Local racer has ups and downs at NASCAR event

Jason Hankewich drove his No. 25 Chevolet Impala to a 17th place finish in the first 100-lap race, with a 14th place finish in the second race

Kenneth Brown
of The Clarion
Kindersley’s Jason Hankewich had an eventful night in Saskatoon last week when he took on several of Canada’s best stock car drivers in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.

Hankewich took his Bounty Creek Farms/Get-A-Grip Tire Chevrolet to Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon on July 26 to compete in the Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s presented by Bayer. The race used to be 250 laps long, but it is now twin 100-lap races for the series.

Jason Hankewich, No. 25, gets the inside lane, during action in Saskatoon July 26th

In a change for the Pinty’s Series, the starting positions for drivers in the second race were determined by the fastest laps for each driver in the first race. Hankewich qualified to start in 17th for the first race.

A total of 20 cars started each race. The local competitor drove his No. 25 Chevolet Impala to a 17th place finish in the first 100-lap race and he improved in the second race with a 14th place finish after starting for the second time in 17th position.

But the results do not tell the whole story.

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Hankewich was involved in several altercations on the track in the first race and he finished three laps down from the leader. However, for the first time in his NASCAR career, the Kindersley resident completed as many laps as the eventual race winner to finish on the lead lap.

Both races were competitive, but the same three drivers finished on the podium in both races. Alex Labbe won the first race and finished the second race in third place while long-time series competitor D.J. Kennington finished both races in second place. The defending Pinty’s Series champion Cayden Lapcevich, who is 17 year old, finished in third place in the first race before winning race two.

Kindersley racer Jason Hankewich signed some autographs, along with other racers, during the Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s race in Saskatoon July 26th

Hankewich got off to a good start in the first race, but he tried to duck inside Ian Admiraal on lap 17 when he was going into the third turn and he spun Admiraal around. Hankewich was collected by Admiraal and body panels on Hankewich’s were damaged, but it was only cosmetic damage.

Hankewich was later turned around in turn two by Anthony Simone and the incident on lap 98 resulted in a green, white and checkered finish. The 100-lap race became a 104-lap race. The struggle for the local competitor in race one would not carry over to race two.

It did not take too long for Admiraal and Hankewich to renew acquaintance. Admiraal drove his car under the Kindersley driver coming out of turn four on lap 40 and Hankewich was sent spinning out of control. However, no damage was done.

Hankewich rebounded from the incident and even ended up running in the top 10 for part of the race. However, close racing caused a bobble for Hankewich going into turn three and he was in 12th place at the time. The bobble cost him two positions, and he finished in 14th place – two spots shy of his best career finish.

After the races, the driver said his goal in the first race, especially after his on-track incidents, was to take it easy to make sure he was around at the finish and able to start the second race. He said his crew made adjustments and repairs between races, but the adjustments came too late for race one. The race is the first time Hankewich had been in the car since the race in Saskatoon in 2016.

“I need some time behind the wheel,” Hankewich said, noting that his car has the power to compete with the top cars in the series and the biggest difference is most of his competitors are behind the wheel racing either every week or every other week during the season.

He explained that the suspension on cars in the NASCAR series is tricky and the car is fast if the set up is right, but slow if it is wrong. Hankewich said the car was really tight in race one, but it handled better in race two until it developed a push near the end of the race. Race two ended on a sour note for the local competitor, but he recognized that he had a chance to finish in the top 10.

Hankewich found speed in the outside lane, or second groove, of the track in race two, but he chose to keep the car on the inside lane where it was slower to prevent the other drivers from sticking the noses of their cars underneath him. He said he had fun even though it was frustrating at times.

Kevin Hein, the crew chief for Hankewich, said he believes the driver and crew deserved a better finish, but a couple of incidents near the end of the races cost his driver and that’s racing. He noted that it is difficult to compete against the large budgets of series regulars, especially when a driver has not had much time in the car. Hein said it is most important to be running at the end of races.

“In these races, the key is to finish,” he added, noting that he wanted to thank his driver and crew for a good effort in Saskatoon. “If you finish and stay clean, you’ll have a decent race and, you know, we didn’t stay clean enough. If we would have stayed clean and hadn’t got in any of those incidents, we are a top 10 car today.

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© Kindersley Clarion

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