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The 2012 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 season was D.J. Kennington’s all the way, but there were other stories along the way. Let’s take a quick look back at the series’ sixth season before the slate is wiped clean to make room for the 2013 campaign.
Kennington Count: D.J. Kennington joined Andrew Ranger and Scott Steckly as two-time champions of the still young series. As he has done throughout his career, Kennington, out of St. Thomas, Ontario, ruled the roost on the oval tracks by winning six of the seven circle-track events on the schedule. He also picked up a road-course win at Edmonton, Alberta in July. The seven wins established a new single-season record for the series eclipsing the six victories posted by Ranger in 2009. From the middle of June through the end of July, Kennington was unbeatable. He won five straight races that not only set a series mark but also tied a modern era NASCAR touring series record among currently sanctioned series. He joined Herschel McGriff (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – 1972), NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – 1985), Ricky Craven (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – 1991) and nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – 1997) as touring series winners of five straight races.
Follow The Shepherd: Pete Shepherd III has yet to compete in a full season in the Canadian Tire Series, but that hasn’t stopped him from winning races. The Brampton, Ontario driver scored a win on Sept. 8 at Barrie (Ontario) Speedway which gave him a win in each of the last three seasons. He also won at Fraserville, Ontario’s Kawartha Speedway in 2010 and Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 2011. Over the three seasons, Shepherd has made 16 starts with 10 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes to go along with the three wins.
Fitzpatrick Fast: After being shut out of Victory Lane in 2010, J.R. Fitzpatrick rebounded this season with a pair of wins – May 20 on the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario and Aug. 18 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. But that’s just half the story. The Ayr, Ontario driver has not won a race on an oval since July 2007 at Motoplex Speedway and Event Park in Vernon, British Columbia. Had it not been for the heroics of Kennington this season, several oval-track victories would have come his way. On the year, Fitzpatrick led a series-best 809 laps and five times led the most laps in a race. Additionally, he led the series with four pole positions.
Mission Accomplished: Martin Roy participated in less than a handful of Canadian Tire Series events in 2011 with the intent on running a full schedule in 2012 and had his eye on the series’ Rookie of the Year Award. All of the events he raced during 2011 were road courses meaning that ovals would be something new in 2012. He handled those events very well. Roy of Napierville, Quebec, was not without oval-track experience, but his background was in Modifieds. Nevertheless, he was the top-finishing rookie five times throughout the season and did, in fact, garner the Rookie honors.
Growing Up Dowler: Noel Dowler’s rookie season in 2011 was more than his first in the Canadian Tire Series. It was his first in a stock car. At 18 years of age and the son of a former CASCAR champion it was time to make the move from karting where he experienced much success. The 2011 season boiled down to track and seat time. This year, the experience paid off. The native of Sherwood Park, Alberta scored his first career top five with a third-place effort at Barrie Speedway in September. He also posted five top-10 finishes on the year and ended up 10th in the point standings.
The King Lives: Roxton Pond, Quebec’s Andrew Ranger returned to a fulltime ride in the series after a couple of seasons running selected events and it was like he never left. The “king of the road” reeled off two more road-course wins – Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Quebec and Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, also in his native province – ran his series record of road wins to 13. Ranger picked up three oval wins en route to his second series title in 2009 to give him 16 career triumphs. That total ranks second all-time in the series behind Kennington’s 18 victories.
Not Too Shabby: Road-course ace Louis-Philippe Dumoulin muddled through three oval races at the end of 2011 to lay claim to the series’ Rookie of the Year award. In 2012, he geared up for a full slate of events teamed up with two-time series champion Steckly. The ovals were still going to be learning experience for the part-time road-course instructor. He came out of with an average finish of 10th over the seven races with a high of seventh at Motoplex Speedway and a low of 12th on the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He ended up sixth in the championship standings with three top fives and seven top 10s.
2012 Final Closeout: Each of the contingency and special award battles were hard fought and with many not decided until the final race. Fitzpatrick was the big winner by earning the year-end prize in the 3M Lap Leader Award, Brembo Brakethrough Challenge and Mobil 1 Driver of the Race Award. His crew chief, Don Thomson Jr. claimed the Pinty’s Wingman Award, as well. Roy claimed the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award while Shepherd collected the Vtech Free Pass Award bonus. Kennington garnered the coveted Dodge-Mopar Cup in a battle amongst the Dodge drivers which recognizes the top-three Dodge drivers. Ranger and Steckly placed second and third, respectively, in the competition.