kevin Harvick Incorporated team in the No. 4 Chevrolet Silverado.

All of that meant nothing yesterday, however, when NASCAR rules sent him to the back of the 24-car grid at Mosport for missing Saturday's qualifying session.

But by the time the first yellow flag dropped on Lap 5, Fitzpatrick already had moved through more than half the field into 11th place.

By halfway, he had Ranger in his crosshairs.

As the race came down to the final five laps, there was only Simone between him and Ranger.

"I saw that he was in third on the leaderboard," Ranger said.

"So I knew he was coming. But my team told me to take it easy because we had nearly a 10-second lead."

Yesterday's race was held up for about 20 minutes after 18-year-old Joey Hansen wrecked his No. 40 Prime Champ Dodge in Turn 8. The Netherlands native was treated and later released from the Lakeridge Medical Centre after suffering undisclosed upper body injuries.


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