June 25, 2011
D.J. aiming to repeat
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
BOWMANVILLE — D.J. Kennington may be sitting fourth in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series points battle after three races but he still likes his chances to repeat as champion.
Kennington said on Friday that but for a 20th place finish at the ICAR Circuit in Montreal he would be knocking on the door of the series lead as he takes his No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge to Mosport International Raceway’s 4.1 km road course for the Vortex Brake Pads 200 Saturday and Sunday.
But in his 2010 championship season Kennington had already racked up a pair of wins — at Delaware Speedway and Autodrome St-Eustache — by this time in the schedule.
“We are still close to where we were last season,” he said. “He have a fifth at the Mosport oval which is one better than we had last year and a third at Delaware that is only two spots off where we finished in 2010.”
Kennington is quick to remind that his ICAR finish was the result of being spun out by Andrew Ranger, and if that had not happened he would have had a top five finish.
He had similarly poor finishes last year at the Edmonton Indy — where he finished 15th and the NAPA 100 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve finishing 28th — yet survived those to win his first NASCAR title.
“It is hard to have a perfect season,” he said.
“Sure we had a bad day, but if you take ICAR and replace it with the terrible day we had in Edmonton last year, I really don’t think we are in too much trouble.”
Scott Steckly, the 2009 NCTS champion, leads the 2011 championship with 535 points in the No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge, followed by five-time national stock car racing champion Don Thomson Jr. in the No. 8 Farmers Feed Cities Dodge with 515 and J.R. Fitzpatrick third in the No. 84 Schick Hydro Chevrolet with 467.
Kennington is 102 points back of Steckly, but with 85 points on the line in the Vortex Brake Pads 200 at Mosport, that deficit can disappear in a hurry, and that is what Kennington is counting on.
“Obviously Scott has had a great start,” Kennington said of Steckly’s win and a pair of second place finishes so far this season. “But we just have to keep on digging and Mosport is a place where we can have a good result.”
The 33-year-old native of St. Thomas, Ont., already has a win at Mosport’s historic road course and counts it as one of his favourite race tracks.
It is one of five road courses (the others are the ICAR Circuit, Honda Indy Toronto, Trois Rivieres and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve) on this season’s NCTS schedule — the most of any of NASCAR’s touring series.
Kennington said you have to do well turning left and right if you want to be a NASCAR champion in Canada.
“Even though Ranger ruined our ICAR finish, we were encouraged to be at the front that late in the race,” he said. “Doing well on road course is so important now, with five of them on the schedule this season.
“Road courses present is a different challenge for stock cars, on an oval you get into a rhythm but on a road course like Mosport, with 10 turns you are always looking to set yourself up for the next corner.
“It really takes more concentration.”
The key for Kennington is experience. He said rookies find Mosport intimidating, but he has grown to love racing there.
“Having raced at Mosport now for the past half dozen seasons or more it gets a lot more fun to drive the more you get used to it,” he said.
Kennington thinks a top-three finish would keep him in contention for the series lead, and he won’t have to face Ranger — a two-time winner at Mosport’s road course, who is racing this weekend in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
What also has Kennington pumped about holding on for a back-to-back championship is the fact he has been able to keep his Castrol Edge team intact.
“I know everyone says they have the best crew,” he said. “But we proved last year that we did and we are back this year with great sponsorship from Castrol Edge and basically the same group that we won with in 2010.”