Steckly's stock-car dream comes true — again

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:01 AM ET

FRASERVILLE, Ont. -- Scott Steckly's dream for as long as he can remember was, first, to be a full-time professional stock car driver and second, to win a NASCAR championship.

But even before Saturday's NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Kawartha 250, Steckly had checked both off of his personal bucket list.

All Steckly had to do on Saturday to clinch a second NASCAR title was to not finish last. He had that taken care of when the No. 19 Dodge of Brad Graham dropped out because of engine problems early in the race.

So when the Millverton, Ont., driver of the No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge crossed the start/finish line second in the season-ending race at Kawartha Speedway's 3/8-mile banked oval he had already added a new dream -- a third championship.

"It's a pretty big deal to win a NASCAR championship so when you win it you want to win again," Steckly said.

In Saturday's finale, D.J. Kennington won the race in the No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge, with J.R. Fitzpatrick third in the No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet in a race that was slowed by a record 11 cautions.

Steckly won his first NCATS championship in 2008 but finished behind Andrew Ranger in 2009 and D.J. Kennington in 2010.

He said missing the chance to repeat in those two seasons made him think he might never win another one.

"You begin to wonder if you're ever going to win it again," Steckly said.

The No. 22 team, however, put its stamp on the 2011 season in the first three events, winning at Mosport Speedway and placing second at both the ICAR Circuit in Montreal and at London's Delaware Speedway.

"After we won that first race at Mosport, it brought back that feeling of 'yes, I can do this again,'" Steckly said.

The key to this championship, he said, was having consistent top finishes -- not Top 10 finishes, but Top 3 finishes.

"We have a 12-race season so you need very good finishes most every race," he said. "It is not good enough to finish fifth or sixth; you have to have first-, second- or third-place finishes."

Steckly said without his wins at Mosport, at Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, B.C., and at Riverside Speedway at Antigonish, N.S., he would not have collected his championship on Saturday.

His record bears that out. The No. 22 Dodge finished either first, second or third in seven of the 12 NCATS events this year.

"Definitely you have to have consistent podium finishes in this series, " he said. "We had a 20th-place finish in Saskatoon and we had a 14th in Barrie.

"If we had been only getting fifth- and sixth-places finishes instead of first, second and third places in the rest of the races on the schedule, we wouldn't be collecting the championship trophy."

Kennington, the defending NCATS champion, finished second this time behind Steckly.

Kennington said that poor starts at both Montreal races this season -- ICAR and at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve -- sunk his chances of a repeat.

Still, he said, he has no regrets.

"You can say if that would have happened or if this had have happened, we might have been closer to the No. 22," Kennington said. "But in racing we don't deal in ifs."

Still, he said, he wouldn't trade this season for anything.

"After winning the championship this whole season has been special," Kennington said.

He said that finishing second in the national stock-car racing championship is nothing new for him -- he's done it three times.

"We will be back next year in the No. 17 Dodge for another crack at it," he said.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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