No place like home for Kennington

JIM CRESSMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:04 PM ET

DELAWARE — D.J. Kennington can’t wait to get back to Delaware Speedway — and given the reaction from most of the 5,000 spectators at the famed oval on Saturday night, neither can they.

That wait won’t be long, either.

Kennington, now with back-to-back victories in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at Delaware, confirmed he’ll return “home” July 7 when NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch competes in the Summer Showdown.

“I love Delaware and even with everything we’ve done down south, I can’t wait to come back again,” the 31-year-old St. Thomas native said after winning the Keystone Light 200 in a green-white-checkered finish.

Kennington won the inaugural NCATS Delaware race a year ago. That went 221 laps as it required three tries at the green-white-checkers.

It was Kennington’s first major win on the half-mile ,where he got his baptism in a late model two days after his 16th birthday. He’d won countless Friday-night features, a track championship, and is even in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but it took 14 years before he finally scored a biggie at Delaware last year.

Kennington not only beat his good friend JR Fitzpatrick to the stripe by just .492 seconds this year, he also beat the rain, which had forced a couple of late-race extended cautions, but let up just long enough for NASCAR to allow the exciting finish.

“For the rain and all the people to stick around, it was awesome,” Kennington said. “I love them here and we’ll see them in July. I’m excited about that. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Let’s hope it’s a really good show for the fans because that’s what it’s all about.”

Joining Busch, the 2009 Nationwide champion, for the 35-lap feature will be David Reutimann and Regan Smith.

“It’s going to be Friday night racing on a Wednesday night,” said Kennington, who’s faced Busch in 30 Nationwide races.

Last year, Fitzpatrick, 22, spotted for Kennington. Saturday, Kennington and Fitzpatrick were 1-2 in qualifying and were lined up beside each other.

“I treat the kid like family,” Kennington said during the pre-race autograph session. Then, raising his voice to make sure Fitzpatrick heard him, Kennington said: “Now you just get in behind me and learn, son.”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t playing follow-the-leader at the finish.

“I didn’t follow him, did I? We were banging doors together and it was a hell of a show,” said Fitzpatrick, also in the Nationwide. “I really enjoyed this and I’m really glad to be back. I’ve been here in anything and everything. I’ve got a lot of laps here. Honestly, I hope the people enjoyed the show because I enjoyed it from the driver’s seat.”

Adding to the irony was that last year Kennington was involved in a late-race incident with Don Thomson Jr. of Hamilton, who has raced for Fitzpatrick’s father for years and even mentored a young JR.

“That was the most awkward thing ever,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was thinking about all that tonight and how weird all that was.”

Delaware veteran Ron Sheridan of Mt. Brydges was headed for a third-place finish until being spun in Turn 2 on the last lap.

“Half a lap short,” said Sheridan, who’d led the race from lap 155 to 158. “I was going under the 84 (Fitzpatrick) as he was going to the high side to try for the lead and he started coming down. I was giving him room and someone just nailed me from behind.

“Too bad, we had a second-place or at least a third-place car going for sure. But I had a blast racing with all the top guys and I think they know we were here.”

jim.cressman@sunmedia.ca


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