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Ranger or Lacroix: Jukasa Fall Brawl will decide Pinty’s national championship

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

The neat thing about the NASCAR Pinty’s Series for the Canadian national stock-car racing championship is that for whatever reason, the title always comes down to the last race of the season – in this case the Pinty’s Fall Brawl at Jukasa Motor Speedway, east of Hagersville, south of Hamilton, on Saturday night.

Lewis Hamilton will wrap up the 2019 Formula One World Championship before the end of the season, rendering the last couple of races redundant, so far as the driver’s title is concerned. The NTT IndyCar Series, which closed out its season last weekend in California, awarded double points at that final race in an attempt to generate excitement. NASCAR Monster Energy Cup has had to resort to “playoffs” in recent years in an effort to keep people interested after several seasons of the Cup being won by drivers who were so far ahead in the points they couldn’t be caught as the season wound down.

The NASCAR Canada series has not had to resort to such artificialities. The competition has been so close over the years that the last race has always been a nailbiter. Which doesn’t mean that some drivers didn’t have things pretty much under control by the time the final joust rolled around but one false move – Scott Steckly, twice, and Don Thompson Jr., at least once, for example – would have meant disaster for them and a surprise victory for the way-behind second-place driver.

On Saturday night, all eyes will be on two drivers – Andrew Ranger and Kevin Lacroix. They are the only two among the expected 24 starters who can win the 2019 crown but if both are on their game, a real dogfight is expected.

Ranger is gunning for his third championship. NASCAR Canada’s winningest driver won the inaugural championship in 2007 following the sale of CASCAR to NASCAR, following it up with another in 2009. With a potential 10-year gap between championships – which would tie the second-longest span for a driver in the same NASCAR series – Ranger is chomping at the bit for his third title.

“It would mean so much for our MOPAR team,” former Champ Car World Series driver Ranger said. “A lot of these guys have been with me for a long time and I want to make them champions. We’ve won a lot in this series but always seemed to have bad luck and couldn’t close the deal. Now we have the points lead with one race to go, I’m excited but I know Kevin will be a tough competitor.”

On the other side of the spectrum, former Champ Car Atlantic star Lacroix is perhaps the best driver in the series to not win a championship. Over the past four years, Lacroix has been close, really close.

He has a series-best 12 wins since 2015, and has finished top five in the standings each of his three full-time years. He has been in contention for the title in the season every year, but has either made mistakes, or been caught up in somebody else’s mistake.

“Over the past few seasons, our car has really gotten better,” Lacroix said. “I’ve gotten better as an oval driver and we now are a dominant team. Winning a championship would mean so much to not just me but my team as well. They all work so hard and a lot of them have dreamed about being champions. We’ve had a lot of bad luck over the years and to finally win it would be amazing.”

There will be a support race at Jukasa Saturday, as well as the main event. A 50-lap invitational for the perennially competitive Limited Late Model division is on tap.

“The reception from our fans was overwhelmingly positive last season on Fall Brawl weekend” said Jukasa promoter and GM Alex Nagy. “so I couldn’t be happier putting together the 2019 version of the event that looks to be another epic battle right down to the last lap.”

Pinty’s Delicious Foods will once again return as the presenting sponsor of the season-ending NASCAR Canada Championship race, which will be capped off with a post-race fireworks display.

“Pinty’s has been with us since we first opened in 2017 and I can’t say enough about what their support means to us,” said Nagy. “This will be our third year hosting the NASCAR Pinty’s Series Championship Finale and our second year putting together a large-scale Limited Late Model invitational. It is without question a can’t miss season-ending event. I couldn’t think of a better way to close out our 2019 season and I hope all of our fans and competitors are every bit as excited as we are.”

The NASCAR championship comes down to this : the gap stands at 11 points with a race to go. As NASCAR’s Josh Hamilton puts it, two drivers, 11 points, one race to decide it all.

NOTES:

Alex Labbe will miss the season finale as he heads south to compete at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.  This will be the eighth Xfinity Series race for Labbe with DGM Racing and team owner Mario Gosselin.  In his place, Quebec Late Model phenom Sam Charland will make his Pinty’s Series debut in the No. 36 Hotel Le Concorde Silverwax Festidrag Ford.

A strong field of 24 cars are entered for Saturday night’s finale. Dumoulin Competition and DJK Racing will each bring four cars. For DJK Racing their stable will include Ranger, DJ Kennington, Cole Powell and Juila Landauer, the same group that ran last weekend at New Hampshire. Meanwhile, LP and JF Dumoulin will be joined by Brandon White and Dexter Stacey. Scott Steckly’s 22 Racing Team will see Marc Antoine Camirand and Donald Theetge looking for glory.

For the second straight year, fans at Jukasa Motor Speedway are invited to watch the driver / crew chief meeting take place before the race. The meeting – in which NASCAR reviews rules and regulations with drivers, crew chiefs and spotters – will take place in the grandstands at 3:20 p.m., right before qualifying kicks off at 4 p.m.

Former IndyCar star and sports-car racer Alex Tagliani will miss his third consecutive race as he battles a heart ailment brought on by a virus. In his place again will be Alex Guenette, who drove Tag’s No. 18 last weekend at New Hampshire and finished a very successful seventh.  As Guenette now has a race under his belt, look for him to be more competitive this weekend.

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