Fitzpatrick Claims Montreal Checkered

MONTREAL — J.R. Fitzpatrick knew he was going to have his hands full keeping Andrew Ranger behind him on Saturday’s final lap.

Turns out, he didn’t have to worry as a final lap caution allowed the Ayr, Ontario, driver of the No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet to sail across the finish line under a yellow-checkered to claim the NAPA AUTOPRO 100 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1.

“My car was really good at the beginning. The tires were hot and we all were setting a pretty good pace, but after the first caution came I found out that it took a bit to build heat in the tires,” Fitzpatrick said. “So, on that (last restart) I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to get my tires heated back up which caused me to do a little more mirror driving than I’d like, but it’s what I had to do.”

Seven of Fitzpatrick’s eight series wins have come on road courses, including his 2009 victory at Montreal. He won the pole position in Friday’s qualifying and led 22 of 23 laps Saturday.

Ranger looked for opportunities throughout the race to make a move on Fitzpatrick. On Lap 14 took the chance and made it work, but unfortunately for Ranger the caution flag came out when Benoit Theetge was stopped in Turn 1 with the field bearing down on him. The lineup is set on the running order on the last completed green flag lap which returned Fitzpatrick to the race lead.

A late-race caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish for Fitzpatrick and Ranger as the two cars were aligned nose to tail. However, a multi-car wreck in Turn 14 after the leaders took the white flag, however, brought an end to the event.

Looking for his fourth win in Montreal in front of the hometown crowd Ranger, out of nearby Roxton Pond, Que., was disappointed with the having the race end under caution.

1 J.R. Fitzpatrick
2 Andrew Ranger
3 Robin Buck
4 Scott Steckly
5 D.J. Kennington

“I’m really proud of how we did today. The car was good and my crew did a great job,” said Ranger. “(Fitzpatrick) did a great job in front of me and limited my chances. I wish we could have raced for it at the end, but that’s how it goes, I guess.”

Despite being the benefactor Fitzpatrick would have liked to see how things turned out had that final caution flag not been waved, as well.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the win, but it would have been pretty exciting if we could have raced for it,” he said. “I don’t know if we would have won or even made it to the end. It would have been interesting,”

Per NASCAR rules, once the leader takes the white flag the field is frozen on any subsequent caution and the race is complete.

Robin Buck, a road-course veteran coming off a fourth-place effort on Aug. 5 at Trois-Rivieres, Que., finished a season-best third behind the wheel of his No. 66 Quaker State Dodge.

“The way the cautions fell today made it pretty difficult,” said Buck. “I got held up a little at the beginning, but the equipment was strong at the end.”

Scott Steckly and points leader D.J. Kennington came home in the fourth and fifth positions, respectively.

NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Timmy Hill and Austin Dillon, both making their series debut to gain more experience on a road course, finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Trevor Seibert, rookie Xavier Coupal and Kerry Micks completed the top 10.

Kennington continues to lead the points by 33 over Ranger. Fitzpatrick moved up a spot to third, two points behind Ranger.

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series returns to the track for the Wahta Springs 300 at Barrie (Ont.) Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 8.