Labour Day Thunder
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to CTMP
On Labour Day weekend, the hills north of Bowmanville, Ontario will once again be filled with the sounds of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, as the Chevrolet Silverado 250 will take the green flag for the fourth time at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) on Sunday, Sept. 4.
The first two events were held on Labour Day weekend, and by race morning one required a shoehorn to cram all of the attendees into the historic grand prix road course. In 2015, the race was held the weekend before Labour Day but the turnout was still impressive, as race fans flocked to CTMP to catch more exciting tailgater action.
Regardless of how many more Camping World Truck Series races are still to come at CTMP, the series may have a tough time topping its 2013 debut. The inaugural race saw Chase Elliott punt Austin Dillon on the final turn before limping his truck down the home straight for the win, while several others made contact in the closing laps of a hotly contested affair. The race also featured Max Papis, who spun Mike Skeen on the final turn of the last lap, get slapped by Skeen’s angry girlfriend on live North American television post-race.
As exciting as the first race was, the 2014 event was almost as thrilling as Ryan Blaney held the lead late in the event, with German Quiroga Jr. chasing him through the closing laps. On the final trip down the backstretch Quiroga pulled alongside Blaney, and then completed the pass through turn eight. By the time the pair had worked through turns nine and ten, Blaney had returned the favour and claimed his first career win.
Last year, the racing was every bit as entertaining, as Erik Jones (pictured below) had to hold off a hard charge from Alex Tagliani during the green-white-checkered finish before Tagliani's transmission broke on the final lap. Another Canadian, Cameron Haley, was able to finish in a solid seventh place after leading the middle portion of the race.
CTMP pivotal to Chase hopes
With the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase on the horizon, a number of teams will be under pressure to deliver a good result at CTMP’s 10-turn road course as they pursue final playoff berths. This Sunday's race, and the following event at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 16, will complete the field.
Rookie sensation William Byron has posted five wins so far in 2016, and was recently named to a full-time ride with Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017. While he's never wheeled a truck around a road course, the fabulous freshman has answered every other challenge in his rookie campaign and has made the most out of his Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment every time out.
Matt Crafton is also locked into the Chase thanks to back-to-back wins at Dover and Charlotte, and the two-time series champion spoke about his previous trips to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where he has finished 10th, sixth, and second, "We're taking the same truck as last year when we finished second, and we're excited about our trip to Canada. I've raced at the IWK 250 in Antigonish a few times before, and the Canadian race fans are something else. That's a late model race, and the track was packed. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is the same way."
The first one to lock in this year was Johnny Sauter who posted a win in the season opener at Daytona. Sauter said, "I have a Canadian connection. I drove for Alec Pinsonneault in the ASA series for years, and the area really reminds me of Wisconsin. I also can't get over how enthusiastic Canadian fans are. We get to spend some time with the fans there, and they really have a passion for motorsports. There are a lot of diehard fans, and I think it's great that we are able to go to Canada to race."
Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek are also locked into the inaugural truck series Chase, thanks to wins at Gateway and Atlanta.
Another driver punched his ticket to the dance, as Brett Moffitt used a last-lap, three-wide pass on the outside to claim his first win at Michigan.
Another first time winner showed up in victory lane at Bristol where Ben Kennedy won. Kennedy, who finished third in last year's edition of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 said, "It was great to get that win, and get locked into the chase. When it comes to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, I think it's a great piece of our schedule. It's a track where the talent of the driver is so important, and really comes out. It's going to be so much about ability, because it's such a challenging track. It's also very important to NASCAR to go to other countries, and expand the business end of the sport."
Currently, Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters are in the Chase on points, but there are a number of capable drivers who can mess up their plans with a victory. Hemric recorded a fourth-place finish last year in his only start, while Peters has started all three events, with two top-tens, and a best finish of sixth.
One of those contenders is Calgary native Hayley (pictured above) who finds himself 47 points back of Peters, and basically needing a win to make the Chase. He returns to CTMP on the heels of a solid fifth-place finish last weekend at Michigan.
"This will be the first time I'm going to an event for a third time, so that's something new, and we ran really strong there last year, leading a bunch of laps. It was great last year, because it felt like we had the whole place backing us up. There were Canadian flags everywhere, and signs supporting us - it was a pretty emotional time on the lap where they took us around in the trucks to see all of that," he said.
As for the things that stand out about racing at home, Hayley added, "I always get a kick out of the guys on my team when we start taking about miles per hour, and kilometres per hour – they get all confused, but Canadians seem to be able to do the math in their head, because we do it all the time. But it's going to be great to host my guys in Canada again, and we'll be looking to win a home game next weekend."
Cole Custer is also on the outside looking in, but is ready for a return trip north of the border.
"I think it will help us going back this year, because I know a little more about what I want in the truck. I haven't done any road course racing other than this, and a course at Bondurant, but it's a lot of fun, and I think we can be better this year [10th],” he said.
Tyler Reddick, Ben Rhode, and Rico Abreu have also posted top-five finishes this year, and are Chase-eligible if they can find their way into Victory Lane.
NASCAR Pinty's Series regular Gary Klutt has also secured a ride for the Silverado 250, and will be in some top flight equipment, as he will pilot a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
Great doubleheader action
Joining the Trucks on the weekend schedule will be the NASCAR Pinty's Series, as drivers in Canada’s top touring division will be racing in their next to last event of the season. For years the series only raced the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Victoria Day weekend, but for the past three years, they have been joining the Truck series to form the best doubleheader race event in the country.
With the season winding down, Andrew Ranger leads the championship standings, and will be looking to lock down his third series title, while 16-year old Cayden Lapcevich will be trying to use the momentum of his first career win at Saskatoon to propel him to the championship.
Tagliani has used the strength of three wins to move to third in the standings, despite missing one event, while L.P. Doumoulin is a former two-time winner at CTMP and sits fourth in points.
Photography by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images