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Saskatoon, Sask., Canada – DJ Kennington has been the king of the ovals in 2010. He picked up his third win of the season on an oval track by taking the checkered flag Wednesday night in the Velocity Prairie Thunder at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway.
The St. Thomas, Ont., driver - who had started from the pole after setting the fast time in qualifying - gained the lead following a round of pit stops late in the race. He led a race-high 132 laps en route to his seventh series victory
Kennington credited his crew for the victory after they got him out first following the final round of pit stops.
“I have to hand it to my crew for this one. The Castrol Edge Dodge team did a great job on that last stop,” he said. “They got me out first and if I didn’t win it from there, then it was my fault.”
He also felt some measure of justice. In his last outing on July 31 at Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, B.C., he dominated much of the race and arguably had the best car on the track, but settled for a second-place finish behind Scott Steckly.
“I think we let one get away last time,” he stated. “(Thomson) was awfully strong tonight. I’m not sure we had the better car, but we did have a better pit stop.”
JR Fitzpatrick, who is locked in a back-and-forth battle for the championship with Kennington and held a six-point edge coming into the event, charged from 14th on the grid to finish second. Fitzpatrick had made a run at Kennington on the restart just after all the leaders pitted, but could not make it stick.
With the win, Kennington vaulted back past Fitzpatrick to take a 14-point lead in the standings.
|3||4||Don Thomson Jr.|
“We’re still struggling a little bit with this new Schick Hydro Chevrolet. It’s just not where we need it to be,” said Fitzpatrick, who hails from Cambridge, Ont. “It’s real close, but we still have a little bit to go before we can start seriously challenging for wins on ovals.”
In addition to looking forward to competing in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) for JR Motorsports, Fitzpatrick is also anticipating a heated points race with his good friend Kennington as the Canadian Tire Series enters the second half of the schedule.
“There are some tracks that I really like coming up, but it will be a battle all the way to the end. (Kennington) has his stuff really hooked up right now,” he said. “And we’re definitely going to get better.”
Third place in the race went to Don Thomson Jr., who was happy with his effort, but was far from satisfied after displaying a very strong car in the event.
“We need to win some races in this Home Hardware Chevrolet,” said the Hamilton, Ont., driver. “We’ve had some good finishes, but I’m ready to put this thing in Victory Lane.”
After starting alongside each other on the front row, Thomson and Kennington exchanged the lead throughout the first half of the race. Thomson began to pull away midway through the 250-lap event, but his margin was erased when the caution came out on Lap 203. Pit stops put him back to fifth, but he fought back to get past Steckly late in the race to notch his third podium finish of the year.
Currently sitting 129 points in back of Kennington in the point standings, Thomson, with a win or two, could jump into the championship fray with Kennington and his teammate Fitzpatrick.
“I don’t really look at the points that much. If you win races, then that takes care of itself,” said Thomson. “It looks like (Fitzpatrick) and (Kennington) are strong in the points, but I wouldn’t mind getting in there with them.”
Steckly and John Gaunt, who both stayed within striking distance all evening long, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Jason Hathaway, Kerry Micks, Mark Dilley, Anthony Simone and Nathan Weenk completed the top 10.
The race was slowed just three times due to caution for 36 laps and the race lead changed five times between Kennington and Thomson.
In the championship point standings, Steckly and Thomson are closing in on the top two, as they try to make a push for the title as the season winds down.
The TSN telecast of the Velocity Prairie Thunder will air on Saturday, August 21 at 1 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 returns to road-course action in its next outing for the GP3R 100 in Trois-Rivieres, Que., on Sunday, Aug. 15 as part of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres.
DJ Kennington battles side by side with Scott Steckly during the Velocity Prarie Thunder on Wednesday. Perry Nelson/NASCAR