Drivers pulling double-duty in Canada this weekend
By Steven Ellis
September 2, 2017
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is always one of the most anticipated stops on the calendar in any NASCAR division.
The series has seen last lap passes in all of the races held there since the dramatic debut that saw Chase Elliott collide with Ty Dillon for his inaugural NASCAR victory in 2013.
Canada’s top stock car division, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, has seen drivers pull double-duty at the track in recent years, racing in the morning Pinty’s battle before going for a win in the Truck Series event later in the afternoon.
Names like Andrew Ranger and Alex Tagliani have made fantastic runs in recent campaigns, but to date, the race has been won by American drivers. This time, the series sends four drivers to make a run at the trophy, all with various degrees of success at the Clarington, Ontario-based venue.
D.J. Kennington is a name familiar with NASCAR fans, with his various starts in the XFINITY series and two runs at Daytona this season in the Monster Energy Cup Series, including the Daytona 500.
The multi-time Pinty’s Series champion made his Truck series debut at CTMP a season ago, driving the No. 49 Premium Motorsports Chevy Silverado.
This time, Kennington will be making his lone start of the season in the Gaunt Brothers’ No. 96 Toyota Tundra, the same team that fielded his Daytona 500 entry. Kennington has three career wins at the track, but hasn’t found victory lane there since the 2011 campaign.
His last win in NASCAR competition came at Trois-Rivieres back in 2013, with the DJ Kennington Racing team owner failing to hit victory lane in 48 races since.
Gary Klutt will be taking over the role of the No. 49 Premium Motorsports truck this time around. A year ago, a conflict with Cody Coughlin’s schedule allowed Klutt to race the No. 51 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports, showing strength throughout the weekend in his first start in the series.
Klutt previously raced for Premium in the Monster Energy Series this year, giving them one of their best finishes with a 31st-place run.
Klutt moved to a part-time role in the Pinty’s Series this year, one year removed from being in the NASCAR Next class. Klutt’s only win to date in the series came at the track back in 2015, taking advantage of a last turn accident between Scott Steckly and Andrew Ranger.
Considered one of the best young talents in Canada, Klutt’s best finish of the 2017 season saw him come from two laps down in the final ten laps to finish third place after a valiant effort in the rain.
The lone Canadian driver to be making their Camping World Truck Series debut is Jason Hathaway, piloting the No. 66 Bolen Motorsports Chevy.
Hathaway has only raced twice in the Pinty’s Series this season, posting top ten’s at CTMP and Delaware to kick off the year.
A full-time APC Late Model Series driver, Hathaway swept the doubleheader at the newly-opened Jukasa Speedway in Ontario, a race that featured fellow Pinty’s Series competitors Alex Labbe and Cayden Lapcevich, as well as former NASCAR driver and CASCAR participant Kenny Schrader.
More of a short track guy than a road course ace, Hathaway scored a big win at the 2015 Pinty’s race at CTMP, helping in his quest for second place in the points. He may not have the expertise on the twisty tracks like the other names in the series, but he’s got a win and more than enough experience at this track in particular.
The driver most likely to compete for a win, however, could end up being Alex Tagliani. Tagliani has been a staple in Canadian NASCAR competition in recent years, entering multiple XFINITY Series races at Montreal as well as the past few races at CTMP.
The Pinty’s qualifying record holder at the track, Tagliani has two pole-positions in the Truck Series already at the track and was a lap away from taking the 2015 victory. Unfortunately for the former Indy 500 polesitter, Tagliani’s gear shifter wouldn’t get into third gear and found himself down in the finishing order.
Tagliani has struggled at points in his first complete Pinty’s Series, showing pace at ovals but failing to truly compete for wins. He did, however, grab his first win of the season just two races ago at Trois-Rivieries, edging out Andrew Ranger for the victory that would put him back into the title fight late in the season.
Tagliani is tasked with bringing the #02 Young Motorsports truck to the front, and while the team has showed some speed at points, they’ve never truly competed for series victories. Tagliani, however, is likely their best bet ever to take home a victory, with the 22 Racing driver showing as one of the better road course drivers each week in the Pinty’s Series.
None of these drivers are competing for the Truck Series title and in turn will be aiming solely for the victory. Road courses present a whole new challenge for drivers looking to steal positions, especially with so many late races cautions causing havoc in recent seasons at the track.
This time, though, there’s a better chance than ever to see a Canadian grab a victory on home soil.
Steven Ellis/The Racing Experts