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TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada – D.J. Kennington claims he isn’t a road racer, but he keeps proving himself wrong.
Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., won the JuliaWine.com 100 in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 action on Sunday at the 44th Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres after holding off road-course specialists Andrew Ranger and Jacques Villeneuve in a harried green-white-checkered finish in front of a crowd in excess of 30,000.
After starting eighth, Kennington passed former Formula One and IZOD IndyCar Series champion Villeneuve on Lap 38 before the fifth caution flag of the day flew on Lap 40 to set up the exciting finish. On the final restart, Ranger, who had gotten around Villeneuve just after Kennington made his pass, tried in every turn of the 11-turn, 1.53-mile street circuit to rattle Kennington, but was forced to settle for the runner-up position.
“We just had a great race car today,” said Kennington. “The crew did a great job at getting cool air to the brakes. At the end, we still had good braking. I saved as much as I could. We got a little lucky that (Villeneuve) slipped up a little and we were able to get by.”
With three series road-course wins to his credit Kennington has shown the ability to win anywhere at any time, but outdueling the likes of Ranger and Villeneuve had Kennington thinking about the significance.
“To beat those two guys on a road course is right up there in my career,” said Kennington. “They are two of the best in the world in my estimation. It’s really special. With (Ranger) starting in the rear and getting to the front, we might have been in trouble if he started on the pole.”
Ranger, a four-time Trois-Rivieres winner, started from the rear of the field due to missing Saturday’s qualifying session after competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Despite not getting the win, Ranger was pleased with the results.
“From where we started, I’m really happy with second place,” said Ranger – owner of 14 series road-course victories. “The car was pretty used up at the end. I had to fight for everything in passing all those cars. I tried everything to pass (Villeneuve). He raced me totally clean and like a champion. We went through (four) turns side-by-side and we never touched.”
The final restart gave Ranger one last opportunity at the win.
“The cautions at the end really helped me a lot on those last laps I was finally able to get the speed I wanted to in the corners, but (Kennington) didn’t make any mistakes,” he said.
Villeneuve, who led a race-high 29 laps, finished third for his best finish in three career Canadian Tire Series starts. He finished fourth in this event in 2009.
“I was taking it easy in the beginning, but I saw a chance to get around (Tagliani) and I took it,” said the accomplished driver. “I misjudged a corner while passing a (lapped car) and Kennington was able to get around me. I thought I had a chance at the end to get it back, but (Kennington) clipped the wall and bounced into me which set us back.”
Villeneuve appreciated the opportunity to compete in the legendary event.
“These are fun cars to drive and this is a fun little track,” said the former world champion driver and fan favorite. “This event is important to Quebec and Canada. It has provided drivers, including me, the stage to further their careers.”
It was the first win of the season for Kennington, who set a single-season series record with seven victories a year ago and the 19th career win for the driver of the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors Dodge which tops the series’ all-time list.
Jason Hathaway finished fourth followed by IndyCar Series regular Alex Tagliani in fifth. Tagliani set a new track record in Saturday’s qualifying session for his fourth series career pole win. He led the first eight laps of the race before getting tangled up Louis-Philippe Dumoulin in a battle for the lead.
Martin Roy, Alex Labbe, Scott Steckly, Jeff Lapcevich and Trevor Seibert completed the top ten.
The race was slowed due to caution five times for 16 laps. The five cautions equaled the series high at the track that was established in the 2007 race.
In the championship standings, Steckly saw his lead shrink to just four points over Kennington. Hathaway holds down the third spot, just 14 points behind the leader while Dumoulin dropped from second to fourth, but is still within striking distance at 16 tallies back with just four races remaining.
The JuliaWine.com 100 will be telecast on TSN on Sunday, Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 is in action next on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S., in the Wilson Equipment 300 supporting Red Cross Disaster Relief.
D.J. Kennington passes Jacques Villeneuve late in the race en route to his 19th series victory and first win of 2013. Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR