There are a lot of ways you can go about announcing that a Canadian has made the field for Sunday's Daytona 500.
How about, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, an old campaigner, will become the first Canadian in 29 years to race in the Daytona 500?
Or, 39-year-old D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, driving for an all-Canadian entry that includes team owner Marty Gaunt of Barrie, Ont., will start Sunday's Daytona 500?
What about, in the first NAFTA Daytona 500, D.J. Kennington of Canada and Daniel Suarez of Mexico will join 38 U.S. citizens Sunday in the annual running of The Great American Race, the Daytona 500?
Whatever, Kennington, the first Canadian since Trevor Boys of Calgary did it in 1988, will drive a Gaunt Bros. Racing car when the 58th Daytona 500 goes to the post Sunday. At the conclusion of the second of two qualifying races Thursday night, in which he was racing for one of two starting positions open in the 40-car field, he said on international television that it was one of the biggest moments of his life.
By making the field for the 500, Kennington will start the second Monster Energy Cup race in his life, the first coming at Phoenix last November when he finished 35th. A veteran of Xfinity Series races and some Camping World Truck Series contests, most of his success has come at home in the NASCAR-sanctioned Pinty's Series, in which he's won two national Canadian championships.
In his career, Kennington has won 26 CASCAR and NASCAR Canada races and made 204 consecutive starts. This race Sunday will be his biggest test, by far.
By qualifying, he becomes only the eighth Canadian to start the Daytona Classic. Richard Foley of Montreal was the first, and he raced on the beach at Daytona before Bill France built the Daytona Speedway in 1959 and all the sand blasters moved onto the pavement. Foley was followed by Jim Bray, the late Don Biederman, Vic Parsons, the late Roy Smith and Boys. The most successful, of course, was the late Earl Ross who remains the only Canadian to ever win a NASCAR "Cup" race.
That doesn't mean plans aren't being made for Kennington to win on Sunday. Owner Gaunt said the first test they faced this February was figuring out how to qualify for the 500. Now, the trick will be to figure out how to win it.
He wasn’t kidding.
The Daytona 500 can be seen Sunday afternoon on TSN.
For detailed coverage of the Thursday night qualifying races, which were won my Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin, please click here.
Okay, so here's news. Canadian best friends and professional racing drivers James Hinchcliffe of Oakville and Robert (Robbie) Wickens of Guelph are going to trade places and drive each other's cars in test sessions in the next month.
Wickens will drive a Schmidt-Peterson Indy car during a private session at Sebring International Raceway in late February. Hinchcliffe will climb into Wickens's Mercedes-Benz AMG at the Vallelunga Circuit near Rome in March, a week after the IndyCar season opener.
Now, as I said, these guys are buddies. When Hinchcliffe was injured at Indy two years ago (you remember that horrible crash in which he nearly bled to death?), I was walking through the lobby of the Westin Hotel downtown and there was Wickens, who'd flown to Indianapolis from Europe to cheer up his friend.
So a couple of pals tradin' cars is kind of a neat story. But what's really going on here?
One thing's for sure, Wickens is the one who stands to benefit. Somebody (Hinchcliffe? Ric Peterson?) is ponying up the money to make this happen and showcase Wickens's talent, which is substantial. Other than an interesting experience, or as a cover for whatever's up, I can't see any good reason for Hinchcliffe to go to Europe to drive a car that’s usually run in the German Touring Car Series.
Wickens, like Hinchcliffe, is a superlative talent. Betboo He's the guy who won the European Renault 3.5 Series and the guy who finished second went to Formula One and Wickens' career got sidetracked. Having said that, Wickens is being paid a substantial sum of money to drive in that series for Mercedes and is very happy with his lot. He is not a man who will buy a ride in IndyCar in order to race in IndyCar. He is a paid driver now and just won't play that other game.
So, is Hinchcliffe planning to make a move and is grooming his successor? Or, are there questions about the ability of the pay driver on the Schmidt-Peterson team to make the rent post-St. Pete and Wickens is auditioning for the seat? Or what?
But something's up. Local drivers Mark Dilley and Glenn Styres have talked for several years about Glenn going for a ride in the Pinty's Series stock car and Mark putting the pedal to the metal in the Ohsweken Speedway sprinter and that's never happened and the cost would be minimal. Hinchcliffe and Wickens trading places is an expensive proposition. They're sure not doing it just for the fun of it.
Team Penske has called a media conference for 11 a.m. Friday at Daytona Speedway to make what's described as a major announcement affecting both the Penske NASCAR and IndyCar racing teams. The only driver who will be present is Joey Logano. Will Joey be doing the double? Racing at Indy and Charlotte on the same day in May? Or will the announcement have anything to do with engines, going forward? Whatever, we'll find out at 11 Friday morning.
Michigan International Speedway is now selling food along with seats for both NASCAR Monster Energy Cup races this summer. Buy a $165 seat on the main stretch and they`ll give you a $10 food voucher good at five or six of the speedway`s concessions. Now you know.
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