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Target in Sight

Scott Steckly Stalks His Second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Title

Scott Steckly Photo by Ramesh BayneyBefore the start of the 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season, Scott Steckly expanded his #22 Racing Team to include a full-time teammate, when former National Stock Car Champion Mark Dilley brought his sponsorship and marketing abilities to Steckly’s shop. While the 2008 series champion was still a contender in 2010 (one win, third place in the championship), it wasn’t the result he was looking for. The Milverton, Ontario driver was determined to do everything he could in 2011 to win another championship.

This season couldn’t have started any better for Steckly. The NASCAR Canadian Tire tour kicked off its season at the half-mile oval at Mosport, where he picked up his first win of the year, “That was a great way to start the season. We led a lot that night and then when we pitted we had a nut get jammed in the socket on a pit stop. I was able to come through the field and get the lead again and win,” he said.

The 39-year old continued his oval track wizardry as the series trekked to another half-mile at Delaware Speedway. Steckly put Don Thomson Jr. in the crosshairs late in the race, only to finish second. He would, however, be vindicated a month later during the swing to Western Canada. He sat on the pole for the event at Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, BC, and continued to make it his own personal playground. “The thing I’ve learned about racing there is saving the right rear. All tracks change during the race, but you have to build so much adjustability into the car, because that place changes more than any place else, especially about 100 laps in. We’ve ran their five times since NASCAR took over and we’ve had three wins, and now back to back wins in five years. I think that made us the first team to ever win back to back at the same track and a record like that is pretty cool. It means a lot to the guys on the team,” he said.

Steckly (leading) notched three victories in 2011. Photo by Ramesh BayneySteckly also improved his road course game with two podiums and a top five during the season’s first half. “We had a top-five car [at ICAR], but I knew we had to just be patient. I let those guys at the front do their thing, but we didn’t have a second-place car. I did the same thing in the rain at Three Rivers. I had never raced in the rain before, so I just stayed ahead of the guys that we had to stay ahead of for the championship, and came home third. We were fifth at Mosport and could’ve been better if we didn’t get out of sequence in the pits, and at the Indy in Toronto we qualified third, ran in the top three and four, and had something for Andrew [Ranger].”

As the series evolves – it expanded to five road courses in 13 events last year, and five out of 12 this year – guys like Steckly have had an uphill battle with the road course specialists those events attract. “I like racing against the 27 [Ranger]. He’s unreal! I want to try and get better, and to win a championship now you have to be able to do well on road courses. When half of our season is on road courses, it does get frustrating, because you want to beat those guys - it makes you want to get better so you have a chance. If I had my way, I’d just have two or three, because oval track racing is what I grew up on, at Varney, Sauble, and Delaware.”

Steckly is keenly aware of the value those events provide. “They are great for sponsors, and you’re getting in front of more people for those sponsors. I don’t know what they have to do to put more people in the seats at the oval tracks. We have promotion and marketing people trying so hard and at some tracks the stands aren’t full.”

As for his own marketing partners, they include one of the highest profile sponsors in the series, Canadian Tire, in addition to long-time associations with AW Millwrights and Erb Transport.

J.R. Fitzpatrick (leading) and Kerry Micks (#02) went winless in 2011.“We’ve had AW Millwrights for 18 years, and Erb for 15 years. They understand that they have a smaller role with the team now, but they love the additional exposure that they are getting by being on the car, and by the amount of shows we do for Canadian Tire,” he said.

Dilley, who found himself without a car when long time team owner David Whitlock retired and shut his team down at the end of the 2009, joined forces with Steckly, and the transition has been seamless.

“It’s been great, and I’ve been in nothing but first class equipment. The team is similar to Whit’s, and like with Dave, the cars are always clean and prepared well. Scott and I use different setups, but we still share lots of notes back and forth, and no complaints at all,” Dilley said.

“It’s been very good to have Mark as a teammate. He looks after a lot of marketing for us, and it works well when we go and test. It adds work to our program, but we have some great guys at the shop,” Steckly remarked.

As for what it takes to run the two-car team, Steckly relies on a small team. “There is myself, and two full-time guys. Then we have a bunch of volunteers. Everyone understands that we have to have guys in the shop getting paid, and we try to do our best to look after as much as we can, so when the volunteers come out one night a week we don’t have to work until one or two in the morning.”

One of those full-timers is new crew chief Giulio Montanari who replaced long-time crew member Greg Gibson at the end of the 2010 season. “He was looking for something, and we were looking at the same time. He’s been great with my guys, and we’re pleased.” 

NASCAR Whelen Modifieds Make First Trip North of the Border

NASCAR Whelen Modified Series Photo by Jamie MaudsleyDelaware Speedway has always been a special place on Labour Day weekend, with drivers such as Steve Robblee, Peter Gibbons, Tracie Leslie, Junior Hanley, and Jesse Kennedy making trips to Victory Lane over the years.

On Sunday, September 4, NASCAR’s footprint on the Canadian racing scene got a little bigger, when one of their top short track classes crossed the border to join a classic weekend of Canadian motorsports competition. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was the feature attraction, as the Series made its first ever trip outside of the United States.

In addition to the stars of the series including point leader Ron Silk, defending champion Bobby Santos, and other former champions Jamie Tomaino and Todd Szegedy, local talent was well represented with 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and former Delaware track champion D.J. Kennington and local Late Model hotshoe Cole Powell both entered in the event.

A field of 18 of the finest Modifieds in the Northeast took the green on the ½-mile for the 150-lap feature with Erick Rudolph on the front row alongside point leader Ron Silk. Rudolph was the class of the field through the first half of the race, with Silk on his bumper, and local hero Kennington running in the top ten.

Silk was able to improve his car during the halftime break, and on lap 106 made the pass for the lead on a restart.

The skies had threatened all day, and with just a handful of laps left, it started raining just long enough to hold the show up for 48 minutes before the field made two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. Silk held off a charge by Doug Coby, with Szegedy rounding out the podium.

For Silk, it was his second victory on the tour this year, and he was pleased with his first trip to Canada. “Our car really woke up after the changes at the halftime break. When they talked about coming here, I didn’t know what to expect, but hopefully we can come back, because this is a great track,” he said.

Kennington had worked his way into the mix for a win, restarting from the inside of row two on the final double-file restart, but fuel problems slowed him on the restart. Despite being in line for a podium finish, Kennington limped home with an eighth-place finish in what was a spectacular series debut. Powell brought his car home 16th.

NASCAR went a long time between Canadian stints, with an absence that begen in the late 1950s and lasted until it began sanctioning Canadian locations as Whelen All-American Series tracks in 2001. After purchasing the CASCAR Super Series and bringing the Nationwide Series to Montreal, an oval track event with a major touring series was the next logical step. After the quality of show and the support at Delaware, hopefully there will be a return date for the Whelen Modified Tour.

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