Kennington takes Keystone Light 200

JIM CRESSMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:39 AM ET

DELAWARE -- D.J. Kennington is making up for lost time.

The 31-year-old St. Thomas driver had gone 14 years without a major win at his home track.

Now he has back-to-back victories in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at Delaware Speedway.

Kennington, who had started on the pole, held off a charge from JR Fitzpatrick of Ayr, who ironically had spotted for Kennington in last year's NCATS race at Delaware, to win the Keystone Light 200 Saturday night before 5,000 spectators.

Ron Sheridan of Mt. Brydges was running third until an accident on the final lap.

The beneficiary was Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby, who finished third.

Kennington won the inaugural NASCAR Delaware 200 last June for his first touring series win at the track where he made his late model debut just two days after his 16th birthday.

He'd won many Friday night features but had always been denied a trip to victory lane in the CASCAR Super Series, which was bought by NASCAR in 2007 and renamed.

That frustration ended with last year's win as the race was extended to 121 laps and finally ended on the third try at a green-white-checkered.

Saturday, he backed up that victory.

"This is just awesome for the guys and the work they had to do changing an engine just before qualifying," he said.

Kennington had led until pitting just before the mid-point of the race, then showing great patience had worked his way back to the front with 20 laps left.

In an ironic twist of fate, Fitzpatrick had started on the outside of row one after qualifying second fastest.

"Imagine that, eh?" said Fitzpatrick, 22, who has some NASCAR Camping World Truck experience.

It got really interesting last year on the first two tries at a green-white-checkered finish, Don Thomson Jr. of Hamilton, who has raced for Fitzpatrick's father for years and mentored a young JR, lined up beside Kennington.

Kennington spun Thomson on the second restart, which led to some post-race hard feelings.

"That was the most awkward thing ever," Fitzpatrick said of spotting for Kennington and having to work through that late-race confrontation.

Kennington enjoyed a bit of pre-race joking with Fitzpatrick Saturday during the on-track autograph session.

"I love having him beside me (for the start). He's a good friend of mine," Kennington said. "Now, you just get in behind me and learn, son."

It was the season-opener for the 13-race series that replaced the CASCAR Super Series in 2007 after NASCAR purchased CASCAR.

The Keystone Light 200 will air on TSN on June 12 at 2 p.m.

The NCATS didn’t make its first appearance at Delaware until last season after the track re-affiliated with NASCAR and its weekly Whelen All-American Series. Last year’s race drew 6,000 spectators.

The next stop for the series is June 13 at Mosport International Raceway.

The drivers won’t have to contend with two-time NCATS champion Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., at least not for nine of the 13 races. He’s in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series after catching a ride in a car sponsored by Waste Management Recycling.

That series competes at such prestigious tracks as Martinsville, Dover, New Hamphsire, Lime Rock and Infineon.

Rangers does plan to compete in the NCATS races at St. Eustache, Toronto, Trois-Rivieres and Montreal, where he will also be in the NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 against the likes of Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose.

Ranger won the Canadian Tire championship in 2007 and 2009, with Kennington second in points both years. Scott Steckley of Milverton was the 2008 champion.

Ranger holds the NCATS record for career race wins with nine.

This is the first time in his career that he’s been a full-time hired professional driver paid to race for a top competitive team. It’s also an excellent opportunity for the development of his career as he hopes to be in Sprint Cup at some point.

Sprint Cup teams heavily scout the Pro East Series.

“If Andrew actually is not going to be able to defend, then it’s going to be a free for all,” Kennington said of the battle for the 2010 championship.

There will be another major NASCAR presence at Delaware on July 7, when the much-anticipated Summer Showdown features Kyle Busch, David Reutimann and Regan Smith against Delaware’s late model drivers.

Busch, who is on the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway, has already been to victory lane twice this season (the Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond, Va., on May 1 and the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover, Del., on May 16).

Busch is currently second in the Sprint Cup points chase, 29 behind Kevin Harvick. Busch is also in the hunt for the Nationwide championship.

jim.cressman@sunmedia.ca


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