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HAGERSVILLE ON - September 29 2018: The Pinty's Fall Brawl of the NASCAR Pinty's Series at Jukasa Motor Speedway in Hagersville, Ontario. (Photo: Matthew Manor/NASCAR)
The 2018 NASCAR Pinty's Series ran 13 races across five provinces and one State. (Photo: Matthew Manor/NASCAR)

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Year in Review: 2018

The 2018 NASCAR Pinty’s Series ran 13 action packed races starting at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May and finishing at Jukasa Motor Speedway in September. Here is a breakdown of the 2018 season and all its action, intensity and everything in between.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

The Clarington 200 kicked off the 2018 Pinty’s Series with a bang. For the second year in a row rain was on the horizon and caused trouble for the drivers. With Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular Noah Gragson making his Pinty’s Series debut, the Victoria Day crowd was on their feet as LP Dumoulin led them to the green flag. Numerous drivers got their chance up at the front including Anthony Simone, Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger. However, as the race ran down it was clear that for the second spring race in a row, it was going to be a duel between Kevin Lacroix and Andrew Ranger, in the rain, again. In 2017, we saw Lacroix get the better of Ranger and this year Ranger wasn’t going to back down without a fight. Ranger dove to the inside of Lacroix in turn 5c and made slight contact with the back of No.74. That sent the driver from Saint-Eustache, Quebec into a spin as Ranger took evasive efforts through the grass. This allowed Dumoulin and his No.47 Weathertech/ Bellemare Dodge to sneak by the fracas and claim victory, breaking a 20 race winless drought in the process. Ranger was initially scored in second but after being given an aggressive driving penalty by NASCAR, he was relegated to the last car on the lead lap. Marc-Antoine Camirand moved up to second as a result of the penalty and Noah Gragson became the third American to sit on the podium of a NASCAR Pinty’s Series event after Jason Bowles (2011) and Adam Andretti (2017) with a third place run.

Jukasa Motor Speedway

2017’s surprise return to Jukasa saw a hectic finish between Donald Theetge and Cayden Lapcevich, with Lapcevich pulling ahead in the final corner on the last lap to claim victory. This year Jukasa was awarded a second race date, with the Rankin 200 in June. Andrew Ranger pulled off the pole just barely edging out Theetge and Series newcomer Cole Powell. Ranger got the early lead with Theetge, Powell and a hard charging Kevin Lacroix. For the better part of two seasons Lacroix has had nothing but bad luck on the oval tracks, most notably coming last season after a dominant run at Riverside that ended in a second place finish. As the race wound down, Lacroix’s car would turn into a rocket ship, taking the lead on lap 79. Lacroix’s No 74 Bumper to Bumper Dodge led the rest of the way, holding off a swiftly approaching Cole Powell to finally break the curse and claim his first oval track victory at Jukasa. In only his second Pinty’s start, Powell scored his first podium finish with Alex Tagliani coming home in third.

Autodrome Chaudière

The hallowed green walls of the third-mile Autodrome Chaudière always make for exciting racing. Last year, Cayden Lapcevich held off Alex Labbe to claim his first victory of the season. With neither Labbe, Lapcevich or 2014-15 winner Jason Hathaway in the field, that meant there would be a new winner at Chaudière. LP Dumoulin kept his momentum going with a fantastic lap to set the pole for the Bumper to Bumper 300 with Kerry Micks starting to his outside. With rain on the horizon it was clear to the drivers that this event could become a race to halfway, and all the drivers took the green flag with that in mind. Jukasa winner Kevin Lacroix showed fantastic speed in the early going before a mechanical problem took him out of the race, just shy of the halfway break. During the second half of the race, two drivers managed to break away at the front of the pack; CTMP winner LP Dumoulin and two-time Series Champion Andrew Ranger. Ranger got the jump on Dumoulin on a late restart, and was able to pilot his No.27 Mopar Dodge out front for just long enough to be the leader when the rain came pouring down. The race was called on lap 220, handing the Roxton Pond, Quebec driver his series leading 23rd win and first checkered flag since 2016. Second place finisher LP Dumoulin expressed his frustration towards the finish, while Donald Theetge came home third to finish the podium.

Exhibition Place Toronto

Ever since the Honda Indy Toronto returned to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series schedule in 2016 it has produced nothing short of exciting races in the heart of Canada’s largest city. In 2017, Kevin Lacroix took advantage of a mix-up between Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger to claim his first win on the twisting roads of Exhibition Place. The 2018 edition of the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto got off on a rocky start for Lacroix. After suffering a horrendous crash in qualifying, Lacroix was forced to use a backup car provided by 22 Racing and start at the back. 2016 Toronto winner Alex Tagliani started on pole with two-time Toronto winner Andrew Ranger beside him. Tagliani lead the entire race until Ranger took the lead on a daring first corner move in NASCAR overtime. Ranger’s No.27 Mopar Dodge would hold off hard charges from Tagliani and Jean-Francois Dumoulin to claim his third victory at Toronto, 24th of his career and second in a row in 2018. Alex Tagliani came home second with JF Dumoulin scoring his second career podium finish in third.

