Saturday, September 25, 2021

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Back-to-Back: Jason Hathaway edges Fitzpatrick at line to win Wahta Springs 300

Following a late race restart, Jason Hathaway would beat J.R. Fitzpatrick barely at the line to score the victory in the Wahta Springs 300 at Barrie Speedway. It marks Hathaway’s second straight victory on the tight oval after winning last year’s event.


“It was good,” Hathaway commented. “It was a big win. We were pretty dominant throughout the race. Led some laps and then took tires, had to restart sixth and worked our way up. It’s tough here; it’s tough at Barrie with Kennington, J.R., Ranger and Tagliani – there’s some good talent here. I love short track racing, I love racing close – but yeah, the road courses are killing us in the points deal but as long as we can keep winning ovals, we can keep the sponsors happy.”


After leading a chunk of the first half of the race, Hathaway would bring his No. 3 Rockstar Energy/Princess Auto/Fast Eddie Racewear Chevrolet down pit road under a lap 151 caution for Erica Theiring going around in turns three and four. The Ed Hakinson Racing driver then began to work his way back up through the field, retaking the lead from Fitzpatrick at lap 174.


He would stretch the lead out considerably till a caution flew at lap 221 for debris in turn three. Another good restart allowed Hathaway to keep the lead, however it wouldn’t be the last restart with three cautions in the span of 44 laps.


Following a restart with five to go after Anthony Simone went around virtue of contact from Joey McColm, Hathaway would get another good restart with six to go and was set to head straight home. However with two laps to go, Alex Tagliani got sideways off of turn four virtue of contact from McColm. Tagliani would slow up, causing Lapcevich to get into the back of him, before Tagliani went sideways and then hit McColm before the pair both hit the outside fronstretch wall for a caution. Tagliani would be done with a destroyed car, as the entire front end looked to be missing.


The incident would set up a green-white-checkered, in which Hathaway and Fitzpatrick would run side-by-side for both laps before Hathaway got the advantage at the line. For Fitzpatrick, it marks his second straight podium finish after scoring the victory last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.


“We were pretty good,” Fitzpatrick commented post-race. “Struggled quite a bit there at the beginning and put tires on it, small adjustment, but still not where we needed to be.”


The runner-up finish allows Fitzpatrick to go from 19 points behind L.P. Dumoulin to 16 points behind with one race to go.


“We gained a little bit of points,” Fitzpatrick added. “I don’t like to wish bad luck on anybody, but that’s what we need to win this championship with it being 16 points.”


D.J. Kennington would fight back after running mid-pack throughout the first half to finish third, followed the aforementioned L.P. Dumoulin. Dumoulin fought his way back after falling a lap down during the 92 green flag stretch at the beginning of the event. Lapcevich would round out the top five after getting into the wall when Steve Mathews blew the motor at lap 92, and going for a spin at lap 120 off of Simone’s front bumper.


“It was a busy race,” Lapcevich said. “There was a lot of action going on. Right off the get go, someone up front didn’t go and it sort of became a train in there. Then it sort of sorted out and it looked like pretty clean racing. Somebody blew up and I got in their oil and hit the wall pretty hard. I really thought our night was done then because it hit the right front really hard – it bent it up. Got going under caution and the wheels were still straight, which surprised me, so we kept going.


“All in all, a good night. We got turned around early and burnt our tires and had to take right sides early and that hurt us. There’s 200 laps on the right side by the end of the race, but all in all, got down a lap and got it back. The guys on pit road made good adjustments.


“Looking at the car, I’m happy to have a top-five because it doesn’t look like it’d finish that high.”


Joey McColm and Noel Dowler would finish sixth and seventh, rounding out the lead lap cars as only seven of the 16 starters finished on the lead lap.


Quebec natives Andrew Ranger and Alex Tagliani both had good nights going, but would ultimately not have the finishes they wanted. Ranger would have motor issues with about 100 laps to go while running second behind Fitzpatrick, while Tagliani was caught up in the late race wreck as mentioned previously. Tagliani had been running inside the top six throughout the whole night to date, including inside the top three within the final 120 laps.


“I think this is nonsense,” Tagliani commented post-race of the late race contact. “This is exactly what we told them not to do. We told them to give penalties to those who deserve penalties and without, this is going to happen again. I can’t be part of it. I can’t come here, work, spend money, advertise the series and sponsors and the series accepts for everybody to run like that. It is not what I believe in. We feel this behavior should be fixed by the series officials.”


Tagliani added post-race that he is contemplating his future in the series based on the turn of events after being taken out on four different occasions this year without action taken by the sanctioning body.


Fan favourites Scott Steckly and Mark Dilley both had their nights go south, as well, with Steckly having rear-end issues at lap 163 while Dilley got into the wall after getting into Mathews’ oil, before breaking something on the right front at lap 260.


Those who have momentum will be looking for another positive one. As for those who did not have the night they hoped, they will be looking to turn things around as the series heads to Kawartha Speedway in two weeks for the season finale.

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