Sometimes when the leaders are battling fiercly for position, the best spot on the track is to be the third-place car.
In the 2015 season opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park that turned out to be the case for rookie Gary Klutt, who took advantage of a last-lap, last-turn wreck between Andrew Ranger and Scott Steckly to claim his first career win.
Klutt was fast. He won his first career pole in qualifying for the Pinty’s Presents the Clarington 200.
But even he didn’t expect to be standing in Victory Lane when he took the white flag.
"I flat out wasn’t as quick as those guys, I didn’t have as much experience at the end of the race on those tires," he continued. "I just kept it on the track and that’s all I could hope for."
RACING-REFERENCE: Gary Klutt
"Side by side through turn 10 and they’re going to make MORE contact… BIG HIT!!"
– NASCAR Pinty’s Series (@NASCARPintys) May 5, 2020
With six laps to go in the event, Scott Steckly had wrestled the lead away on a restart.
In the final turns of the closing laps, Ranger made his bid for a third CTMP win. Neither driver gave an inch as they exited the final turn, and the ensuing wreckage cleared just enough for Klutt to slide by unscathed.
"I was making sure the 22 didn’t come back across the track and collect me," said Klutt. "Had a quick look in the rearview mirror and it was mine for the taking."
Steckly managed to finish fifth, while Ranger who sustained more critical damage would still score a ninth-place finish.
Jeff Lapcevich would end with a third straight runner-up finish at CTMP. His last chance to claim a checkered flag at the track would come later that August where he came up short again, rounding out the podium in third.
J.F. Dumoulin who finished third, scored his first podium in the series in his first full-time season, while D.J. Kennington would slide into the fourth position.
RACING-REFERENCE: Pinty’s Presents the Clarington 200 Results
In his series debut, Cayden Lapcevich would finish as the final car on the lead lap in the 17th position. He would only race five more times that season scoring a best finish of third at Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ontario.
At the end of the season, despite a rocky start at CTMP, it was Steckly who claimed the 2015 championship by only four points over Hathaway. Ranger would finish the season third in the standings just 18 points back.
Klutt would claim the Rookie of the Year honours thanks to his win at CTMP, propelling him into the 2016 class of the NASCAR Next program, the first driver from the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.
The 2015 season would also be the final one for Jeff Lapcevich and Steckly. Steckly would focus more on building his team, 22 Racing while Jeff became crew chief for his son Cayden during his first full-time season, claiming the 2016 championship and Josten’s Rookie of the Year.