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What? NASCAR penalizes Pinty’s Series driver for tradin’ paint? What is this world coming to? Carpenter on pole at Indy; Harvick wins All-Star million.

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Kevin Lacroix (left) and L.P. Dumoulin bring the NASCAR Pinty’s Series cars onto the main straight Sunday for the start of the Clarington 200 stock car race, the headline event of the annual Victoria Day Speedfest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Photo by Norris McDonald

Since when did NASCAR get its knickers in a knot over a little tradin’ paint?

Isn’t it a tradition in NASCAR racing for the leader on the last lap to grit his (or her) teeth because, as sure as God made them little green applies, the guy in second place is going to knock him out of the way and go on to win the race?

Didn’t that happen at this very race track, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, last Labour Day weekend when the trucks race winner, Austin Cindric, who was in second place going into Corner 5 on the last lap, knocked the leader out of the way in order to win and boasted about it afterward?

So Sunday at CTMP, Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., tried a little bump-and-run to get past the leader, Kevin Lacroix, of Saint-Eustache, Que., and was semi-successful, in that he also got a little out of shape and L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., snuck past both of them and went on to score his first victory in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series since 2014.

Ranger finished second in the sprint to the wire but, post-race, was handed a time penalty by NASCAR and was officially classified as 12th. Marc-Antoine Camirand of Saint-Leonard-d’Aston, Que., moved up from third to second and Noah Gragson, of Las Vegas, went from fourth to third.

The Clarington 200 was the feature race of the annual Victoria Day Speedfest at CTMP that traditionally kicks  off the Ontario road-racing season. An extra-large crowd was on hand for the Pinty’s race as well as races in six support series.

NASCAR did not provide an explanation for the penalty levied against the popular Ranger but Gragson, a young up-and-coming American who has raced in the highly professional Camping World Series for trucks and the Xfinity Series for late-model stock cars, seemed to suggest there was more of a tolerance for rough racing in the big leagues as distinct from semi-pro series like the Pinty’s.

Dumoulin, though,  answered a question about the penalty in a way that suggested potential confusion going forward.

“I get it,” he said. “To rub fenders, move people around, I can deal with it. I’ve never been that style of driver. I’m from formula cars and if you bump somebody there, you can find yourself in some real trouble. Saying that, I’ve been in this series for seven years and I’ve seen a lot of stuff go on. You take some notes and at a certain point if nothing happens then maybe it has to happen on the track. If it’s part of the game, then . . . you just have to be smart about it.”

Lacroix, who was the victim of Ranger’s move but ended up fifth in the 22-car field, didn’t seem too upset by what had happened.

“Gary Klutt pushed me pretty hard earlier in the race,” he said, “and I wore out my front tires. On the last lap, I got loose in (Corner) five and Ranger took care of the rest. But I was loose . . .”

NASCAR Canada veteran D.J. Kennington, who prepared Ranger’s car for him, was more upset about the time penalty than anyone – other than, perhaps, Ranger, who wasn’t giving interviews. Kennington’s language was somewhat colourful as he expressed his displeasure with the penalty. The Castrol  Edge veteran finished fourth.

IndyCar racing veteran Alex Tagliani, who’s now concentrating on the Pinty’s Series, was leading the race when a rear upper link came loose and made his car uncompetitive.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” he said. “We came to win and a mechanical problem is one of the hardest things to take because you can’t do anything about it.”

Tag stayed out and eventually brought his car home 14th, “but it’s going to be very difficult for us to regain the points we lost in our battle for the championship,” he said.

Winner Dumoulin said he’d experienced some difficulties during the race. On the third or fourth lap, his shifter-knob broke off and he had to drive the rest of the race without it, “but you do it.” He said he had a slow leak in one of his tires and that the windshield became loose toward the end of the race.

“But we led the most important lap. You never give up and you do your best and good things happen.”

Camirand said he had a good car, although it wasn’t good enough to win but was good enough to be on the podium. “It’s a brand new car,” he said. “We tested a little bit in it last week but we need a couple more good tests to make that car top-notch. To fine-tune it.”

Gragson said he came to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for two reasons – “one was to win, and we didn’t get that done. On a high note, we finished third and I learned a lot all day. This is just preparation for when I come back here for the truck race later this year. I’ll make notes and I’ll study them and we’ll come back stronger.”

Gragson paid a marvelous tribute to the Pintys series and its drivers.

“They are so badass in this series,” he said. “The top five or six guys, I don’t think they get enough credit from everybody in the States. These are the most badass road-course racers in the nation, in my opinion, so to be able to run up front with them . . . I think I could run with them (for the win) so I’ll have to come back up here in August for some redemption.”

NEWS ‘N NOTES

Ed Carpenter won the pole for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 during a special nine-car shootout this afternoon. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power will share the front row with the popular Indianapolis resident. Josef Newgarden, Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot start on the second row while Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon make up row three. Canadians: Zachary Claman De Melo of Montreal will start 13th while Robert Wickens of Guelph will start 18th. James Hinchcliffe returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday after failing to qualify for the 102nd renewal of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing Saturday and there does not seem to be any chance that he will get into another car for the race. It is still possible that he could replace a driver in a qualified car, or that a qualified car could be purchased by the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team and Hinchcliffe could replace that car’s driver, but both scenarios are considered unlikely. Hinchclife tweeted the following to his followers Sunday: “Can’t thank you all enough for the support. This has been one of the toughest days of my career but the greatest triumphs come after adversity. This place has hurt me worse and we came back swinging! This is no one’s fault but ours, but our team is amazing and we will fight back!” . . . . . Kevin Harvick  (who else?) won the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte Saturday night. No points and no real glory but he won $1 million and that will look nice when he goes to the bank machine and checks his balance. NASCAR mucked around with things like a different splitter, air ducts on the front of the car, a tighter restriction plate and a taller rear spoiler and the package made for better racing because it kept the field tight in a pack. But don’t expect NASCAR to adopt it for “normal” races any time soon . . . . . Etienne Borgeat won his second Canadian Touring Car Championship race of the weekend Sunday. Marc Raymond won the Super Touring class while Paul Joakim was first in Touring class . . . . . Zach Robichon made it two-for-two Sunday when he won the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Robichon, a former open-wheel racer, hasn’t lost so far in the 2018 championship . . . . . Lawson Aschenbach won his fourth straight GTS Sprint 50-minute race in the Pirelli World Challenge at CTMP . . . . . Kevin King was on the top step of the podium following Race 2 of the Nissan Micra Cup Sunday at CTMP. Olivier Bedard was second and Valerie Limoges finished third . . . . . Mercedes continued its dominance at the Lausitzring Sunday when Gary Paffett won his second race of the season, his fourth at the circuit and the 22nd of his German Touring Car Championship (DTM) career. Mercedes is in first place in the constructor’s championship . . . . .