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When the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series replaced the CASCAR Super Series in 2007 most of the drivers made the move to the new series. With only minor modifications to the existing equipment, the list of drivers expected to make a seamless transition did not include Scott Steckly, now a two-time NASCAR champion driver and car owner.
The list was not completely off base. In fact, it proved to be quite accurate less, what now seems to be, the one glaring omission. The likes of Mark Dilley, J.R. Fitzpatrick, D.J. Kennington, Kerry Micks and Don Thomson Jr. have combined to win 30 of the 63 races in series history and each has been in the championship hunt on several occasions.
After winning the 1999 CASCAR Rookie-of-the-Year Award, Steckly, hailing from Milverton, Ont., had a solid, but not spectacular eight-year run in the Canadian stock-car series. He finished inside the top 10 in points three times, but never mounted a serious title challenge.
“We were pretty good in CASCAR – nothing special, though,” said Steckly. “Everything is a learning process. We kept at it – always trying to get better and better.”
Throughout much of the 2007 season – NASCAR’s first in Canada – it didn’t appear much had changed. Through the first 11 events of the 12-race schedule, he had a pair of top-five and six top-10 finishes and sat 11th in the point standings.
Then, at the season finale at Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, Ont., that all changed.
On a night that belonged to Andrew Ranger, who clinched the inaugural NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, championship, Steckly led 62 of 255 laps and earned his first NASCAR victory setting the tone for what was to come in 2008.
“We tinkered with the car all season and everything came together that night,” said Steckly. “It wasn’t a result of doing anything different or new. We just stayed with it, but that first win was really important because it proved that we could do it.”
Results on the track to start the 2008 season were stellar, but off-the-track concerns surrounding sponsorship were troubling for the Steckly camp. They won three of the first four races of the season with a plain, white car and left wondering how many more races in which they could compete. Fortunately, the sponsorship issues were resolved at the midway point of the season and a fourth win came later. Despite a couple of bumps down the stretch, Steckly was able to edge Thomson for the series title.
That championship laid the groundwork to inherit the Canadian Tire sponsorship from the retired Peter Gibbons to start the 2009 season.
“We are so fortunate to have Canadian Tire on board with our race team,” Steckly said. “They’ve been great to work with and have provided support above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. The combination of (Canadian Tire) and all our associate sponsors have been perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Just as it did during his first championship year, the 2011 season began with a season-opening win. The second victory did not come until late July, but consistent top-five finishes throughout the first half of the season carried the mail. Other than a 20th-place finish at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Sask., a seventh-place showing at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and a 14th-place effort at Barrie (Ont.), Steckly never finished outside the top five all season.
“Except for those couple times, we had a very consistent season,” he said. “But that’s what you have to do. With the level of competition in this series you’re not going to win a pile of races, so getting the best possible finish keeps the points where you need them.”
Consistency has been a hallmark of Steckly’s since that first win to close out 2007. In the past four seasons, he has won 10 times with 35 top fives and 38 top 10s in 51 starts and he has achieved that success while maintaining one of the highest reputations in terms of sportsmanship on the circuit.
“I’ve been around most of these guys for a long time and I can’t ever remember anyone ever being mad at him,” said fellow competitor Fitzpatrick. “He races everybody clean every time.”
In the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series it’s imperative to handle both oval-track and road-course racing. With a schedule that is nearly half-and-half, teams with deficiencies in either program stand to lose large chunks of ground in the standings. While Steckly has yet to win a series race on a road course, he has several podium and top-five finishes.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be confused with guys like Ranger and the other road-course guys, but we’ve been able to hold our own,” Steckly said. “To be honest, on the road courses, I give most of the credit to the crew. They get the car so good which makes it easier for me. I’m not having to fight it all over the track.”
All told in 2011, Steckly won three times – Mosport Speedway in Bowmanville, Ont., Motoplex Speedway and Event Park in Vernon, B.C., and Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S. – earned three Keystone Light Pole Awards – Motoplex, Barrie and Riverside – to go along with nine top-five and 10 top-10 finishes behind the wheel of his No. 22 Canadian Tire/MotoMaster Dodge.
“We had a great season, for sure. Winning a second championship is every bit as good as the first. They’re not easy to come by,” he stated. “I just can’t thank everyone enough for all the help and support. All of the sponsors, my family and my crew help so much that it’s hard to put into words. It’s an honor to be associated with every one of them.”
The following is a look back at the highlights of Steckly's championship season: