Following a pair of championships, including the inaugural title in 2007, and a second crown in 2009, Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Quebec has only run one more full season in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Racing Series since that 2009 trophy. After securing a car from the D.J.K. Racing stable and sponsorship from MOPAR Performance in 2014, Ranger will be taking another stab at his third championship.
So far that attempt has been a roller coaster ride for the 27-year-old as he saw the 2014 season start off on the highest of highs, winning the pole at the season-opening event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. An unapproved adjustment would force him to start at the back, but he was quickly inside the top 10, and on his way to a podium finish before an electronic issue saw him plunge from a top-three run to a 21st place finish.
It was more of the same during race number two, as late race contact knocked him out of a top-five spot with just a few laps to go, resulting in a 12th place finish at Autodrome Chaudière.
“At that point, we just needed a break,” Ranger said. “We were running well and had a great car at both races, but just had some bad events happen.”
Ranger was looking for something to turn the season around, and the therapy came in the form of Circuit ICAR – a track he was victorious at in 2012 and 2013 – while coming up two laps short in 2011 as he was involved in an accident while leading with a pair to go.
At ICAR, Ranger dominated, taking the pole and leading the most laps en route to his third straight victory at the technical circuit. “It was great to get back into victory lane,” he explained. “Finally, at ICAR we were able to put everything together.”
If win number one wasn’t enough for him, the following weekend Ranger went back to victory lane during the series’ inaugural visit to Edmonton International Raceway. This time he was the hunter late in the event as he passed Alex Tagliani with 35 laps to go in regulation before holding off Jason Hathaway in a green-white-checkered finish. With the victory, Ranger was also able to equal another milestone, as he tied D.J. Kennington for most career Canadian Tire Series wins with 19.
This finish put Ranger right into the thick of the championship battle at the one-third mark of the season, moving him to third just 12 points behind J.R. Fitzpatrick and L.P. Doumoulin.
Having come up through karting and open wheel circles quite successfully, Ranger’s appreciation of the full-bodied stock cars has come full-circle. “These cars are fun to drive. They are heavy, have a lot of horsepower, and there are a number of competitive teams.”
And D.J.K. Racing is one of them. “I like the fact that it’s a two-year deal with a great company. I’ve raced against D.J. Kennington for years in Canada and in the Nationwide Series, and I know the cars that he prepares are fast,” said Ranger. “The series has a lot of races in Quebec now, and it’s great for our fans and sponsors.”
In addition to his ventures north of the border, Ranger will continue to compete in the U.S. in 2014 with a part-time schedule behind the wheel for MDS Motorsports out of Vermont. Ranger explained, “It’s a great deal with them, because they are in Vermont, so it’s only 1.5 hours away from my house. With them I don’t have to bring money, I can just show up and concentrate on racing. They have a few different race cars and trucks, and a great sponsor with Waste Management, so they can pick and choose where we go to race. I’ve gotten some good exposure racing with them for the past few seasons. We’ve done about 15 races a year for the past four years in ARCA, K&N and Nationwide, and we have done well and won some races.”
As far as full-time rides and the chance to hop into championship equipment, he continued, “Car owners know who I am, but I’m facing the same problem that D.J., Pete Shepherd and J.R. Fitzpatrick did, and that is money. In IndyCar when Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier and Jacques Villeneuve were racing, they had Player’s money, but there are very few Canadian companies that would spend the amount of money it takes to be competitive in the U.S.”
The question of whether Ranger can ever crack the line-up south of the boarder won’t be answered immediately. But one thing has become evident early in the 2014 season: the two-time champion hasn’t lost a step and should be in the thick of the title race as he looks to add a third NCATS championship trophy to his mantle.