Pete Shepherd III scored his first career win in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, while DJ Kennington wrapped up the 2010 series championship with a third-place finish in the Kawartha 250 at Kawartha Speedway on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., seemingly always the bridesmaid in his career, twice (2007 and ’09) finished as the runner-up in the Canadian Tire Series championship standings.
“I can’t believe this feeling,” he said. “It’s a lot better than second place.”
The evening, however, was not without its drama for Kennington. After winning his fifth pole of the season and leading 78 of the first 79 laps, he had a tire go down which forced him to surrender the lead to JR Fitzpatrick, who trailed Kennington by just 40 points coming into the event, and pit out of sequence dropping him to 18th in the running order.
“I thought that tire might end up biting us, but thankfully it didn’t. I was feeling every little bump and vibration wondering what was next,” stated Kennington.
The improvised pit strategy proved not to be a factor as the extra laps on his left-side tires had no affect on the performance of his car and he was able to get back on sequence the rest of the way.
“I’m just so proud of the entire Castrol Edge Dodge team,” said Kennington. “There are so many people who had a hand in this, I’m not sure I can even name them all.”
With his title, he earned a starting spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, the prestigious postseason event that has earned the title as ‘the Daytona 500 of short-track racing.’
For Shepherd, who led a race-high 124 laps, the race win came in just his ninth career series start.
He became the fourth different winner in four visits by the series to the .375-mile track. The 24-year-old from Brampton, Ont., won by a margin of 1.350 seconds over Kerry Micks.
Shepherd, who sat out the 2009 season for personal reasons after making a handful of starts in 2008, was chomping at the bit to get back on to the track this season and win his first NASCAR race.
“It had to happen. The whole National Exhaust/Gates Dodge team wanted this on a lot,” he said. “We want to get to the point where we are racing for the points championship. I don’t think there is a better way than to win the season finale and carry that momentum into next season.”
Kennington gained the third position after last-lap contact between Micks and Fitzpatrick as they battled for second that led to a spin by Fitzpatrick in Turn 4. The 22-year-old Fitzpatrick ended up in 15th.
Mark Dilley and Don Thomson Jr. finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while the remainder of top 10 consisted of Scott Steckly, Jason Hathaway, Jeff Lapcevich, Ron Sheridan and Ron Beauchamp Jr.
The race was slowed due to caution eight times for 60 laps and the race lead exchanged hands 13 times among nine drivers.
For the race’s contingency awards, Shepherd earned the Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race award, first place in the Dodge-Mopar Fast Five competition, the Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race award and the Coca-Cola Move of the Race award. Shawn McGlynn garnered the Vtech Free Pass Award and Donald Chisholm picked up the Autolite Spark Plugs Time to Change Your Position award.
The result was an 87-point margin in the final standings between Kennington and Fitzpatrick. Steckly, the 2008 champion, finished third in points, followed by Thomson, and Micks.
The Kawartha 250 -- which will be telecast by TSN on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. ET -- was the final event of a 13-race schedule for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.