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Noah Gragson (left) drove to a third-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. (Matthew Manor/NASCAR)

A Few Things We Learned at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

The 2018 season for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series got underway Sunday afternoon from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and if the opening race of the season was any indication, this could be one of the most competitive seasons in the history of the division.

L.P. Dumoulin was at the right place at the right time as he was able to move into the lead after Andrew Ranger and Kevin Lacroix made contact in Turn 5b battling for the lead on the final lap of the Clarington 200.

The contact between Ranger and Lacroix sent Lacroix spinning and Ranger was forced to slow allowing Dumoulin to make the pass and hold on for the win.

Here are a few things we learned after the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park:

Noah Gragson ‘Moonlights’ to podium finish: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Noah Gragson finished third in his first Pinty’s Series start after finishing eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night. Gragson, who competed at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last fall in the truck racing and finished second, decided he wanted to get some more track time and drove a DJ Kennington-owned car to a third-place finish.

“I really enjoyed racing against these great drivers in the Pinty’s Series,” said the NASCAR Next alum. “They are some of the best drivers in NASCAR and I don’t think people in the (United States) really good and competitive this series is. It’s a great series and I think it will help me racing against these talented drivers as I prepare to come back and race in my truck later this year.”

Last season, eventual Truck champion Christopher Bell finished 23rd in the Pinty’s opener after brake issues at CTMP, and then 26th in the fall truck race following engine woes. In 2016, Kaz Grala finished 22nd in the CTMP opener and 26th in the fall truck race, but came back and finished third in the truck race last year.

Dumoulin ends streak: The win by LP Dumoulin ended a 40-race winless streak dating back to 2014 when he last won at Trois-Rivieres. Dumoulin has been competitive throughout the drought and feels this win was the result of dedicated work by his crew that has been on a two-year plan to improve his cars and bring everything in house.

“My guys worked so hard over the winter months replacing clips and parts on our cars to make them the best they can be and I was so happy to be able to get the win for them and celebrate and give them a reward for all of their hard work over the winter and also last year, said Dumoulin. “I have a very dedicated group that work on our cars and this means a lot to be able to give them and all of our fans a win. Hopefully this is just the first of several this season.”

DJ Kennington owns the next longest winless streak in the series for full-time competitors now at 52 races. His last win in the series came at Trois-Rivieres in 2013.

Lacroix has up and down weekend: Although Lacroix was denied a fourth consecutive win at CTMP after the incident on the final lap with Ranger, he reserved judgment on the incident after the race.

Lacroix started from the pole after qualifying was cancelled due to thick fog and rain and led on three different occasions for a race-high total of 41 laps. He felt a hard battle with Gary Klutt for the lead earlier in the race helped set up the incident with Ranger.

“We were super-fast and when we changed tires Gary Klutt was pushing me pretty hard and I kind of burned up my front tires and made my car slower late in the race,” said Lacroix. “I got loose in the turns 5a and 5b and I haven’t seen the video yet, but I don’t think it was his (Ranger’s) fault as I was already loose at the time.”

Although he didn’t pick up the win, one of the favorites to contend to the 2018 championship got a little bit of luck on Saturday. As the teams practiced during their only session of the day Lacroix suffered transmission damage and fortunately it happened in practice and they had time to fix it instead of happening during the race on Sunday that would ended his day much earlier in the race.

Tough luck continues for Tagliani at CTMP: For the second year in a row bad luck struck Tagliani at the challenging road course. Last year in the opener the Quebec native was running in the top five when he was involved in a spin on the white flag lap and this year he suffered mechanical problems after leading five laps late in the race.

“I think the rear upper link cracked and broke,” said a frustrated Tagliani following the race. “Definitely hard pill to swallow as we came here to win. Nothing I can ask more from the team.

“Scott and all the boys did a great job and we put ourselves in position to win.”

Although he was able to continue in the race after slowing and losing the lead, Tagliani was able to finish 14th – one lap down.

The veteran adds the woes are harder to take than simply struggling to find speed in a race car.

“Mechanical issues are one of the hardest things to take for us as a group, for our sponsors and everyone,” said Taglian. “It’s out of our control. If your pace is off you can say ‘we’ll work on it’, but with this it’s really frustrating. We always have such bad luck at this place and now we have to play catch-up in the championship to make up the valuable points we lose here. Losing points where it’s important to us to have strength is tough to take. But I’m very proud of this team.”

 

Wrapping Up

  • Starting in his first Pinty’s Series race, Cole Powell came home a very respectable sixth after starting 14th in the 22-car field.
  • Canada’s Best Race Team drivers Brett Taylor and James Vance both made their first starts of the season with the team a success coming home with top-10 finishes. Taylor kicked off his campaign to win Jostens Rookie of the Year with a ninth-place finish while Vance made his first Pinty’s Series start a memorable coming home eighth after starting shotgun in the field.
  • Marc-Antoine Camirand kicked off his full-time campaign with 22 Racing in impressive style coming home second to equal his career-best Pinty’s Series finish. Camirand, who scored two third-place finishes last season driving part-time, will compete for the Pinty’s Series championship this season for the first time since 2015.