Alex Labbe Wins the Choko/Fast Eddie 250 Presented by Havoline
June 3rd, 2017
By Ryan Dyson
For the first time since 2013, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series returned to its home at Delaware Speedway. The Choko/Fast Eddie 250 Presented by Havoline brought fans from far and wide to see Canada’s national series embark on the historic half-mile. The Ground Masters Super Stocks and Ontario Pro Challenge Series ran as the undercard for the evening, showcasing local talent.
The Ontario Pro Challenge Series was up first for competition, running a 10-lap heat race to determine starting order for their 30-lap main event a little later on in the day. Tim Norris charged through the field after starting a little ways back in it to win over Tim Batty and Ken Lilycrop.
NASCAR Pinty’s Series group qualifying determined the starting order for the Choko/Fast Eddie 250 Presented by Havoline. Drivers were split into four groups, ordered slowest to fastest based on practice and sent onto the track for 5 minute sessions to lay down laps. Qualifying got off to a wild start as L.P. Demoulin had his hood fly off on the back straightaway before the session even got up to full speed. In the first session it was the #25 of Larry Jackson setting the fast time, however it would not last as Steven Matthews went quickest in group 2. Andrew Ranger went out late in the third group and immediately jumped to the top of the board setting the quick time as Kevin Lacroix moved into second ahead of Steven Matthews. Anthony Simone had a scare in the final group as he spun and backed his #95 machine into the outside wall. The car appeared to have limited damage, however his session would come to an end. Nobody in the final group could unseat Andrew Ranger with a 19.311, allowing him to win the E3 Spark Plugs Pole Award. Lacroix, Matthews, Labbe and Tagliani rounded out the top 5 qualifiers.
The Ground Masters Super Stocks took to the half-mile for group qualifying to set the starting lineup for their 40-lap main event later on in the program. Matt Robblee set quick time in the session as a full-field of hungry drivers chased him but came up short. David McCullough, Jo Lawrence, Jake Sheridan, and JR Fitzpatrick round out the top 5 qualifiers.
The Ontario Pro Challenge Series took to the track for their 30-lap main event with the #68 of Mike Johnston on the pole alongside Bryan Stevanus. Stevanus moved to the race lead right away and led the opening lap. The race went green from start to finish as Bryan Stevanus jumped to the early race lead. Unfortunately for the #33 machine his great run would come to a close within 10 laps to go as he slowed and entered the infield, handing the race lead over to Kyle Batty, who would go on to win the event. Tim Norris finished the event in the runner up position.
The Ground Masters Super Stocks were up next in the event program to run their 40-lap main event. Matt Robblee led the field to the green flag alongside David McCullough in the #39. Matt Robblee led the early portion of the race before he was passed by David McCullough before the half point in the show. McCullough worked through lapped traffic as Jake Sheridan trailed from behind, looking to close the gap and keep his win streak alive. McCullough would use his Enduro experience to work through the gaggle of cars flawlessly and maintain a second lead over Sheridan and Robblee in the closing segment of the race. After battles deep through the field developed, the race would continue under green flag conditions and go right to the end with David McCullough taking home his first checkered flag of the season. Jake Sheridan finished 2nd with Matt Robblee rounding out the podium positions.
The Choko/Fast Eddie 250 Presented by Havoline had the grandstands packed, the media buzzing and the drivers on edge. Andrew Ranger and Kevin Lacroix led the field of 18 to the green flag under sunny skies. Lacroix would jump to the early lead off of turn 2 before Donald Theetge was stuffed into the outside wall off of turn 4, going up on two wheels and collecting Larry Jackson. Theetge showed his displeasure for another driver after exiting his #22. Adam Martin entered pit road for service while the safety crew attended to the damaged 22 Racing Dodge. Lacroix maintained the lead on the restart as Ranger and Steven Matthews followed in behind.
