At 22, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge is the youngest regular driver in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series but that doesn’t mean he’s isn’t a veteran.
His father had him in a kart when he was 6 and he was driving late-model stock cars in the CASCAR series (which became the NASCAR Canada series four years ago) 10 years later. He won his first CASCAR race when he was 17 and at 18 he won the series championship.
Clearly, Fitzpatrick is a man with talent.
In recent years, he’s been driving periodically “down south” in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series and acquitting himself well in both. He hasn’t won a race, but he’s come close – particularly in the trucks.
So he’s been around and he knows the score.
He knows how things work.
Saturday night at Kawartha Speedway, on the final turn of the final lap of the final race of the 2010 season,the Kawartha 250, Fitzpatrick was running second and Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert was right behind him in third.
Micks, in the tradition of bump-and-run drivers like Dale Earnhardt, ran into Fitzpatrick and spun him around, robbing him of a well-deserved second-place finish and nearly costing him second-place in the final standings.
Micks finished second behind winner Pete Shepherd III of Brampton (series champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas arrived home third) and when Fitzpatrick finally got straightened around, he crossed the finish line 15th .
Micks knew what was coming and stayed in his car when he stopped on the front straight for the podium ceremony. Fitzpatrick roared up beside him, scrambled out of his car and was totally furious. If it hadn’t been for NASCAR Canada officials intervening, there could have been a donnybrook.
Actually, "could" is the wrong word; "would" is more like it.
The crowd gathered along the main-straight fence loved it.
I had the tape-recorder going when I finally got Fitzpatrick calmed down enough to talk.
“The 02 (Micks) thinks he can spin anybody he wants,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t take crap from anybody; I’m sick of him and I’m sick of NASCAR lettin’ everybody get away with it so I told him how I felt.
“It’s stupid. If NASCAR Canada lets guys get away with shit like that – stuff like that, sorry about that...stuff like that – it’s just unacceptable. Last lap, last corner and they give him second where if I did that they’d black flag you or park you but not Kerry Micks.
“He now knows I’m not takin’ crap from anybody. If I come back next year, it’ll be to make sure that car’s 20 feet in the grandstands.”
I asked Micks later if the spin had been “payback” of any kind and he wouldn’t answer, signaling to me that he’d instigated it.
Fair enough. Stock car racing is a contact sport and guys have been getting away with stuff like that forever. Also, didn't NASCAR urge its competitors to "have at it, boys?"
But you can bet that at some point next season, if J.R. Fitzpatrick is right behind Kerry Micks late in a race and Micks is on the verge of a great finish, the roles played out at Kawartha Speedway last Saturday night are going to be reversed.
And you can bet that thousands of stock car fans across Canada can’t wait to see that - and also what happens afterward . . .
You can watch last Saturday night's fireworks a week Sunday (Oct. 10) at 1 p.m. when TSN will show a replay of the race.