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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For Cayden Lapcevich, his 2016 NASCAR Pinty's Series championship run was bolstered by a steady performance on the road courses. For Kevin Lacroix, his title hopes in 2017 rest on being able to do the opposite: Perform well enough on the ovals to compliment his road-course prowess.
The 28-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Quebec, established himself as a serious contender for the championship following last year's fourth-place finish in the championship standings. He opened the season by passing Andrew Ranger on the final lap to claim the Can-Am 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Now he turns his attention to the season's first oval race: The Fast Eddie/CHOKO 250 presented by Havoline at Delaware Speedway.
The race marks the series' first trip back to the half-mile oval in Ontario since 2013.
Lacroix finished last year with wins on the last two road courses -- Trois-Rivieres and CTMP -- but finished 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively, on the final three ovals.
"We already knew we were going to be quick on road courses, so we were confident," Lacroix said. "The main point would be the ovals. I need to keep my focus, my concentration, on the long distances.
"We've got a new car for the ovals, so we're confident there, too. I know I'm going to be fast all year, it's just I need to calm myself sometimes."
Lacroix has 11 top 10s in 19 starts, but seven of those are on road courses. He qualified inside the top five at both St. Eustache and Kawartha to end last season, only to finish outside the top 10 both times. His best oval finish is a fifth at Sunset Speedway in 2016, followed by a sixth at Autodrome Chaudiere.
If Lacroix is to dethrone Lapcevich -- who opened his title defense with a solid fourth-place at CTMP -- his first major test will come Saturday.
|RACE:||Fast Eddie/CHOKO 250 presented by Havoline|
|PLACE:||Delaware (Ont.) Speedway|
|DATE:||Saturday, June 3|
|TIME:||7 p.m., ET|
|TRACK LAYOUT:||Half-mile oval|
|2016 POLE WINNER:||N/A|
|EVENT SCHEDULE:||Saturday, June 3 – Garage opens: 10 a.m.; Practice: 12:45-1:45 p.m.; Qualifying: 3:30 p.m.|
|TRACK CONTACT:||Jonathan Urlin, (519) 280-7559, urlinmotorsports.com|
|NASCAR IMC CONTACT:||Jason Christley, (386) 310-6094, firstname.lastname@example.org.|
The Race: The Fast Eddie/Choko 250 presented by Havoline will be the second of 13 races on the 2017 NASCAR Pinty’s Series schedule. It is the first of eight races held on ovals.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will secure starting positions based on the road-course qualifying process. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps (125 miles / 201.168 km).
The Track: The semi-banked half-mile oval in Ontario has hosted the NASCAR Pinty's Series five times. The track started as a quarter-mile dirt track and opened in 1952, making it one of the oldest contiously operating tracks in Canada. The track was expanded to its current half-mile configuration and paved in the 1970s. It played a central role in the former CASCAR Super Series, hosting 13 races between 1998 and 2005, and hosted five NASCAR Pinty's Series races between 2009-13. It also hosted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2011.
Race Winners: There have been three different winners in the five previous NASCAR Pinty’s Series races at Delaware. DJ Kennington won the first two races and then picked up a third victory in 2012. Don Thomson Jr. (2011) and Pete Shepherd III (2013) also won there.
Pole Winners: Kennington and Shepherd have two poles apiece at Delaware, while Mark Dilley set the track record with his pole run of 19.133 seconds (94.078 mph) on June 6, 2009.
Fast Eddie/Choko 250 presented by Havoline Notes:
KENNINGTON AT THE FRONT: Kennington has easily been the most successful driver at Delaware. In addition to his three wins, he finished third in 2011 and fourth in 2013, and has led 407 of 1,022 laps run there. The two-time series champion is coming off a disappointing 17th-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He'll also take on his new role as driver coach for the first time, for young driver Armani Williams. Williams, a Detroit, Michigan, native, is making his series debut. Williams, who has competed in open wheel racing in the United States and earned an invitation to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine last fall, is driving for Canada's Best Race Team for several events. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 2, Williams has also competed in the ARCA Truck Series.
SOLID START FOR DEFENDING CHAMPION: Lapcevich got his title defense off to a good start at CTMP, Several days after being introduced as a member of this year's NASCAR Next class -- an industry initiative designed to spotlight the sport's rising young stars -- Lapcevich qualified 11th and finished fourth on the road course. He had a podium finish in sight before losing a spot on the final turn to Gary Klutt. Now the Ontario teenager turns his attention to his strength: oval racing. Last year, Lapcevich had three wins, three seconds and a third in seven oval races and led at least a lap in each event.
NEW FACES: With the first oval of the season lined up, that means some new faces for 2017. Of the 19 drivers on the initial entry list, five drivers will be making their season debut. In addition to Williams, this list includes series veteranes Dilley, Steve Mathews and Noel Dowler as well as Donald Theetge. Theetge will take over the No. 22 of Scott Steckly that NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell ran at CTMP. Mathews has a pair of top five finishes in four races at Delaware, while Dilley has led 61 laps over five starts and finished seventh there in 2012. Dowler was ninth in 2012 and sixth in 2013 at Delaware.
HATHAWAY BACK AGAIN: Jason Hathaway closed the book on his full-time racing in the NASCAR Pinty's Series with a win at Kawartha Speedway last fall. But he has three races on his 2017 schedule: The two events at CTMP and Saturday's race at Delaware in front of his hometown crowd. Hathaway has a top five and three top 10s in five races at Delaware. Eight of his nine career wins have come on ovals.
TAGLIANI TO HOST STUDENTS: Alex Tagliani will be meeting with students from Woodland Heights Public School in London, Ont. on Friday. The students will have a chance to decorate the deck lid of the race car Tagliani will race Saturday night at Delaware.