By lap 24, DJ Kennington had moved into the top 3 after muscling his way past Steven Matthews, allowing Cayden Lapcevich to slip through for 4th. Kevin Lacroix had set a wicked pace with less than 30 laps completed, leading by half a straightaway. On lap 33 Cayden Lapcevich made a move around Kennington to advance to a podium position. The battle for 4th was heating up by lap 70 as Steven Matthews and a flock of cars behind had reeled in DJ Kennington and all ran nose to tail. Matthews made the move on lap 73, which resulted in the #17 machine of Kennington getting freight trained back to 8th.
Lap 95 saw the second caution of the race as Jason White spun in turn 1, slowing the field down as Kevin Lacroix was running almost half a track ahead of the field. At the time of the caution Andrew Ranger was running 2nd, Cayden Lapcevich 3rd, Steven Matthews 4th and Alex Tagliani 5th. The caution period proved devastating for Andrew Ranger and Noel Dowler who each received a 1 lap penalty for passing under the yellow. Cayden Lapcevich assumed the race lead after the cycle of pit stops with Alex Labbe 2nd, Jason hathaway 3rd, Steven Matthews 4th and Alex Tagliani 5th. Kevin Lacroix had dropped back to 6th after the cycle of pit stops.
Alex Labbe moved to the race lead on the restart as the field raced 2 and 3 wide behind. Lap 123 saw Alex Tagliani make a run to the inside of Cayden Lapcevich, moving his #18 into the runner up running position. The battle for the race lead heated up just after the halfway point on lap 129 when Tagliani got to the back bumper of Alex Labbe and then quickly to the inside just 1 lap later to move into the top position. Mark Dilley suddenly had a bunch of smoke come out of the back of his #02 on lap 135 and entered pit road to the aid of his crew. At the 100 to go mark the front three cars remained nose to tail as DJ kennington worked to close the gap from 4th.
The caution came out on lap 159 as Armani Williams spun in turn 2, this was the third caution of the race. As soon as the yellow was displayed there was a frenzy in pit road as teams prepared to strap new Goodyear Eagles on their cars. Andrew Ranger was the beneficiary of the Lucky Dog Award, putting him back on the lead lap. There was a mix of drivers taking 2, 4 and no tires swell as Sunoco Racing Fuel. After the cycle of stops Kevin Lacroix moved back to a familiar position in the front of the field ahead of Tagliani. There was a heavy crash on lap 169 as Cayden Lapcevich and Steven Matthews tangled on the front straightaway sending the #15 Matthews car hard into the outside wall and then equally as hard into the inside wall. Noel Dowler also received damage in the incident as well as Lapcevich, who remained on track temporarily. The Steven Matthews machine was virtually destroyed in the wreck as both ends and sides had made contact of some sort.
The restart saw Lacroix and Tagliani go head to head once again as the battle up front picked up. The front 6 cars ran nose to tail with Labbe pressuring Tagliani from behind, while trying to hold off Jason Hathaway who had new tires. On lap 189 Tagliani used the bumper to move into the race lead, shuffling Lacroix back outside the top 5. Slight smoke came out of the #27 Ranger machine within 50 laps to go and he was black flagged, ending his comeback from a lap penalty earlier in the race.
The top 3 drivers, Tagliani, Labbe and Hathaway, battled very hard for the race win as the 50 lap to go mark passed, before Labbe made the move to the inside on lap 213. Jason Hathaway lost the 3rd position on lap 218 when he slid up the track, moving DJ Kennington into the podium position. The caution came out once again on lap 219 for fluid on the track surface, setting up an epic sprint to the finish.
The 25 lap dash to the finish started with Labbe getting a good jump over Alex Tagliani. Jason Hathaway’s good run came to an end in the dying laps as he slowed dramatically and fell behind the field. Labbe had opened up a 10 car length lead by 10 laps to go while the battle for 3rd was heating up as Kennington tried to hold off Lacroix and L.P. Demoulin. Alex Labbe would go on to win the Choko/Fast Eddie 250 Presented by Havoline over Alex Tagliani and DJ Kennington.
The next event at Delaware Speedway is Friday, June 9th as the Ground Masters Super Stocks, TransAxle V8 Stocks, and Fire & Iron Custom Metalwork Bone Stocks resume the Speedway’s weekly racing. Racing gets started at 7:30pm, advance tickets can be purchased on www.DelawareSpeedway.com.