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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.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Cole Powell

After a successful career expanding in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series tour and ARCA Racing Series, Cole Powell is set to run the full NASCAR Pinty’s Series schedule in 2018, driving for Ed Hakonson Racing. 

Before kicking off the year with the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the 25-year-old offer his thoughts for POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into this season?

COLE POWELL: I think we have a really good program with EHR. The cars are being prepared really well by the crew and we’ve tested a few times at CTMP and the tests have gone well. Everybody is jelling pretty good. We gained speed every test, so that’s positive. Going into the weekend, I’m hoping it doesn’t rain, but it does, that’s just another challenge I’ll have to overcome. Excited to get back racing.

PS: What’s the toughest part of the CTMP road course?

COLE: The hardest part I would have to say is getting your braking and shift points down. There’s 10 corners, so that’s 10 corners you could have a mess up or screw up, so it’s a lot different than circle track racing where there’s only four corners. But I noticed you just have to stay focused with the 10 corners and hit your lines. It’s all about hitting your lines and not screwing up, but if you do, don’t do a big screw up.

PS: What are your goals for this season?

COLE: We’re chasing a championship so that’d be the number one goal. Well obviously, we go to win every race. There’s a lot of time, and money spent into this program not to try and go win every race. We’re all competitive people at EHR so winning is the number one goal. Other things for me is I want to finish every race, race every lap, top-fives and wins, and the championship.

PS: Beyond CTMP this weekend, what track are you most excited to get to?

COLE: I would have to say Jukasa or New Hampshire because those are the only two tracks that I’ve actually raced on in other series of racing. Every other track that we go to will be brand new for me, especially road course racing. The ovals, I think I’ll be able to get a grasp on it pretty quick because I am an oval racer. The new road course races will be a little tricky just because I haven’t been too them and a lot of them are on the streets. So I’m sure that’ll be a different atmosphere of racing in itself.

PS: How did you get started in racing?

COLE: Long time ago. My dad used to race a challenge motor crate truck over at Delaware Speedway, and I was over there hanging out with him every Friday night. I ended up coming home and he got me a little 13 hp mini truck that we raced up at Grand Bend Speedway; it’s like a go-kart. I thought it was cool; it looked just like his truck, just a smaller version, and we haven’t looked back since.

PS: You’ve been able to accomplish a lot in your career to date. What’s been the most memorable moment?

COLE: Memorable moment – winning the NASCAR Rookie of the Year in the (Whelen All-American Series) Modifieds was a really big accomplishment for us. Traveling to the States every weekend on a very small budget compared to the other teams and actually pulling off the Rookie of the Year, which was our goal, was a pretty big accomplishment and I’m really thankful for that. Another one would be leading the pack around Daytona in an ARCA car. That was pretty cool, just because Daytona is such a historic track and it is Daytona. Leading the pack around there for a lap or two was pretty cool.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

COLE: I have two. I would have to say Junior Hanley. I go over to his place quite a bit and he helps me work on the cars; he’s taught me quite a bit in the past years. Really hard worker, so he’d definitely have to be one. The other one would have to be Ron Hornaday. Really good friends with Ron Hornaday. He’s taught me a lot as well. Super hard worker – I look up to both of them for sure.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.