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FRASERVILLE, Ontario – Scott Steckly wrapped up his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio championship Saturday night, holding off a late-season challenge from Don Thomson Jr.
Steckly finished 17th in the Dodge Dealers of Ontario 250 at Kawartha Speedway, while Thomson finished fifth, to earn his first NASCAR championship by 24 points. Jason Hathaway picked up his first career victory in a race that was called after 174 of the scheduled 250 laps because of rain.
By winning the season's final race, Hathaway looks to Steckly as an example. A year ago, Steckly won the final race of the season sending the team into the off-season on a high note, and when the 2008 season began, Steckly was nearly unbeatable.
"This win really sets the tone for us heading into the winter month," said Hathaway. "We'll see if we can do what Scott (Steckly) did and come out of the gate on fire. Right now, though, we're just going to enjoy this one. It's a huge thrill to win a race with the level of talent this series has."
Steckly won three of the first four races of the season and held the points lead the entire season. The 36-year-old from Milverton, Ontario driver finished with four wins, nine top fives and nine top 10s in 12 races.
He is the second champion in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series history. Andrew Ranger won the inaugural championship in 2007.
Thomson had been able to close the gap late in the season with a win, a third, and a seventh-place finish in the three races heading into the finale. In that span, Steckly – who hadn't finished worse than fourth in the first seven events – sandwiched his fourth win of the year with finishes of 13th and 18th. Steckly brought a 67-point lead to Kawartha.
"It was really a dream season," said Steckly. "We started off the year not knowing how many races we would be able to run, but Tow Truck in a Box came along as a primary sponsor and we ended up the the championship. I'm not sure when this is going to sink in."
Thomson won his seventh pole position of the season and led the first 42 laps before pitting. Steckly assumed the lead - picking up the five valuable bonus points - and stayed out front for 18 laps. D.J. Kennington took the lead for 43 laps before trading the lead with Steckly over two laps. Hathaway moved to the front on lap 107 and led the rest of the way. A steady rain brought out the red flag on lap 173.
As the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion, Steckly earned a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The Showdown will be Jan. 23-24, 2009 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). Last year, Ranger represented the series in the prestigious postseason event.
Steckly and many others will be honored at the year-end NASCAR Canadian Tire Series awards banquet on Oct. 25 at the Toronto Markham Hilton and Conference Centre to officially close out the 2008 season.