Ranger going back for the future

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:16 AM ET

BOWMANVILLE, ONT. - At 17-years-old back in 2004, Andrew Ranger finished fourth in the Atlantics championship with Sierra Sierra Racing and that propelled him into the Champ Car World Series the next season.

But with Champ Car and the Indy Racing League embroiled in a suicidal fight for open-wheel supremacy Ranger was left on the sidelines after two pretty decent seasons.

Fast forward five years and Ranger is now — at just 25 — a veteran of stock car racing looking to claim his third NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship.

And he will start that quest this weekend at the Vortex Brake Pads 200 as part of the Victoria Day Weekend SpeedFest at the newly named Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly Mosport) in the No. 27 Dodge.

Ranger didn’t run the full race calendar the past two NCTS seasons, choosing to concentrate on making a mark in the U.S. in the NASCAR K&N Series as well as several forays in the Nationwide Series.

That is where he sees his career headed.

Yet, with the U.S. economy still not in full recovery mode, Ranger found himself without the kind of sponsorship needed to fulfil his NASCAR dreams down south.

So he has signed on with Dave Jacombs Racing — with whom he won his first two NCTS crowns — in partnership with Steve Meehan and the GC International Motorsports team to race the full 2012 season in Canada.

“I am very excited,” Ranger said. “I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”

Ranger said the only other option for him was to sit at home in Roxton Pond, Que., and hope that a Nationwide team would need a driver of his talents this season.

It was not an option that he thought would help his career.

“You need to race to be seen,” he said. “I know a lot of drivers who have no contracts this season at all.”

Ranger said that the Canadian Tire Series is the most competitive national loop outside of the U.S. and that to win it for the third time would turn some heads in NASCAR’s two top tiers.

“I am really happy just to be back with Dave Jacombs again and to try to win my third championship and still keep my feet in the Nationwide Series,” he said.

Ranger does have a deal with Meehan and the GCI No. 27 team to run several Nationwide Series races, most notably, the NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in August in Montreal.

He will also likely drive the No. 27 car at Watkins Glen the week before Montreal.

Right now he is concentrating on winning this weekend.

“It is my goal to win a third championship but you can’t do that without winning races and I want to start that right this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park,” he said.

He marvelled at the changes at the facility since being taken over by veteran racer Ron Fellows and his partners at the end of last season. But Ranger is more happy that the actual track layout wasn’t altered.

“Not a lot of things have changed with the track and that is good news because I really like that track,” he said.

He should be happy because he has two wins in his championship seasons at the 4-km road course.

“It is special for me to come back in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series with Dave Jacombs and Steve Meehan at this track,” he said. “We had a test day last week there and we did only about 10 laps. It was more just to see how the engine and the car worked. We didn’t have the time to do many laps in race trim.”

Ranger is also looking forward to racing against the best of this country’s stock car drivers.

Many remember his classic battles with J.R. Fitzpatrick in the No. 84 Chevrolet. But for Ranger he sees more than just Fitzpatrick as a challenger.

“We had a lot of great fights on tracks across Canada with J.R.,” he said. “This season we will have Scott Steckly coming after his third championship too. And I think D.J. Kennington will be very tough after coming so close to his second championship last season.”

If Ranger does have a regret it is that he won’t be able to race in the Nationwide event at Road America, where he had his best finish of sixth last season.

“We can’t do Road America because we are racing at Delaware Speedway that same weekend (June 23) in the Canadian Tire series,” he said. “That is too bad because I really like Road America.”

He believes, however, that staying in Canada and winning a championship here will, in the end, be best for his career going forward.

“What I think right now is that a lot of teams in the Nationwide Series know me,” Ranger said. “What I am missing right now is a really good sponsorship package. In top NASCAR racing that is the main thing in getting a ride with a good team.”

A win on Sunday at the Vortex Brake Pads 250 could go a long way to making that happen.

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series 2012 Schedule

May 20: Vortex Brake Pads 200, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville.

June 3: Lucas Oil Grand Prix, Circuit ICAR, Montreal

June 16: Mosport Speedway 200, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Jun 23: EMCO 200, Delaware Speedway, London.

July 14: A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300, Motoplex Speedway and Event Park, Vernon, B.C.

July 22: Edmonton Indy, Edmonton City Centre Airport

July 25: Velocity Prairie Thunder, Auto Clearing Motor Speedway, Saskatoon.

Aug. 5: GP3R 100, Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, Trois-Rivieres.

Aug. 18: NAPA 100, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal.

Sept. 8: Wild Wing 300, Barrie Speedway, Barrie, Ont.

Sept. 15: Wilson Equipment Limited 300, Riverside International Speedway, Antigonish, N.S.

Sep 22: Kawartha 250, Kawartha Speedway, Fraserville, Ont.


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