OBSERVATIONS: Rankin Construction 200 at Jukasa Motor Speedway
This past Saturday night, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series headed to Jukasa Motor Speedway for the second event of the 2018 campaign. After taking some time to reflect about the action, here are some observations to carry forward into the rest of the year.
– While some of the Pinty’s Series races have gotten strung out over the years with a lack of passing, that wasn’t the case on Saturday night. There were battles throughout the field, including a mid-race four-way battle for third, and the battle near the end of the event for second. The wide, fresh paved surface on the half-mile at Jukasa is certainly friendly for these guys.
– Kevin Lacroix‘s domination in leading 128 of 206 laps is no surprise. While he started off as a road course master, he has grown stronger at the ovals with more experience, as noted by a pair of poles last year. After a runner-up in last year’s standings, he entered this year as the championship favorite.
Now knowing he can win at an oval, combined with four road course victories in 2017, he should be the driver to beat all year.
– Cole Powell‘s runner-up may have surprised many within the NASCAR community as a rookie, but for those who have watched him over the past several years, it was nothing like that.
The Mount Brydges, Ontario driver has past experience in the United States, competing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and ARCA, including a third-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013. He has also shown his strength in Ontario, winning Pro Late Model events and an OSCAAR Modified feature at Kawartha Speedway.
Now seeing him take his talents to the premiere tour in Canada with success, it was expected that he would do well on the ovals, based on his own ability and Ed Hakinson Racing’s history with Jason Hathaway. The only concern was whether he would perform on the road courses with a lack of experience, but he weathered the storm with a sixth-place finish in the season opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
– Seeing new faces in the series is always a good sign as it gives hope for higher car counts in the future.
Connor James made his NASCAR debut at Jukasa Motor Speedway, running solidly in the top-10 throughout the event without a scratch on the car en route to a 10th-place finish.
The jump up to the premiere series comes following success in the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup and in Sunset Speedway’s Late Model division. While he is set on running for rookie of the year at the Innisfil, Ontario oval, he has expressed interest in running more events this season if the sponsorship comes about.
– This year marks the first season for stage racing in the Pinty’s Series. Like the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, their races will be split into two or three segments, but feature a five-minute break rather than a normal caution period. The one surprise, though, was a lack of strategy under the second break.
The first caution saw five lead-lap drivers stay out and six competitors make pit stops, while the second yellow flag resulted in everybody pitting. While there was an ability to pass with drivers moving up and down the scoring pylon, track position was important if you ask Lacroix. The varying strategies from the first caution did not ultimately affect the final running order, with drivers on both mixed throughout the top-10.
Now if someone would’ve elected to stay out under the second yellow, could they have held off the field, or scored a better finish than where they ended up? Seeing a bigger variety of strategies moving forward could make these rules more interesting.
– Knowing when there is going to be a caution can work out to be an advantage if you have an ill-handling car or a problem.
L.P. Dumoulin used this to his advantage as he had a tire go down, dropping debris on the track for the yellow flag at Lap 146. He continued to roll around scattering more of the tire around the speedway until they called the break four laps later before pitting. By staying out until then, he was able to keep himself on the lead lap. Now he had to pit shortly after they went back to green due to damage, but he got the lucky dog under the next yellow flag, and fought back for a seventh-place finish.
Andrew Ranger did the same thing in a different way, too. He knew he had a tire going down as you could see him getting sideways through the corner, but stayed on-track until it finally let go and dropped debris with 17 laps to go. He was able to make his pit stop under the caution, working his way back up to place fifth.
Recall that time in the Cup Series when Clint Bowyer spun on purpose to get Martin Truex Jr. in the playoffs and penalties were laid down from the sanctioning body for the maneuver following an event. Certainly both these situations are not as extreme at what Michael Waltrip Racing did at Richmond Raceway, but this is still manipulating the race for your own advantage and worthy of a penalty. If you’re going to have someone purposely drawing a yellow, then they should be held a lap on pit road so they don’t reap the benefits of their behavior.
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