The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Canada’s only national auto racing series, will close out its season this Saturday evening (Sept. 25) at Kawartha Speedway, near Peterborough, and crown its 2010 champion at the conclusion of the Kawartha 250.
Gates will open at 11 a.m., with practice at 11:30, qualifying at 3 and the race at 5 p.m.
Note to people with spouses who might not be crazy about car racing: Kawartha Speedway’s official name is Kawartha Downs and Speedway, which means it has slots. And a nice restaurant.
Which means you can make it a day.
Two drivers are in serious contention for the title – D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas who is leading going into Kawartha with 1,947 points after 12 races. J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge is second with 1,907, a mere 40 points back.
The 2008 champion, Scott Steckly of Milverton, is third with 1,867 points. It’s theoretically possible for Steckly to still win the title, but for that to happen he would have to win the race, lead a lap and lead the most laps in order to score the maximum 195 points while both Kennington and Fitzpatrick would have to score the minimum points just for starting.
Highly unlikely – but, then again, you never know.
The season has been a see-saw battle for Kennington and Fitzpatrick, who are both hoping to win their first title.
Kennington, who has been a solid contender on the national Canadian stock car scene for years going back to CASCAR, has been close previously but no cigar.
Fitzpatrick has the talent and ambition to climb NASCAR racing’s ladder – he’s turned heads the last couple of years when competing in a number of one-offs in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series for stock cars – and a national championship would look good on his curriculum vitae.
There’s a name missing in this discussion, however – that of defending champion Andrew Ranger, of Roxton Pond, Que., who’s been an on-off competitor in the Canadian Tire Series this season as he’s pursued other racing opportunities in the United States.
Although he only entered five Canadian Tire races this season, he won three of them and would have been a formidable opponent for Kennington and Fitzpatrick if he’d run all 13 events.
Fitzpatrick was in a position last Saturday night at Riverside Speedway in Nova Scotia to open up a lead over Kennington. He’d gone into the Komatsu 300 leading the points and was ahead in the race when he fell off the pace on Lap 184 because of clutch problems.
This gave Kennington the race and the points lead – the sixth time this season there's been a swing of that magnitude between those two drivers.
The previous speculation about Steckly aside, this is the scenario going into Kawartha Saturday.
Should Fitzpatrick win the race and lead the most laps, Kennington would have to finish sixth or better should he not lead a lap. He could finish seventh and still win the title if he were to lead a lap.
No, you don’t need a calculator. Just show up at Kawartha and enjoy the race.
Just a reminder about the two other big races on tap this weekend:
– the Grand Prix of Singapore will be held Sunday and can be seen on TSN at 7:55 a.m. Qualifying can also be seen on TSN Saturday at 9:55 a.m.
Don’t forget that Toronto Star special F1 correspondent Gerald Donaldson will be reporting on all things Formula One in a special podcast Friday (the 24th) at wheels.ca that should be on the site by noon.
– The second race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship will be held at the speedway in Dover, Del. on Sunday. Can Clint Bowyer keep up the pace? Can Jimmie Johnson get untracked? Find out on Sunday – TSN2 at 1 p.m.
Oh, and do you know that Kyle Busch could actually win three (count 'em 3) NASCAR championships this season? The Sprint Cup title, the Nationwide title and the Camping World owner's title.