Wyant Group Raceway

The annual trip to the prairies was given a substantial boost in 2017 when NASCAR changed the format at Wyant Group Raceway to two twin 125 lap features. Race No.1 saw the debut of Shantal Kalika, a local racer, in the No.43 Dodge. Kevin Lacroix scored the pole for the first race and lead the first 15 laps before being passed by Donald Theetge. Theetge than came under heavy fire from LP Dumoulin but a blown tire would relegate the driver from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, to a 16thplace finish. Theetge’s No.24 Mercedes-Benz St Nicolas Chevy was able to hold off Cole Powell to finally claim his long awaited first victory, becoming the oldest driver (51) to go to victory lane in the Pinty’s Series. An emotional Theetge dedicated his win to Logan Boulet and the rest of the Humboldt Broncos players who tragically lost their lives in April. Alex Tagliani scored another podium finish in third.

By virtue of the fastest lap in race No.1, LP Dumoulin would get a chance at redemption by starting on pole. The second race featured the similar clean and intense racing that made Race No.1 so exciting. On Lap 79, Race No.1 runner-up Cole Powell took the lead from Dumoulin a few laps before the race’s first and only caution would fly. Powell’s No.3 Copps Buildall Chevy was able to outlast a hard charging Dumoulin to claim his first victory and sweep the event for Chevrolet. Powell’s win marked his first series win in only his sixth series start, claiming the points lead in the process. Marc-Antoine Camirand finished third to complete the podium.

Edmonton International Raceway

Kevin Lacroix looked to get back on track following two solid races in Saskatoon, claiming another pole on an oval track, and his second of the year. It was smooth sailing for Lacroix, who seemed untouchable all race long. Until Adam Martin spun on Lap 269 to set up a late race restart, giving Alex Tagliani and LP Dumoulin a chance to attack. Tagliani took the lead briefly before being overtaken by LP Dumoulin who led the final 17 laps to score his second win of the season. This win also marked the second career oval track victory for Dumoulin’s No.47 Weathertech/Bellemare Dodge, with the first coming at Saskatoon in 2014. Lacroix lead a total of 281 laps, and came home with a second place finish. Alex Tagliani rounded out the podium in third.

Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres

Coming in to GP3R, Andrew Ranger’s stats had been nothing short of insane. Since 2007, Ranger had compiled four wins and an average finish of no worse than second in the remaining seven events. The biggest piece of news leading into Le 50 Tours Can-Am, was the return of 2017 Pinty’s Series Champion Alex Labbe. Labbe who had five wins last season, made the transition to running full time in the Xfinity Series for DGM Racing. NASCAR Whelen Euro Series regular Frederic Gabillon made his debut as part of a ride exchange promotion with Spectra Premium and Dumoulin Competition. Gabillon earned the ride by being the regular season champion in Europe. Marc-Antoine Camirand scored the pole and looked hungry for his first win. In a race that saw eight caution flags, emotions were high and tempers were short. Ranger and Kevin Lacroix who were among the favourites coming into the weekend both suffered problems. Lacroix’s car lost power on Lap 34 and Ranger was spun into the tire wall on Lap 39 following contact with Camirand. Alex Tagliani took the lead following the incident between Camirand and Ranger. A late race caution set up a five lap dash to the finish, where Tagliani’s No.18 Rona/ EpiPen Chevy held off LP Dumoulin and Alex Labbe to claim his first win of 2018. This marked back to back wins at GP3R for Tagliani, who moved within 11 points of points leader Dumoulin.

Riverside International Speedway

The running theme of the races at Riverside over the past few seasons have been rain, and this year was no exception. Heavy rain showers forced the Bumper to Bumper 300 to Sunday as opposed to Saturday night. Two former NASCAR NEXT drivers made their debuts at Riverside, former NASCAR K&N Pro Series winner Brandon McReynolds made a start with DJK Racing in the No.28, while Julia Landauer made her highly anticipated debut in the No.1 for CBRT. With qualifying rained out, the field was set per the NASCAR Rulebook giving LP Dumoulin the pole. It was clear that this race was going to be another two horse race similar to last year. This time however, it was LP Dumoulin and Kevin Lacroix. Both drivers battled hard at the front of the field before Dumoulin took the lead on Lap 240 and never looked back. Dumoulin’s No.47 Weathertech/Bellemare Dodge led the final 60 laps en-route to his third victory of the season. Cole Powell and D.J Kennington completed the podium.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 2

