Don Thomson Jr. finally put the Castrol Cup in his trophy case, after years of trying to win CASCAR’s national series.
Thomson, who had courted the title but fallen short for two years running, had settled for the Eastern Series title. With the new 12-race format for the national series and the elimination of the regional title, Thomson put consistency to work and was able to string together several strong finishes, beginning with his win at the Budweiser 150 at Kawartha Speedway in round five, a second at round six at the Molson Indy Toronto, and six top-10 finishes from there. Prior to that run he had failed to log a single decent finish. In the end it was a seventh place result at the season-ending Delaware 300-lap race that gave him enough for the title over season-long contender Kerry Micks.
Micks had looked like the man to beat from the first race in May. He won the Mopar Parts 250, finished fourth at round two in Peterborough, seventh at the Mosport oval, and third on the road circuit, and looked on his way to the championship early. Then, just as Thomson’s fortunes improved, Micks saw his dive. From round five on, Micks was able to log only four top 10 finishes, including some very poor results. His was a roller-coaster season that put back-to-back highs and lows. Third at the Mosport 250 road race, he fell to 15th at Kawartha, then 11th at the Molson Indy Toronto. He climbed back into the top for St-Eustache with a ninth, then onto the podium with a third at Trois Rivieres. He dropped down the order again until the Vancouver Indy, where he was once again on the podium.
But, while his and Thomson’s overall results were comparable, CASCAR’s system of bonus points and lap-leader points left him some 60 points back going into the last event. His 26th place finish there, compared to Thomson’s seventh, put an end to his bid for the championship.
Thomson finished one lap off the pace, but it was enough to clinch the title by more than 100 points.
“The car was a rocket,” said Thomson. “I would’ve liked to add a feature win to the title, but we’ll take this for sure.
“I can’t say enough about everybody involved with the team. I have the best car owner in John Fitzpatrick, the best sponsor in Home Hardware, and a terrific crew that helps give me a great race car every week. I feel fortunate to be in this position, and appreciate the support of the people around me. The two Eastern titles were cool, but this is the National title, and that is what it’s all about.”
The 2001 CASCAR Castrol Super Series ended the way it began, with a bang. Several bangs actually, plus a few bashes, and more than a couple of crunches.
The 2000 champion Peter Gibbons won the season-ending race ahead of Castrol Syntec driver DJ Kennington in an event that was slowed by 14 caution flags for a total of 66 laps.
The victory was the third of the season for the Canadian Tire Chevy driver, who put a positive finish on a season that was dogged with misfortune. He was never able to mount a consistent charge for the title due to several mechanical failures, and ended 10th in points.
Kennington used the second place result to finish fourth in the standings after a season that saw him run consistently well and included a win at Mosport.
Al Turner was truly the “best of the rest” behind Micks and Thomson, though, and almost caught Micks for second. He ran consistently at road and oval tracks and logged two wins, at Peterborough and Vancouver, as well as strong runs at Toronto (3rd), the Mosport oval (3rd) and road course(5th), Cayuga ( 5th) and Calgary (6th).The season ended on a moderately down note with a 23rd place finish, which left him just eight points shy of second in the standings. “The opportunity was there for us to pick up second in the points as Kerry (Micks) broke before we did,” said Turner, “but we still had a great season with two wins and third in national points.” Turner also reiterated, “I cannot thank all of our sponsors enough for their part in this great season. Blue Streak continues to support us 100% and we look forward to 2002 with everyone returning.”
The season was a resounding success, according to Tony Novotny, manager of the Castrol Super Series and CASCAR, the sanctioning body. He says that the move to a 12-race national series format was a big change, but a necessary one.
“I think it was inevitable that we had to go to a format like that sooner or later. The old format tended to be a better deal for the competitors because they could make some choices and still compete for a Canadian title. Now, if you want to compete for the Castrol Super Series title, it’s more heavily skewed toward the east.
“The new format is also better for the sponsors and for the fan that was confused by the east, west and national series.
“This year, I was very pleased with the people that we were able to keep on board and the amount of support we had. I can’t say enough about the teams. There wasn’t a dud of a race. Each race had excitement and we had nine different winners in 12 races. Attendance figures were up at all the venues from the year before. On the television side, we have 12 exciting television programs being aired that are certainly showing good response.”
It has provided a good foundation for next year’s series.
“Our focus for 2002 is to improve the schedule–there will have to be some juggling due to the fact that there are date changes with the Molson Indy events–and to focus on the 12 race format,” says Novotny. “Our goal is to continue to improve the series and bring it to the forefront of Canadian racing.”
1. #4 Don Thomson Jr. (2092), 2. #02 Kerry Micks (1976), 3. #76 Al Turner (1968), 4. #17 DJ Kennington (1935), 5. #88 Dave Jacombs (1874), 6. #64 Mark Dilley (1865), 7. #35 Kevin Dowler (1842), 8. #60 Ron Beauchamp Jr. (1830), 9. #99 Pete Vanderwyst (1813), 10. #1 Peter Gibbons (1800), 11. #33 Neil Fair (1756), 12. #9 Robbie Thompson (1752) * Wins Rookie of the Year, 13. #14 John Fitzpatrick (1746), 14. #8 Teri MacDonald-Cadieux (1728), 15. #04 Andy Farr (1726), 16. #98 Dave Whitlock (1670), 17. #31 Kelly Williams, 18. #3 Chris Fowler (1570), 19. #22 Scott Steckly (1363), 20. #19 Brad Graham (1200).