With defending NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion Alex Labbe racing full-time in the Xfinity Series this season, there will be a new champion north of the border in 2018.
Alex Labbe used consistency with 12 top-10 finishes in 13 races and five victories to win his first championship last season and with him not in the mix the opportunity is wide open for several drivers to win their first championship or another title after a long drought. With the season starting at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park the odds-on favorite to kick off the season with a win has to be Kevin Lacroix.
Lacroix has won three consecutive Pinty’s Series races at CTMP and is the only driver to equal Labbe’s mark of 12 top-10 finishes last season. The St. Eustache, Quebec, native also scored four wins last season and finished second in the final standings just 16 points behind Labbe.
Lacroix also racked up four pole awards last season and completed the most laps (2,073) and led the most laps of all drivers last season with 594. Lacroix can also make history of his own if he can pull off a win in the opener and become the first driver to win four races in a row at one track.
Also joining Lacroix as a favorite to win his first title is Alex Tagliani. Tagliani has competed regularly in the series since 2014 and started all 13 events last season for the first time in his Pinty’s Series career when he decided to run for championship.
The former IndyCar Series contender won just once in 2017 but was in contention for wins late in races several times – including the season opener last season at CTMP.
Tagliani, like several of his Pinty’s Series counterparts, has competed in various forms of motorsports throughout North America including the Indianapolis 500 and he’s ready to go after a championship in his home country.
Of the 11 series championships, four have gone to Quebec drivers (Andrew Ranger – 2007 & ’09), LP Dumoulin (2014) and Alex Labbe (2017), while the others have gone to Ontario drivers. Scott Steckly (2008, ’11, ’13 and ’15), DJ Kennington (2010 & ’12) and Cayden Lapcevich (2016).
Ranger and Kennington should be in contention throughout the 2018 season.
Ranger challenged Labbe and Lacroix for the title last year until an unexpected illness in Edmonton, Alberta, forced him to the hospital for treatment and he missed a race ending his chances for a third title.
Ranger was able to finish seventh in the final standings and while he hasn’t won a race since 2016 when he won the season opener at CTMP and also at ICAR, he’s the all-time record holder in wins with 22.
The Roxton Pond, Quebec, native is ready to get back on the track this season and adding to his records for wins.
Other drivers joining Ranger looking for another championship include ,Kennington and ,Dumoulin and both are also looking to end long winless streaks as well.
Dumoulin hasn’t won in the series since 2014, while Kennington hasn’t visited Victory Lane since 2013. Kennington had four podium finishes last year, including a pair of runner-up finishes at Saskatoon.
Despite his long winless streak Kennington has not finished lower than sixth in the final season standings over that span and has been on contention for a win at times.
“I just want to get back to Victory Lane again,” said Kennington. “I’m tired of talking about it and I know this team is capable of winning races.”
Dumoulin, who will once again be joined by his brother JF in the series this season, is also ready to get back to Victory Lane and he’s also eyeing a second title.
The Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, native has not finished out of the top five in the final standings for five straight seasons and came home fourth in 2017.
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