BOWMANVILLE — D.J. Kennington is as close as he has ever been to winning a NASCAR Canadian Tire championship.
In fact, he’s so close it makes him nervous. A good nervous, mind you, but nervous just the same.
After Saturday’s Dickies 200 at Mosport International Speedway — where he started on the pole and finished sixth behind winner Don Thomson Jr. in the No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet — Kennington finds himself in second spot with fours races left on the NCTS 2010 calendar.
And three of those four races are on short ovals — Kennington’s favourite layout — where he already has won three times this season.
The veteran racer, however, never, ever counts his chickens before they have hatched.
Why would he? He is up against some of the best race-car drivers this country has produced over the past two decades.
One of them is 22-year-old J.R. Fitzpatrick, who going into Saturday’s race at Mosport, held a one-point lead in the championship, and lengthened that lead after finishing second.
There are others, also in the hunt, who scare Kennington as well.
“Listen I have a ton of respect for J.R. and what he has been able to accomplish in such a short time,” he said. “But there are some very, very, good racers in that group right behind us in the standings; like Scott Steckly, Donnie Thomson, Kerry Micks.”
Kennington has reason to fear because any one of those drivers could get hot and pole vault over both he and Fitzpatrick in the final month of the NCTS season.
Spread among Steckly, Thomson and Micks, who finished third Saturday, are seven national titles.
The 33-year-old Kennington is also aware that opportunities to be a national title holder won’t come every year.
“We have been trying for so long and so hard to get this championship,” he said.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years since Kennington first signed on with Castrol — his primary sponsor — to drive Dodges in Canada’s top stock-car racing loops.
Even he has a hard time believing he hasn’t won a championship yet.
“It hasn’t been from lack of trying, that’s for sure,” he said. “We have been second a lot of times. We just haven’t been able to close the deal.”
What makes this year so special, he said, is that all the elements necessary to challenge for the top spot have come together for the No. 17 Castrol Dodge team.
It starts, of course, in the horsepower department. And it has been at the engine shop — where is dad, Doug, builds the motors — that Kennington has had a big improvement.
“My dad has been building us awesome engines,” he said. “I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for the team.”
The final piece of the winning formula was, Kennington says, his decision not to go back to the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he raced what was essentially a full season in 2009 in the No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge.
“It has helped a lot, me being (in the NCTS) all season,” he said. “It turned out to be a very good decision for our No. 17 team to step away from the Nationwide series.
“That doesn’t mean we have abandoned thoughts of going back to the Nationwide or the Campers World Truck Series. We will race in the Nationwide NAPA 200 next week at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.”
But his focus, he said, is 100% on winning the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series crown.
“We just got to go out and finish all of the rest of the races,” he said. “We’ve had a fast race car all year long so all we have do is keep the fenders on and we should be okay.”