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ANTIGONISH, N.S., Canada - Jason Hathaway snapped a 59-race winless streak, claiming victory in the Wilson Equipment 300 Supporting Red Cross Disaster Relief on Saturday in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 action at Riverside International Speedway.
The Dutton, Ont., driver took the lead on Lap 295 of the 300 lap event from Scott Steckly, who won the pole position earlier in the day, and survived strong competition from defending series champion D.J. Kennington and Steckly to earn his second career series win. His previous best finish at the track was fifth, achieved in the 2010 Antigonish event.
By the time the final caution flag of the night waved at Lap 279 just four cars were on the lead lap. Kennington opted to head down pit road for some adjustments with nothing to lose. Hathaway talked his crew chief out of a similar strategy.
“We almost came down pit road on that last caution,” said Hathaway, driver of the No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Rockstar Energy Drink Dodge. “I wanted to stay out and keep what we had.”
On the final restart Hathaway stayed to the outside of Steckly and battled side-by-side for several laps before gaining the advantage.
“That was good hard racing down the stretch there with (Steckly),” Hathaway said. “To come out here and beat out Steckly and Kennington is something. There’s so much behind the scenes stuff to winning these race that people don’t even really know. You have to have your ducks in a row to go out and beat those two guys.”
The victory was a present for car owner Ed Hakonson, who was celebrating his 64th birthday on Saturday. Hathaway’s last series win came in the Sept. 2008 season finale at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough, Ont. Despite the dry spell Hathaway remained confident.
“I know we can run with anybody week in and week out. We haven’t had the best luck all the time, but I never lost faith,” he said.
Kennington missed his second win of the season by .342 seconds, settling instead for a second place finish.
“It ended up being a good night for the Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors Dodge,” Kennington said. “We tried something there are at the end by putting on cooler tires, but they took a couple laps to come in. The driver messed up and spun the wheels on the restart, but we have a great points battle going on and that’s what we want.”
Steckly, who led a race-high 202 laps, finished third for his fourth consecutive top-five finish at Riverside, but he was not particularly pleased with the how the day ended.
“I try to race guys as clean as I can and not get into guys too often, but to get raced the way I was there at the end is kind of disappointing,” said the two-time series champion.
Mark Dilley and Martin Roy rounded out the top five while 17-year-old rookie Alex Guenette recorded his fourth top 10 of the season with a sixth-place finish while Donald Chisholm, Noel Dowler, Hugo Vannini and Trevor Seibert completed the top-10 finishers.
There was more heartbreak for J.R. Fitzpatrick, who again led several laps and ended up with little to show for it. He worked the outside groove in the early part of the race and was able get around Steckly for the race lead on Lap 95, but on Lap 166 coming out of Turn 4 smoke erupted from underneath his Equipment Express Chevrolet which brought his quest for a win to an abrupt end.
The race was slowed due to caution six times for a total of 52 laps and the race lead changed hands seven times among six drivers.
In the championship point standings with just three races to go in the season Steckly maintains a four-point advantage on Kennington while Hathaway closed to within just 10 points of the leader.
The Wilson Equipment 300 will premiere on TSN at 1 p.m. ET on Sun. Aug. 25 and on RDS2 at 7 p.m. ET on Fri., Sept. 13.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 continues the season with the Pinty's presents the Clarington 200 on the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park near Bowmanville, Ont., on Sept. 1 in a date shared with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series which will be racing in Canada for the first time.
Jason Hathaway passes Scott Steckly and D.J. Kennington late in the race en route to his second series victory and first win of 2013. Matthew Manor/NASCAR