Back at the beginning of the season, I wrote an opinion column for this very website, focusing on J.R. Fitzpatrick possibly winning the championship this year following his victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. In case you missed it, you can read it by clicking here. Flash forward to three months later as the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series gets ready to make their return trip to CTMP, you could say that I wasn’t that far off in what I said.
He may not be leading the way, but Fitzpatrick currently sits second in points, 26 points behind L.P. Dumoulin. He has also scored a top-10 in each race this year to date, with his worst finish of the season being a 10th at Autodrome St. Eustache following mid-race contact.
As we reflect back on that article back in May, he has accomplished some keys that I mentioned. He has avoided the mechanical issues that resulted in three DNFs last year to be consistent on the season to date. He has also came through on his vow to get his No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet team better, with preparation certainly paying off with the finishes that he has been able to lay down.
The only problem that has lied in the chase for the title this year – bad luck. Fitzpatrick has been fast on a weekly basis, running inside the top-five and in contention for a podium finish. However, a series of incidents throughout the season have resulted in the finishes begin in the back half of the top-10. As a result, the points difference has been created as Dumoulin has finished inside the top six in each race thus far this season.
So with three races left, can Fitzpatrick become champion? The answer – absolutely yes!
This weekend’s race at CTMP marks a solid play for Dumoulin as he has been successful on the 11-turn road course, having scored two wins and four top-fives in five starts. However, it marks an even bigger opportunity for Fitzpatrick as CTMP is his strongest track on the schedule, having scored a series-leading four wins, including the victory back in May. With 33 cars entered into the race this weekend, if Dumoulin has any issues at all and posts a DNF or goes a couple laps down, Fitzpatrick has the opportunity to capitalize and close the gap up.
After CTMP, the series heads to Barrie Speedway, followed by Kawartha Speedway. At those tracks, Dumoulin has only posted one top-10 finish in six starts between them. On the flip side, Fitzpatrick knows how to run Barrie Speedway – having ran up front the past two seasons, and oval experience leads to success at Kawartha Speedway. If he can repeat the speed and success of the past, the final stretch could be the secret to Fitzpatrick scoring his first series crown.