The NASCAR Pinty’s Series returns to the Streets of Toronto for the first time since 2011 after a five-year hiatus. With drivers showcased alongside those of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the stakes will be high with drivers fighting to prove their worth on the big stage.
Andrew Ranger enters the weekend as the point leader, and most recent winner in Toronto. When the series last visited Toronto in 2011, Ranger was victorious in a fierce battle against four-time series champion Scott Steckly. Ranger won the year before as well beating out American invader Jason Bowles for the win as Ranger led wire-to-wire. With two wins already in the bank this year, Ranger is undoubtedly the driver to beat at Exhibition Place.
Cayden Lapcevich is only 16 years old, but he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to driving race cars. The Grimsby teenager didn’t plan on running full-time, but after several strong runs to start the season, Lapcevich finds himself second in points. Lapcevich is coming off an eighth-place finish at Circuit ICAR in Quebec, and could find himself in victory lane for the first time in his career if he continues his smooth run of consistency in Toronto.
Quietly running third in points after four races, D.J. Kennington is looking to snap a long winless streak. The two-time series champion hasn’t won since 2013, but that doesn’t mean anyone can shy away from him as a contender. In two past series starts at Exhibtion Place, Kennington’s finished in the top-five twice. Toronto could be just the place for him to put some heat on the point leaders in front of him.
After scoring his first career Pinty’s Series win at Autodrome Chaudiere in June, Alex Labbe sits third in series points. The French-Canadian driver is in his first full season in the series, and is now chasing his first championship. In the two road course races this season, Labbe has a fifth at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park after starting on pole, and finished second to Andrew Ranger at ICAR. Despite driving for a newly formed team in the offseason, he and his Go Fas Racing team have meshed well together to start the season, and can expect another solid run on Saturday.
Alex Tagliani currently sits ninth in Pinty’s Series points after missing the season opener at CTMP, but Tag is already a winner this season. After dominating at Sunset Speedway in 2015, Tagliani did it again this year, and took the checkered flag for the third time in his career. Tagliani brings a wealth of IndyCar knowledge to Toronto this weekend as he’s run at the track several times in his open-wheel career, but whether his extra track time will come into play is yet to be determined.
Kevin Lacroix was a rookie driver in 2015, but he proved to be a strong force on the road and street courses last year winning at ICAR and Trois-Rivieres. The street course ace is expected to have another good run in Toronto.
NASCAR Next driver Gary Klutt goes into Toronto sixth in the championship standings. Klutt’s only series win came in last year’s season opening race at CTMP, and Klutt hopes to turn around his season in Toronto after a few weekends of bad luck that have resulted in engine failures during practice sessions. Klutt will also have his dad Peter as a teammate this weekend in the No. 42, while Gary drives the No. 59.
A few runs of bad luck to start the year has mired Jason Hathaway back to tenth in the points. Hathaway is an annual contender for both wins and championships, but finds himself in a deep hole to start the season. As the season creeps towards halfway, Hathaway needs a good run in Toronto to put himself back in the championship picture.
In his lone start this season, Robin Buck finished second for Canada’s Best Racing Team at CTMP. Buck is back this weekend in the No. 1 for CBRT, and is looking for his second win in Toronto. Buck won on the street course in 1999 under the CASCAR East Series banner. It may be 17 years later, but he’s ready to win his second.
Buck isn’t the only CBRT driver in Toronto this weekend. The Joey McColm-managed team has brought four other cars to the track. Trans-Am driver and Toronto native Kevin Poitras will be in the No. 8, Jason White will drive the No. 21 in a last minute deal, Newfoundland’s Josh Collins will be in the No. 25, while Larry Jackson pilots the No. 87.
With Toronto being the fifth race on a 12-event schedule, drivers are nearing the halfway point in the season. Toronto also happens to be the first race of three in a summer stretch lasting nine days. The race in Toronto will be crucial for the championship contenders as it could be a make or break race. You can’t win the championship in the fifth race, but drivers can see their title hopes slip away problems arise in a 26-car field.