D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series national championship at Kawartha Speedway Saturday night when he finished third in the Kawartha 250.
Pete Shepherd III of Brampton won the race – his first in the series -- but Kennington’s third-place scored him enough points to give him his first Canadian title.
Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert finished second in the race, with J. R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge – who wound up second in the championship – fourth.
Intermittent afternoon rain delayed the start of the 250 – the 13th and last race of the NASCAR Canada season – about 90 minutes. Then, when it finally did get going, numerous yellow flags slowed the pace of the race around the .375-mile paved, banked speedway.
Winner Shepherd was caught up in an early-race accident when his National Exhaust/Gates Dodge collided with a Chevrolet driven by rookie Shannon Harding of Sackville, N.B.
Shepherd, a veteran of a NASCAR driver development program administered by NASCAR legend Jack Roush, had to pit twice for repairs.
But he collected himself well and raced his way back through the field and took the lead just over half-distance, after which he wasn’t headed.
In Victory Lane, Shepherd – who only raced a partial schedule this season, on oval tracks close to home -- said he was thrilled and hopes to be able to run a full season next year. “I want to do some road racing, too,” he said.
Shepherd said the victory was almost overwhelming. “I stopped here at Victory Lane and they gave me the (checkered) flag and told me to do another lap because I didn’t know what to do.”
Fitzpatrick and Micks had bumped together several times during the last few laps of the race and Fitzpatrick, who had several one-offs in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Stock Car Series this season, was furious when he exited his car.
He had to be restrained by NASCAR on-track officials from approaching Micks but eventually calmed down enough to say that although he was disappointed not to have won the championship, he was satisfied with his performance.
Kennington, who was close to tears in Victory Lane, said it was a thrill of a lifetime to finally win after competing in CASCAR and NASCAR Canada races for 17 years.
“It’s just awesome,” he said, adding that he couldn’t give his father, Doug, whose birthday is Sunday, a better present.
“We worked so hard for this all these years. I can’t be happier for our team and my sponsor, Castrol.”
Kennington, who won this race a year ago, threw down the gauntlet early by winning the pole, with a time of 17.983 seconds, which translates into a speed of 75.071 miles an hour. At the green flag, he took the lead and held it for nearly 80 laps.
Then, following a pit stop, he fell back to 18th – and that was because he had a tire that was slowly losing air.
“We had a flat tire,” he said, in explanation. "It was awful; I couldn't figure it out. I was so worried. I started to think the shocks were unhooked."
But after another stop, he quickly caught the leaders and held on to the finish.