Best Of 2015: Canadian Tire Series

Photo Credit: Ashley McCubbin

Steckly Holds Off Hathaway, Lacroix And Klutt Break Out

By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 proved for the third season in a row that it’s the leader of the pack when it comes to close championship competitions.

Following seasons in which the final margin was two (2013) and three (2014) points, the 2015 crown was decided by four as Scott Steckly just edged Jason Hathaway to extend his series record for titles to four.

It was another monumental year for Steckly, who moved up to a tie for second on the series’ all-time wins list with 19 as well as into a tie for the career poles lead at 17, and it was a sweep of poles and checkered flags in the annual Western Swing that propelled him into championship contention.

Steckly, who sat third in points after three races, led 450 of the 550 laps contested in the trip to Alberta’s Edmonton International Raceway and Saskatchewan’s Auto Clearing Motor Speedway and returned back to his Ontario home base with the championship lead he would not relinquish.

In the end Steckly held off a streaking Jason Hathaway for the title to become just the second active NASCAR regional touring series driver to achieve four championships and the 33rd in NASCAR history overall.  WATCH:SEASON IN REVIEW

Top Driver
Scott Steckly:
  The series champion recorded yet another remarkably consistent season at the head of the pack. He led the series in poles (four), top fives (seven) and laps led (1,089) wile tying for the top spot in wins (three) and top 10s (10). In addition to his Western Swing sweep, Steckly posted a third triumph at Riverside International Speedway and he led the championship standings the final six races of the season.  WATCH:SCOTT STECKLY CHAMPION PROFILE | SCOTT STECKLY AWARDS SPEECH

Jason Hathaway (Honorable Mention):  The points runner-up tied Steckly for the series lead with three wins, a career-best. Hathaway’s success started when he defended his 2014 victory at Autodrome Chaudiere, which moved him to the championship lead that he would maintain for three subsequent races. He later became just the second driver in series history to win the final two events on the schedule – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Kawartha Speedway – but fell just short of what would have been his first title.  WATCH:JASON HATHAWAY DRIVER PROFILE

Top Team
22 Racing:
The series champs had speed each and every time out. With four poles and an additional pair of front row starts, Steckly’s No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge was almost always in a position to contend from the drop of the green. He led laps in eight of the 11 events, including five instances of 100 or more circuits highlighted by a 300-lap wire-to-wire domination at Auto Clearing.

Ed Hakonson Racing (Honorable Mention): Like 22 Racing, Ed Hakonson Racing has been a mainstay since the series was launched in 2007, and has participated in all 109 events with Hathaway behind the wheel. Despite coming four points shy of the crown, it was still a banner year for EHR, whose previous best championship finish was third in 2013. The No. 3 Fast Eddie Racewear/Choko/HGC Chevrolet team also recorded it’s first-ever road course victory.

Top Breakthrough Performance
Kevin Lacroix:
  Although he only competed in half of the events, no one took the series by storm in 2015 more than true rookie Kevin Lacroix. Following a crash just four laps into the season opener, the road course expert led 28 of 30 laps en route to victory at Circuit ICAR in his second outing. In just the second race ever on an oval in his entire racing career, Lacroix had plenty of speed at Autodrome St-Eustache before a mechanical failure, then returned to Victory Lane for a second time in the prestigious Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. Both victories proved to be monumental as he became the fastest driver to earn a win (second start) and the quickest to two victories (fourth start) in series history.

Gary Klutt (Honorable Mention):  Klutt’s season was defined as breakthrough from the very first event. In what was just his seventh career race, Klutt was the surprise pole winner for the opener at CTMP, then found himself in the right place at the right time on the final lap and wound up in Victory Lane. He added a second pole in the series’ inaugural event at Sunset Speedway and earned a fifth-place finish in the final standings to go along with Jostens Rookie of the Year honors.

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Scott Steckly (left) and Andrew Ranger got together in the final turn of the final lap at the season opener, and opened the door for Gary Klutt to steal the win. NASCAR

Top Races
Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, May 17: 
A lot can happen in the 10th and final turn at CTMP, and that’s where the 2015 season-opener was decided. In an event that featured eight lead changes in 51 laps, Steckly and Andrew Ranger proved to be the class of the field. Steckly was poised to capture what would have been a long-awaited first career road course victory, but was engaged by Ranger in heavy contact through Turn 9 and the two cleaned each other out at the exit of Turn 10. Klutt, running third at the time, deftly slipped through the entanglement and on to the checkered flag.  WATCH:RACE REVIEW

JuliaWine.com Le 50 Tours at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, Aug. 2 (Honorable Mention):  In a fierce battle between champion and challenger, it was the challenger that came out on top in a thrilling conclusion to the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. Ranger, who had either won (four times) or finished second (four times) in each of the previous eight runnings of the event, started on the pole with Lacroix right beside in the front row. The rookie Lacroix took the lead for the first time on Lap 6, but Ranger moved back to the front on Lap 43 and looked poised to add to his legacy. On the final circuit the two made contact and drag raced to the finish line where it was Lacroix who barely nipped Ranger for the checkered flag.  WATCH: RACE REVIEW