INNISFIL, Ontario — Following the second practice for the Stewart’s Equipment & Kubota 100 at Sunset Speedway, J.R. Fitzpatrick entered the pits on the back of the tow truck, thinking his day was over just like that.
After all, the motor had just blown up in his No. 84 Cambridge Ridging / TransAxle Late Model. However, the story wasn’t over there for the debut event in a new partnership between Fitzpatrick and Holdaway Motorsports.
“I was coming in on the tow truck thinking I was going to start drinking beer, but Taylor and his crew rallied together and went and got the other motor that he got,” Fitzpatrick told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS. “We thrashed hard all day. Brandon Johnston had to go to Newmarket and get the motor for us, so that was very much appreciated. So we got the motor out and just waited and took our time putting it back in and had a couple issues, but when the green flag came out, the car right away was really good and I was confident we were going to get up there.”
Starting tail of the 22-car field, he would up inside the top-15 by the 20th lap, running 10th as of the race’s first caution at Lap 24. He continued to move his way forward, breaking into the top-five with 40 laps to go. The battle for the win came down to the final laps, with Fitzpatrick getting by Dale Shaw with three laps to go to score the win.
“Honestly, like here, I never would’ve expected to have that good of a run because it’s not my best track,” he admitted. “I’ve always enjoyed coming here, but it’s just I’m not very comfortable. But this car and program really changed that. I knew all along that from Taylor and I talking in the summer that our communication was really good. We had pretty much same viewpoint on a few things and he gave me a wicked car.
“That thing on Lap 7 was just unreal. I knew it was going to be tough to beat as soon as we got going and short runs kind of killed me, but on long runs, that thing was on rails.”
Ultimately, the victory is a very welcome sight for Fitzpatrick, as admittedly, this season has not gone as he would have hoped. Some of the lowlights have included writing a car off, getting caught up in a wreck just five days later with the back-up, and a blown motor in a seven day span in July.
“I know I did Dale a little dirty, but honestly after the year I had, I wasn’t accepting second,” he stated. “That car was unreal. All of the crew on my team and on Taylor’s team deserved it. They all worked crazy today and this year has just been a year to forget, so maybe this will change things around.”
Fitzpatrick will carry the momentum into the APC Auto Parts United Late Model Series finale at Delaware Speedway on Saturday, September 26, a track he finished fourth at in July, and won at previously.
“Confident, honestly, considering I checked off a track that I’ve never been good at,” he said. “Delaware, I’ve been decent at but I think we have a car that will be really good there. Definitely got two teams working together that will be really strong and confidence is going to be a big thing. I felt confident after yesterday’s test and I think that played a part here, too, in helping me feel a lot more confident behind the wheel.”