NASCAR likes its drivers to "have at it," but sometimes things can get a little out of hand.
While Sprint Cup drivers Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson can get riled with each other, they are both multi-millionaires and very much in business together. It is highly unlikely that either one is ever going to do serious harm to the other.
Not so in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert and J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge have had a number of run-ins and if NASCAR doesn’t step in and put a stop to it, several things are possibly going to happen:
1. Somebody is going to get really hurt. Not a punch-in-the-nose hurt; a hospital hurt.
2. If (1) happens, sponsorship of that series could be jeopardized.
In the season finale at Kawartha Speedway last fall, Micks was third and Fitzpatrick was second on the last lap when Micks rammed him. Micks finished second and Fitzpatrick was 15th. A near-donnybrook followed that involved not only the drivers but members of both crews.
It took away from the championship celebration of first-time winner D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas. A representative of his sponsor, Castrol Canada, had to wait for the situation to calm down before she was allowed out on the track and I can tell you she was not impressed.
Since then, Fitzpatrick rammed Micks (and reportedly approached him later and said they were even) and on-and-on. The drivers were told specifically to cool it before the race in Saskatchewan so it’s safe to say that NASCAR Canada officials have been keeping an eye on the situation.
Saturday night at Barrie Speedway, Fitzpatrick was leading the race on the last lap when Micks, who was running second, spun him out again. This time Mark Dilley of Barrie got past Micks to win the race, with Jason Hathaway of Appin, Ont., second. Micks was third and Fitzpatrick wound up ninth.
You guessed it: there was a replay of the scene at Kawartha last year.
Now, I don’t know what’s been going on between those two men. But I can tell you right now that Canadian Tire Corp. is in the business of racing because of the automotive competition on offer, not the ultimate fighting championship, which seems to be the norm at NASCAR Canada races these days.
Given a choice between Saturday night at the fights or more involvement in something like – say – the "new" Mosport, guess which way some of the sponsors of this series might be inclined to go.
And here’s something else to chew on: there are not a lot of companies or corporations lined up and ready to title-sponsor stock car racing in Canada these days so everybody involved should be working very hard to keep the sponsors who are there now happy.
Monetary fines won’t do much good because very few of the guys racing in the Canadian Tire Series have much money. So, how about this: shake hands and make up, but if there’s one more incident, accidental or otherwise, you’re both suspended indefinitely.
That might get their attention.
Meantime, Don Thompson Jr. of Hamilton finished fourth at Barrie Saturday, Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was fifth, Brad Graham of Glencoe was sixth, Kennington was seventh, Joey McColm of Ajax was eighth (a great run for him), Fitzpatrick was ninth and first-race rookie Chris Raabe of Napanee was 10th.
The championship chase is now officially tight. Scott Steckley of Milverton, who’s led since the start of the season, is still in first place with 1,595 points (he finished 14th at Barrie). But Kennington is second with 1,526 and the series now moves to Riverside Speedway outside Antigonish, N.S., for a race next Saturday.
A week later, the finale once again will be flagged off at Kawartha (a great place to watch a race, by the way. And if your spouse/partner isn’t into racing, there’s a casino there.) It’s safe to say that the championship will go down to the wire.
P.S. The Barrie Speedway "Wild Wing 300" can be seen on TSN next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and repeated at 1 a.m. on Mon., Sept. 19 and Thurs., Sept. 22. It’s on TSN2 next Saturday at 6 p.m. and at 7 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 23rd.
– Antoine L'Estage of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and Nathalie Richard of Halifax won the Rallye Defi in Ripon, Que., at the weekend – his sixth career win at Defi and the team's seventh consecutive win in Canada.
"We've clinched the North American Rally Cup here as well," said L'Estage. "That makes it my fourth, and for Nathalie, her seventh."
Leo Urlichich of Thornhill and Martin Brady finished second and Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy, both of New Richmond, Que., were third. Rallye Defi was the fourth of six rallies counting toward the Canadian rally championship . . .
– Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud won the Six Hours of Silverstone in a Puegeot.