Having a home is important and nowhere is Andrew Ranger more at home than behind the steering wheel of a race car, especially in Canada.
After spending the 2010 and 2011 seasons picking up starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menard's, the 25-year-old native of Roxton Pond, Que., is back with a full-time ride in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in which he won championships in 2007 and 2009.
"I'm really happy to be back in the Canadian Tire Series," said Ranger. "It's a place where I'm very comfortable."
He again is aligned with team owner Dave Jacombs with whom Ranger won his Canadian titles. In the offseason Jacombs joined forces with GC Motorsports International to form GC Motorsports Canada. GCMI, formerly Go Canada Racing, competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in which Ranger will make a number of starts.
"It's great to be back with Dave Jacombs and a team that I know," the No. 27 Dodge/GC Motorsports Dodge driver said. "I get to try for another championship and make some Nationwide (Series) starts."
As the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series' all-time leader in wins at 14, Ranger has been particularly tough to beat on road courses within the borders of his home province, where he has rock star-type popularity. In 11 Quebec road-course starts, he has driven to Victory Lane six times - three each at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Circuit de Trois-Rivieres (Que.). His start last season in the series' inaugural event at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que., looked to be headed in that direction, but it didn't quite turn out that way.
After competing in an ARCA event the night before and missing qualifying, Ranger had to start the ICAR event from the rear of the 27-car field. He picked his way through traffic on the 15-turn, 2.113-mile track and took the lead on Lap 28 of the 30-lap race, but he made contact with fellow Quebecer and former teammate Alex Tagliani which was deemed excessive by NASCAR officials resulting in an aggressive driving penalty and a finish in 21st place.
"Let's just say I hope this one turns out better," Ranger said.
It's hard to bet against the winner of 11 Canadian Tire Series road-course races, especially in Quebec.
Right At Home: Up to 15 Quebec natives are expected to enter the ICAR Lucas Oil Grand Prix presented by Budweiser. Elie Arseneau, Patrice Brisebois, Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Alex Labbe, Michel Pilon and Dexter Stacey will be making their 2012 season debut while Steve Côté, Dave Coursol, Ray Courtemanche Jr., Louis-Philippe Dumoulin, Andrew Ranger, Martin Roy, Isabelle Tremblay, Hugo Vannini and Derek White competed in the season opener on the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont. Labbe will be making his series debut.
In Search Of: Circuit ICAR is looking to have a Quebec driver finish in the top three. Last year's race on the grounds of the Mirabel Airport is the only time on a Quebec road course that a native of the province didn't place in the top three in a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event. In the other 10 - five each in Montreal and Trois-Rivieres - road-course races in Quebec at least one native son finished inside the top three.
A Leg Up: Getting off to a quick start in the point standings is the first step to a good season. Three times - 2007, 2008 and 2011 - in the Canadian Tire Series has the points leader following the season's second race gone on to win the season title. J.R. Fitzpatrick comes into this race with a five-point advantage over D.J. Kennington. Fitzpatrick was last atop the standings following the Barrie (Ont.) Speedway event on Sept. 11, 2010.
Two In A Row: Not only did the Canadian Tire Series open the season on a road course this season, but it is followed up with a second road-racing event at Circuit ICAR. The series makes its 2012 oval-track debut on June 16 on the half-mile track at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and visits the ovals at Delaware (Ont.) Speedway on June 23 and Motoplex Speedway in Vernon B.C., on July 14 before returning to Edmonton (Alta.) City Centre Airport on July 22 after a year's absence to take on the new road-course configuration.
Groundbreaking Night: On Friday, June 1, Circuit ICAR is set to host its first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event prior to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series teams rolling into the paddock area on Saturday morning. It's rare for a road course to be a part of NASCAR's weekly racing program, normally contested on short-track ovals, but even rarer for the competition to take place under the lights. ICAR joins Barrie Speedway and Edmonton (Alta.) International Raceway as Canadian venues on the Whelen All-American Series.