Robin Buck conquered the elements and the competition Sunday at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres when he cruised to a second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series win of the season in the GP3R 100.
Buck, a part-time-road course competitor from Campbellville, Ont., passed L.P. Dumoulin on Lap 6 and held on the balance of the rain-soaked event at the 1.53-mile temporary street course for his second triumph in just four starts in 2011.
With rain falling prior to the drop of the initial green flag, visibility and traction were in scarce supply. Visibility, though, seemed to be the biggest variable. The drivers who could find it were able to get around the track in decent fashion.
"I was just looking for traction and visibility," said Buck, a seasoned road-course driver with quite a bit of experience on wet tracks. "I did have a problem with the windshield fogging up. There were times when I had only a little sliver to see through. As the car built up heat, it got worse and worse, but during the cautions it would clear a little. So, the cautions were pretty helpful."
At one point, Buck held a more than 25-second lead on the rest of the field which made the cautions a bittersweet moment.
"The lead was pretty big at one point there. When the caution came out I needed it to clear the windshield, but I didn't want to lose the big lead at the same time. On a wet track, you still have to be aggressive, but a little too much and bad things can happen," he said.
While always competitive in his series career on the road courses, Buck has been even more of a factor in this year's events. He collected his first series victory earlier in the season at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que., and posted third-place finishes in Toronto and Bowmanville, Ont., at Mosport International Raceway.
"We spent a lot of time over the offseason working on the suspension and everything on the car to get it properly set for road-course racing," Buck said.
Saturday's pole winner Andrew Ranger had to pit due to visibility problems. Dumoulin assumed the lead and held it until Buck made what would be the decisive move on Lap 6. From there, Buck only had to withstand two restarts and the wet conditions to hold on to victory in the No. 66 Quaker State/Durabody Dodge.
The second of two cautions came out on Lap 35 and setup a green-white-checker finish. The three-time defending Trois-Rivieres winner Ranger battled back through the field to be in position to challenge Buck on the on the final restart, but Buck held on for his first win in four Canadian Tire Series events at the track.
Ranger, out of Roxton Pond, Que., crossed the line second in his No. 27 Dodge Dealers of Quebec Dodge. It was his second runner-up finish at the track to go along with the three victories.
"I had to pit early because I couldn't see anything," said Ranger. "They gave me a squeegee and it helped a lot. I gave it all I could on that last restart, but (Buck) was too good today."
Ranger is set to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut on Aug. 14 at Watkins Glen International in New York. He will be the first regular competitor from the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series to race in NASCAR's premier series.
Season points leader Scott Steckly bounced back from a 20th-place finish in his last start to register his seventh top-five finish in eight outings this season in the No. 22 Canadian Tire/MotoMaster Dodge.
"It was tough out there. That's pretty much the first time that I have raced in the rain," Steckly said. "We're definitely happy with the finish, all things considered."
Jeff Lapcevich and Dumoulin, also experienced road-course competitors, completed the top five. Jason White, Derek White, John Farano, DJ Kennington and Dave Connelly rounded out the top 10 finishers.
The race was slowed due to caution just two times for 12 laps and the lead changed hands two times among three drivers.
It was the second time in series history that rain tires were bolted to the cars. In June 2008 at Mosport International Raceway it rained after the race was underway.
In the point standings, Steckly stretched his lead on Kennington out to 47 points after bringing a 20-point advantage into the event. Don Thomson Jr. holds down third place while J.R. Fitzpatrick is fourth.
The GP3R 100 was telecast in its entirety on TSN following NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage on Sunday from Pocono Raceway. It will re-air on TSN at 12:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 12 and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is in action next on Saturday, Aug. 20 for the NAPA Autopro 100 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.