July 31, 2012
Kennington driving toward record win
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - NASCAR Canadian Tire series season points leader D.J. Kennington, driving the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors Dodge, is gunning for a stock car racing touring series record at the JuliaWine.com 100 on Sunday at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres.
Kennington, who won a fifth consecutive NCTS race last week at the Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, became the first NASCAR driver to win five in a row since former Sprint Cup driver Rickey Craven did back in 1991 in the K&N Pro Series East.
Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ont., started his incredible winning streak back in June at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Speedway and then won at Delaware Speedway, near London, Motoplex Speedway and Event Park, in Vernon, B.C. and at the Edmonton Indy.
The only other NASCAR drivers to win five races in a row were Herschel McGriff in 1972 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richie Evans in 1985 in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik also in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“It’s really been an amazing run,” Kennington said this week. “We’ve worked hard for it, but we’ve had some luck, too. You have to for a streak this long.”
In order to earn the record, however, Kennington will have to get past Andrew Ranger and the No. 27 Dodge/GC Motorsports Dodge.
Ranger has won the annual race at Trois-Rivieres three times and finished second twice in the past five years.
And Kennington admits that road course racing is
not his strong suit, even though he has a win at the Edmonton Indy on his resume as well as top- five finishes at the Grand Prix course at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and at the ICAR Circuit in Montreal.
“We have stepped up our road-course program over the years, but I’m an oval guy,” Kennington, the series’ all-time wins leader with 16 career victories, said. “The ability level of road racing in this series is really high with Ranger, (Robin) Buck, (J.R.) Fitzpatrick, (Kerry) Micks and the list goes on and on. The guys in front of me giftwrapped that Edmonton race. That’s the luck I was talking about. You can bet we’ll show up in (Trois-Riveres), though.”
Looking at Kennington’s winning streak it is amazing on any level, but consider that only Richard Petty has more — 10 in a row in 1967 — in NASCAR history.
Italian Giorgio Pantano will substitute for IZOD IndyCar Series regular Charlie Kimball at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend after Kimball fractured his right hand in a testing incident last week. Kimball returned to Indianapolis over the weekend where further evaluation revealed the driver of the No. 83 Ganassi Racing Honda would not be ready to return behind the wheel for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 ... Of note from Paul Tracy’s good run at the Brickyard Grand Prix in the Rolex Grand-Am Series was the fact that the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion still harbours a desire to go NASCAR racing. He said that next season he may attempt some stock car races, and hopefully one of those will be at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Nationwide Series NAPA 200 ... Speaking of Tracy, he may also have a future in broadcasting as he took to the microphone as colour commentator for the Grand-Am qualifying session at Indianapolis. ... After Marcos Ambrose set a Sprint Cup qualifying record of 203.241 m.p.h. at Michigan International Speedway in June NASCAR decided to test new Goodyear tires at the track before the next race in two weeks at MIS. Monday’s fastest speed on the new Goodyear compound was significantly slower than those in June, with Mark Martin running an unofficial best lap of 195.122 in the No. 55 Toyota, and Clint Bowyer second fastest at 194.595 in the No. 15 Toyota.
SADLER SAGA A SAD STORY
NASCAR officials owe Elliott Sadler an apology.
Actually, after they cost him a win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an apology is only the least they owe him.
To recap, on a late race re-start Sadler was on the outside of the front row when race leader Brad Keselowski spun his tires. Sadler was being pushed by his Richard Childress Racing teammate Ty Dillon and beat Keselowski to the start-finish line.
NASCAR subsequently blacked-flagged Sadler, forcing him to take a drive through penalty and costing him a likely win.
A day later NASCAR said Sadler did nothing wrong.
Simply, all they had to do after that re-start was radio Sadler and order him to give the position back — like most other forms of motor sports in the world.
Even the NASCAR rule book — which many jokingly say is written in invisible ink — reads that if the race leader spins his tires on a re-start the second place car should not be penalized for overtaking him.
Like I said earlier, the least NASCAR can do is admit to a mistake. But even that won’t give back the points Sadler lost as a result of the penalty he had to serve.
HINCHCLIFFE NEEDS WINS
There are only four races left in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season and if James Hinchcliffe has any hopes of challenging for a championship in his first season in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, he almost has to win at least one and probably two of them.
And a good place to start would be in the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this week in Lexington, Ohio.
In three most-recent races at the 15-turn, 3.86-km permanent road course, Hinchcliffe had a best finish of second in 2009 in the Indy Lights Series.
Last season in his rookie year in IndyCar, he finished 20th driving for the Newman-Haas team.
He is in much better equipment this time around and has shown he is capable of running at the front.
But being back in fifth place in the standings doesn’t make it any easier for the 25-year-old Oakville native to get past the big three — Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Will Power — as well as Scott Dixon who sits fourth in the championship.
Hinchcliffe is 75 points behind Hunter-Reay, his teammate on the Andretti squad, and 15 behind Dixon.
With 50 points available for a win, it is not impossible for Hinchcliffe to make up the difference but it will be a monumental chore.
BOURDAIS FINDS A WAY TO WIN
IZOD IndyCar Series driver — and a four-time Champ Car World Series champion — Sebastien Bourdais kept a personal streak alive by winning the Rolex Grand-Am Brickyard Grand Prix this past weekend.
Since Bourdais began his professional racing career back in 1999, he has never had a season without winning at least one race.
“It was a pretty special day,” Bourdais, said of his win at Indianapolis. “I felt strong in the car. It was win No. 1 for me this season. I’ve been winning a race ever year for many, many years, and I was starting to get worried. It’s great to put it together.”