Andrew Ranger held off J.R. Fitzpatrick and Scott Steckly in a green-white-checker finish to pick up his first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series win of the season taking the ICAR Lucas Oil Grand Prix presented by Budweiser on Sunday at Circuit ICAR.
Ranger, a two-time series champion out of Roxton Pond, Que., took the lead in his No. 27 Dodge/GC Motorsports Dodge from D.J. Kennington on Lap 7 and remained out front the rest of the way to pick up his 17th career win in the series. It was his 12th on a road course with seven of those coming in his home province of Quebec. Ranger has three wins each at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Circuit de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec while this is his first triumph at the Mirabel track.
It wasn't a prototypical win for Ranger, though. In his previous 11 road-course wins, the 25-year-old had an average starting position of second. However, after weather forced the cancellation of qualifying on Saturday, the field was lined up per the series rule book which gave Ranger a start from the 16th position.
"This was a great win. We have a new team this year and to get the first win of the season is special," said Ranger.
Battling Fitzpatrick for the win is nothing new for Ranger, but he was able to handle all of the challenges throughout the race.
"My car was really good and my times were consistent, but it took a couple of laps to get going on the restarts," said Ranger, who is the series' all-time leader in wins with 17. "(Fitzpatrick) always races hard and I knew he would make some runs on that last restart. He did, but I was able to hang on."
Fitzpatrick, who trailed Ranger to the line by .507 seconds, followed his season-opening win two weeks ago with a runner-up finish after battling back from an early spin.
"I made a couple of mistakes early on that created some issues for a couple of other guys and for that I'm sorry," said the 24-year-old Fitzpatrick. "Once I settled down we were able to work our way back up from 15th or something."
Steckly rebounded from an early penalty for rough driving to finish third after getting the start from the pole position. He clearly disagreed with the penalty call, but was diplomatic afterward.
"We started first and finished third," said the defending series champion. "It was a good day for the Canadian Tire car."
Last season's Rookie of the Year Louis-Philippe Dumoulin finished fourth for his second straight top-five finish while Kennington followed in fifth.
Alex Labbe finished an impressive sixth in his series debut trailed by Jean-Francois Dumoulin in seventh. Jeff Lapcevich, Ron Beauchamp Jr. and rookie Martin Roy completed the top 10.
The race was slowed due to caution four times for 10 laps and the lead change between Ranger and Kennington was the only one in the 31-lap race.
In the point standings, Fitzpatrick was able to retain his place at the top, but has just a one-point advantage over Ranger. Both Kennington and Steckly sit seven points back.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series takes on an oval track for the first time in 2012 in its next outing on Saturday, June 16 on the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont.