MIRABEL, Que. -Robin Buck was the beneficiary of a skirmish between race leaders Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger, and converted the opportunity into a win in the Grand Prix ICAR Sunday.
It was the first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series win for Buck, a road course expert who has made 13 series starts over the previous four seasons. He held off points leader Scott Steckly on a green-white-checkered finish for the victory in the series inaugural visit to Circuit ICAR.
While Buck, out of Campbellville, Ont., acknowledged there was a measure of luck that led to his victory in the No. 66 Quaker State Dodge, but it did not diminish his sense of accomplishment in conquering the demanding track.
"It was a bit of a gift, but we were in a position to capitalize when everything happened," said Buck. "It was a great race for us. I've wanted to win one of these for a while."
"This track is very demanding on both the driver and the car. With the field of drivers here, this was a great win."
Tagliani and Ranger made contact while battling on Lap 28 for the lead in Turn 11 of the 15-turn, 2.113-mile road course. The incident caused Tagliani to hit the guard rail to bring out the caution, and NASCAR penalized Ranger a pass-through penalty for aggressive driving. Tagliani had led a race-high 24 laps after winning the Keystone Light Pole Award Saturday, while Ranger led four laps. Ranger had started in the back of the field after missing qualifying Saturday for another racing commitment.
"I didn't see what happened between Ranger and Tagliani all that well," said Buck. "It kind of looked like a racing deal, but that's what the officials are for. I will say, though, that the way that (Ranger) came from the back of the field to take the lead was pretty amazing. He is the most underrated of all Canadian drivers. He has amazing ability."
The yellow set up the final race restart and handed the lead to Buck, who was right with the race leaders from the outset after starting from the seventh spot.
Steckly in his No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge finished second, .739 seconds behind Buck, after winning the season opener on May 28 at Mosport Speedway in Bowmanville, Ont. He opted for a strategy of patience and had to measure his response to events on the track with the big picture in mind.
"Once the race got started, I just settled in that top pack and tried to save the car the best I could," said Steckly. "Once the fireworks in front happened, we were in a great position for a great finish. With so many drivers in the field not racing for the championship I had to be careful. There were a few times that I could have tried some things but I didn't want to get caught up in something and go to the back to really ruin our day."
Thomson, meanwhile, is on a streak as good as any in series history. With his third-place effort, he extended his string of top-five finishes to seven dating back to last season.
"I really don't think that this finish is indicative of the car we had today," Thomson said. "This is a brand new car that I had not even sat in until we got here. We've got a lot of work to do on this car still."
Like Steckly, Thomson played the patience game.
"I just found a comfortable place to be. No one was bothering me from behind and the lead pack was four or five car lengths in front. It ended up being a good day for the Farmers Feed Families Dodge."
Rookie driver L.P. Dumoulin finished fourth followed by Mark Dilley in fifth.
Jeff Lapcevich, JR Fitzpatrick, Tagliani, John Farano and Jason White rounded out the top 10. Ranger finished in the 21st position.
The race was slowed due to caution four times for a total of nine laps and the race lead changed hands six times among four drivers.
After two races, Steckly holds down the top spot in the point standings with a 30-point lead over Thomson and a 58-point advantage over Fitzpatrick.
The Grand Prix ICAR will air Sunday, June 12 on TSN at 11 a.m. ET.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will next race in the Keystone Light 200 at Delaware (Ont.) Speedway on Saturday, June 11.