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DELAWARE, Ontario – Several NASCAR Canadian Tire Series teams convened at Delaware Speedway for a test session to shake off some of the rust from a long off-season. Kerry Micks (No. 02 Beyond Digital Imaging Ford) turned in the fastest lap of the day. He navigated the half-mile oval in 19.028 seconds for an average speed of 94.597 mph.
“It felt really good to get back out there,” said Micks. “The car responded to all of the changes we threw at it.”
The 12 participating teams were allowed to put their cars through the technical inspection process to make sure all of there winter adjustments and changes conformed to the series rule book in advance of the season opener on May 23 at Quebec’s Autodrome St. Eustache. Then teams had a three-hour practice session in the late afternoon to put the cars through their paces.
“We have been looking forward to getting back on the track for a long time,” said defending series champion Scott Steckly. “Most of us have not been in our cars since the end of last season. I was getting tired of seeing mine just sit there in the shop.”
Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire/Tow Truck in a Box Dodge) posted the second-fastest time at 19.030 seconds (94.587 mph). John Gaunt followed with a time of 19.092 seconds (94.280 mph). Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries Dodge) timed in at 19.101 seconds (94.236 mph). DJ Kennington rounded out the top five with a time of 19.122 seconds (94.132 mph).
The session also gave the drivers an opportunity to get the feel of the racing surface at Delaware Speedway. The track was a mainstay on the schedule in the CASCAR days, but was not on the schedule in the first two seasons of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Rookie driver Joey Hanssen (No. 40 Prime Champ Dodge) comes to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series via the open-wheel world in Europe. The 17-year-old out of The Netherlands has just a handful of hours behind the wheel of a stock car, so he is game for every minute he can log before the season gets underway later this month. His car comes from the stable of DJ Kennington, who is fielding two teams in 2009. Kennington has a pair of top-five finishes in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series point standings and is a regular on the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit.
“I am really optimistic and anxious to get started,” said Hanssen. “These cars are more powerful than anything I have ever driven before, but, I think with the expert coaching from DJ, I can quickly get a handle on things.”
SPEC ENGINE PERFORMANCE
New to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in 2009 is NASCAR’s spec engine program, which has been a part of the NASCAR Camping World Series for a number of years and was incorporated into the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour a season ago.
Three drivers – Micks, Kent Nuhn and Anthony Simone – had a spec engine under the hood for the test session. While all three teams are on the learning curve for the new program, they all did well in keeping pace with the well-tested, custom-built motors. The Micks team, with the quickest lap of the day, clearly has a handle on the program. Simone (No. 95 Crown Modular/United Truss Chevrolet) finished just outside the top five, just a few ticks behind Kennington.
“We were really happy with it. It did everything we asked of it,” said Simone. “Now, I want to get it on the road course at (Mosport International Raceway) on that long straightaway to see everything it’s got.”
The staff of Delaware Speedway has been extremely busy over the winter. A great deal of work has been completed, including an entirely new pit road, a renovated VIP area and new concrete work in the grandstands for the fan’s enjoyment. More work is planned before the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series makes its first official visit to the track on June 6.
OPPORTUNITY ON THE HORIZON?
JR Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Chevrolet) hinted that he may have some news about his immediate NASCAR future in the coming weeks. While not at liberty to go into great detail since details are still being finalized, Fitzpatrick has already made four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts this season including a fourth-place finish in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.
Pole winner in seven of nine oval-track events in 2008, Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) had just the ninth-fastest car of the day. He desperately wants to add a NASCAR championship to his long list of accomplishments which includes five consecutive CASCAR Super Series titles from 2001 to 2005. When the lights come on in St. Eustache on May 23, it’s a safe bet that Thomson will be back amongst the leaders.