Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series: Edmonton Pre-Race News & Notes

 -  Edmonton Canadian Tire Series 100 Notebook
 -  A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300 Post-Race Notebook
 -  Graham Heads Full Throttle To Edmonton
From Underdog To Top Dog, Steckly Solidifies Season
Coming into the 2008 season, several drivers were considered title contenders in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio and Scott Steckly was not among those given serious consideration. This was despite the fact he closed out the 2007 season with his first series win at Kawartha Speedway.
Fortunately for Steckly (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge), races and point championships are not decided by pre-season talk and speculation, but rather by hard work and determination.
“I can honestly say that we’re not doing anything different than we ever have,” said Steckly. “We’ve reached a point now that we only change about three things on the car from race to race.”
The comfort level with their Dodge Avenger is high in the Steckly camp. In 2008, they have visited Victory Lane three times in five outings. The other two races resulted in finishes of second and fourth. As a result, he holds an 111-point advantage over second-place Don Thomson Jr. in the championship point standings.
It’s been off the track, in the sponsorship arena, where the driver out of Milverton, Ont., has had a bumpy road. However, his early season dominance has smoothed the way.
Like Steckly, his new sponsor, Tow Truck in a Box, was an unknown quantity coming into the year.
Tow Truck in a Box is a new tool to the marketplace that is a compact, lightweight gadget made of an aircraft-quality aluminum alloy that is used to extract vehicles which are stuck in the snow or mud. The upstart company wanted to align itself within the NASCAR world but never envisioned being a primary car sponsor.
“We wanted to expose our product to the smart and savvy Canadian NASCAR fans, so we went through the licensing process with NASCAR Canada,” said Michael Manno, CEO of Tow Truck in a Box. “They suggested the idea of car sponsorship for better exposure. To be honest, we hadn’t thought in that direction at all.”
Steckly was left without a primary sponsor after a deal made last season fell through due to his affiliation with Dodge, so the introduction to the Tow Truck people was welcomed with open arms.
The deal began as an associate sponsorship on the rear quarter panel of the car, but Steckly, in hope of something more, referred to his ride as the Tow Truck in a Box Dodge.
“Our thought all along was that it could evolve into something more,” Steckly said. “So we treated it as such. We’ve been very fortunate in a lot of ways.”
Going the extra mile has paid off for both Steckly and the Canadian Tire Series. The series, in just its second year, gained a new partner and its points leader gained a primary sponsor for the remainder of the season.
“The relationships with (Steckly) and NASCAR have been a match made in heaven,” said Manno. “I wish we were in a position to sponsor that car from day one, but we weren’t. We have our man now, though. He is such a professional and a gentleman. It’s an honor to be associated with him. He has earned every penny.”
From Steckly’s perspective, the marriage has been just as perfect.
“Tow Truck in a Box came along at a great time for us and they have been fantastic to work with,” said Steckly. “We just want to continue the momentum and see where it takes us.”
The Race: Edmonton Canadian Tire Series 100
The Place: Rexall Speedway, Edmonton, Alberta
The Date: Saturday, July 26
The Time: 11:15 a.m. MT
TV Schedule: TSN, Noon ET, Aug. 3 (delayed)
Track Layout: 1.973-mile temporary road course
Race Purse: $78,062 CAD
2007 Winner: J.R. Fitzpatrick
2007 Pole: Andrew Ranger
Schedule: Friday: Practice 8-9  a.m., Time Trials 2 p.m.
Track Contact: Sid Priddle, (780) 488-8882 or
Graham Heads Full Throttle To Edmonton
Despite a disappointing finish of 14th at SunValley Speedway last Saturday, Brad Graham (No. 19 Full Throttle Energy Drink Dodge) heads to Edmonton with his spirits high.
Historically, SunValley is a track that has treated the Glencoe, Ont., driver well and another quality finish looked to be in store.
Graham started fourth on the grid and he was playing tire strategy as the long 300-lap event progressed. However, an engine failure left all the plans for naught.
“Our strategy was working perfectly. We had our new tires,” Graham said. “We were up front just taking it easy and waiting for the end. We were definitely on our way to a great finish. The track changes so much as it cools off that you really have to be on your game.”
However, with just 45 laps to go Graham’s night would come to a premature end with trouble under the hood.
“We put ourselves in the right position, but sometimes things happen that you can’t control,” he said.
On the season, Graham has three top-10 finishes including a season-best fifth-place finish at Barrie Speedway. He currently holds the ninth position in the championship point standings, but is just 44 points in back from fourth-place Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Wal-Mart/Tide Ford).
A season ago, on the 1.973-mile temporary road course set up on the grounds of Edmonton’s City Centre Airport, Graham put together a top-10 run by finishing ninth.
News & Notes
The Race: This event is the sixth of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio schedule. It is the series’ second visit to the track.
The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 25 cars will qualify through NASCAR Road Race (group) qualifying. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 32 laps covering 100 kilometers (63.136 miles).
The Track: The 1.973-mile temporary road course is fashioned from runways and access roads at Edmonton City Centre Airport and has 14 turns. At its narrowest point, Rexall Speedway is 50 feet wide and 75 feet at its widest. Over 80 percent of the track is viewable from anywhere in the grandstands, making it one of the fan-friendliest road courses around.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 81.311 seconds (87.353 mph) accomplished by Andrew Ranger on July 20, 2007. The 32-lap race record is held by J.R. Fitzpatrick at 1 hour, 1 minute, 58 seconds set July 21, 2007.
A Season Ago: J.R. Fitzpatrick passed Andrew Ranger on the white flag lap for the win. After starting on the pole, Ranger had led every lap to that point. Road course ace Robin Buck finished third.
Also On Tap: Joining the Canadian Tire Series in Edmonton is the IndyCar Series. Also competing will be the Atlantic Series and the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club.
A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300 Post-Race Notebook
Not to be Outdone: In picking up his third career NCATS victory, Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) tied his Fitzpatrick Motorsports teammate J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 84 Fitzpatrick Motorsports Chevrolet) on the series’ all-time wins list. Fitzpatrick collected his third win earlier this season at Mosport International Speedway.
Best Finishes: John Gaunt (No. 12 Centennial Chrysler Dodge) led a trio of drivers who posted Canadian Tire Series career-best finishes. Finishing third, it was Gaunt’s first podium finish. Jason White (No. 21 A&W/Zimmer-Wheaton GMC Chevrolet) earned seventh place while Todd Nichol (No. 6 Norton/Pennzoil Chevrolet) came home in the eighth position.
Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory in Vernon, Thomson collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort. He also has wins at Cayuga Motor Speedway and Mosport Speedway in his Canadian Tire Series career.
Mopar Fast Five: This program awards the top five finishing Dodges in the race. In the Kodak 250, Steckly was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Gaunt finished third overall and was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,250. Picking up $1,000 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries Dodge). Collecting $500 for placing fourth among the Dodge entrants was D.J. Kennington (No. 17 Castrol/Haldex Dodge). Rounding out the top five Dodges was Derek Lynch (No. 77 Allied Steel Buildings/Canadian Shield Dodge), which pays $250.
POWERade Power Move: Gaunt also earned the POWERade bonus of $1,000 for improving his position the most over the course of the race. He started 14th on the grid and finished third.
Tow Truck in a Box Free Pass Award: In a new program in 2008, the driver who receives a free pass during the event and has the highest finish earns $1,000. Thomson collected the $1,000 bonus for this event proving that being a lap down does not mean that a win is out of the question.
 From Shon Sbarra / NASCAR

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