Having ended 2020 with a win, D.J. Kennington was ready to get a new season underway and start his campaign for a third championship.
Starting the 2021 season out at Sunset Speedway, Kennington qualified seventh for the Frontline Workers 125, the first of two races that night.
In the first 40 laps, he showed his speed and settled into the fourth position. However, during a caution on lap 48, the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Spark Power Dodge slowed on the backstretch and began limping to pit road.
The team got to work trying to diagnose and address the issue, while the race continued. While he did later rejoin the field, Kennington finished race one in 17th, 56 laps down.
In the General Tire 125, the starting positions were based on the driver’s fastest lap in race one and Kennington scored third.
He immediately began battling with Raphael Lessard, Treyten Lapcevich and Pete Shepherd III for the top positions and kept out of trouble for 125 laps.
As the race headed into NASCAR Overtime, it was Kennington and Lessard on the front row for the two-lap shoot-out. The No. 17 Dodge didn’t get a good, losing the lead but staying hot on the No. 80 tail.
However, he couldn’t catch Lessard but did capture second place.
GRAND PRIX DE TROIS-RIVIÈRES
A former winner at GP3R, Kennington is very familiar with how difficult it is to win on the streets of Trois-Rivières, Que.
The 44-year-old qualified seventh for the Guardian Angels 60 and as the green flag dropped, he continued on a steady path, hunting for another win on the historic street course.
As some drivers faced issues, Kennington continued forward and eventually brought the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Spark Power Dodge home in sixth.
Kennington’s best finish on the airport tarmac in Mirabel, Que. came in 2016 when he finished fourth. For 2021, he was looking for a similar result on the tricky, 0.994-mile road course.
He qualified eighth, and even as the track conditions changed to rain tires, the No. 17 Dodge continued to battle but struggled to crack the top-five.
After surviving two NASCAR Overtime attempts, Kennington finished sixth in the La Fernandiere 75 and bettered his position in the standings to fourth.
CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORT PARK
For the final two road course events of the 2021 season, the series headed to CTMP in Bowmanville, Ont.
A track that Kennington has seen victory at before, his average finish since 2007 sat at 5.5.
First was the Olymel Grand Prix of Ontario, a 30 lap sprint race and the No. 17 Dodge had qualified ninth. Showing speed right out the gate Kennington picked off position after position. In the closing laps, he began to flirt with the top-five positions but in the end, he finished the day in sixth.
As many crews went home to prepare for the Clarington 200 the next day, the No. 17 team was staying late to replace a motor on the car.
In qualifying on Sunday, Kennington picked up the 11th starting position.
However, his chance at a win was dashed in the opening laps. After dropping positions quickly, Kennington brought the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Spark Power Dodge into the garage, and upon further inspection, discovered the valve had blown.
The issue ended his day, marked his only DNF of the 2021 season and dropped him to eighth in the points standings.
Heading back to the ovals, Kennington was looking forward to gaining some spots back in the points standings and possibly getting his first win of the season
After qualifying third, he started battling for the lead after the green flag dropped. Once Andrew Ranger took the lead, Kennington was hot on his heels, even making multiple attempts to take the position.
At the end of the MotoMaster 125, Kennington took home the second position, 0.564 seconds behind Ranger and picking up two spots in the standings.
It was finally time for the track that Kennington had been waiting all season for. Not only is Delaware Speedway home for the 44-year-old, but he is also the most winningest driver there.
The Canadian Tire 125 was the first of three races that weekend, and Kennington was starting second on the front row next to Lapcevich.
The No. 17 Dodge took the lead on lap 13 but lost it again 58 laps later, as the No. 20 Chevrolet continued to dominate.
A late-race caution meant the field would restart with 5 to go. Lapcevich led as the white flag flew but Kennington was right on his rear bumper. In the final turns, he got under the rookie, moving him up the track, taking the lead and claiming his first win of the season.
Lapcevich was notable upset about the move, confronting Kennington in Victory Lane.
On Sunday, two races remained in the 2021 season; the Qwick Wick 125 and the Pinty’s Fall Brawl.
Starting second again, Kennington was eyeing a clean sweep at his home track. The majority of race one was dominated by rookies as Lapcevich, Brandon Watson and Shae Gemmell all took turns swapping the lead.
On lap 119, Kennington took the lead from Watson and didn’t look back, claiming his second win of the season.
This year marked the first time since 2012 that Kennington won multiple races in a season.
Now it was time to crown a champion. In one of the most intense title battles to date, there were so many variables heading into the final race, it could have been anyones.
Starting fifth in the Pinty’s Fall Brawl, Kennington sat back waiting for the opportunity to strike. However, on lap 41, while heading into turn four, he was battling with Watson for the third position and both went around.
When Kennington went down pit lane, it was discovered he had a left rear tire down. After replacing that, he rejoined at the tail end of the field.
However, on lap 89 he got the free pass and started to chip away at the position. In the end, Kennington finish fifth, still on the lead lap and was third in points.