The August race at CTMP brought a buzz around the paddock, with the news that the accompanying NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race was moved to the playoffs. Chris Sahakian and Malcolm Strachan made their series debuts for Micks Motorsports and Bray Autosport respectively. With qualifying rained out for the second race in a row, the field was set as per the NASCAR Rulebook.  For Alex Tagliani, he has won nearly every major event in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series with one notable exception, CTMP. Tagliani was in prime position to win in the spring however, he lost power late in the race. However, the 2018 race saw six different leaders trade the top spot, and it was clear that checkered flag could be anybody’s. Tagliani’s No.18 Rona/EpiPen Chevy took the lead from Gary Klutt on Lap 30 and never looked back to finally claim that elusive first victory at CTMP. Kevin Lacroix came home second with LP Dumoulin rounding out the podium. Following CTMP, Tagliani, D.J Kennington and Jason White did double duty running the Truck race. Tagliani finished 10th, Kennington in 13thand White finished 23rd.

Autodrome Saint-Eustache

The return to Autodrome Saint-Eustache in 2018 was bittersweet, with news coming out that the track would be scheduled to close after the 2019 season. Nevertheless, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series drivers put on a show for the ages. Local phenom Kevin Lacroix rocketed his No.74 to pole position and lead the first 32 laps before being overtaken by Marc-Antoine Camirand. In a race that saw 12 cautions flags, it was safe to say that nobody left Saint-Eustache undamaged. Points leader LP Dumoulin had a long list of troubles including being spun twice during the 250 lap event. His brother and Dumoulin Competition teammate was taken out after a Lap 183 crash with Cole Powell. Alex Tagliani and Marc-Antoine Camirand dominated a majority of the race. Things heated up however when on Lap 247 when Tagliani, Dumoulin and Lacroix all wrecked in Turn 2. Tagliani kept on going while Lacroix was parked by NASCAR after the incident. That set up a three lap dash to the finish where Camirand’s No.22 GM Paillé Chevy came out on top for the first time in his career. Camirand’s victory marked the first for the legendary No.22 car since team owner Scott Steckly took the car to victory at Riverside back in 2015. Alex Tagliani finished second to narrow the points gap to five behind Dumoulin, while Cole Powell finished third despite missing his front bumper.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series made history at NHMS with its first trip south of the border for the Visit New Hampshire 100. With the drivers facing the largest and fastest oval track in Series history, it was a major toss up as to who was going to win. Prior to the weekend only two drivers in the field had had prior experience, Cole Powell in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Donald Theetge in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. It was clear these two were the favourites to win. Powell scored the E3 Spark Plugs Pole award and lead the field to green in the inaugural US visit. When green flag flew trouble started early with Martin Cote making contact with the wall on the back stretch bringing the field to halt. When the field finally got back rolling Kevin Lacroix wasted no time getting to the front, taking the lead from Cole Powell on Lap 10. Lacroix then proceeded the check out and pulled nearly a five second lead over second place Powell. When a mid-race debris caution bunched up the field, it gave Andrew Ranger the chance to strike. Ranger stalked Lacroix, hanging in his tire tracks lap after lap after lap. Ranger seemed to be in the hot seat when all of sudden smoke started bellowing from underneath the Mopar Dodge. The No.27 team retired on lap 75 after breaking a track bar. Following Ranger’s retirement, Lacroix’s No.74 Bumper to Bumper Dodge checked out and lead the remaining 25 laps en-route to his second win of the season and second win on an oval track. Pete Shepherd III came home second for his best finish since 2013 and Donald Theetge completed the podium.

Championship Weekend at Jukasa:

Finally, it all came down to one race, the Pinty’s Fall Brawl at Jukasa Motor Speedway. With only four points between LP Dumoulin and Alex Tagliani, it was clear that this championship battle was going to come right down to the wire. After a rule violation dropped the No.47 to the back of the field at the start, pole sitter D.J Kennington took the green to kick off the season finale. Over the course of the entire event the lead shifted between six different drivers with the majority of the race being led by Kennington and Lacroix. Tagliani and Dumoulin battled hard during the race but the momentum shifted when Tagliani was black flagged after contact with JF Dumoulin. This allowed the No.47 to slowly build a gap over Tagliani. After Connor James wrecked in turn four, a five lap dash to the finish was set up. Kennington held off Theetge and Lacroix to finally put his No.17 Castrol Edge Dodge into victory lane for the first time since 2013. Meanwhile, a 10th place finish by LP Dumoulin was good enough to secure the driver from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec his second NASCAR Pinty’s Series title after his first in 2014. The final points gap was Dumoulin over Tagliani by a slim margin of seven points.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series in 2018 was one of the most exciting season of NASCAR in Canada; with three first time winners and a grand total of seven different winners. The points battle between four different drivers had fans on their feet front the first green flag all the way until the final checkered. Now, what will the 2019 season have in store?

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LP Dumoulin scored his second series title in 2018 (Matt Manor/ NASCAR)