The 2017 season for the APC United Late Model Series presented by Grisdale Racing Products came to a thrilling conclusion on September 16th with the annual running of the Great Canadian Race. Brandon Watson entered the event with the championship locked up as he became the third champion in as many years for the series.
Bennett GM Group Qualifying was the first competition on the day as drivers were let loose for five lap sessions to determine the starting lineup for the Great Canadian Race. Brandon Watson set the fast time with a 18.489 as Shae Gemmell, Matt Pritiko, JR Fitzpatrick, and Jamie Cox qualified in the top five spots.
JR Fitzpatrick started in the pole position after selecting the number one pill in the redraw, as Brandon Watson rolled off from his high side. By taking the green flag, Watson was officially crowned the 2017 APC United Late Model Series champion. Brandon Watson led the opening lap of the race before the caution flag came out on lap two for a hard hit in turn one, involving Mat Box and Junior Farrelly.
JR Fitzpatrick took back the race lead on the ensuing restart, however it would only last until lap 15 when Brandon Watson made a move back around the #84 machine. Watson would continue to pace the field until lap 26 when he slowed with an apparent issue on his #9 Ford, and JR Fitzpatrick once again took over the top spot. The caution flag came out on the same lap as Corey Jones stopped on track, however Watson was not able to return in time and fell laps down.
Lap 27 saw JR Fitzpatrick and Shae Gemmell make contact in turn three and both drivers would end up going to the rear of the field. Matt Pritiko would inherit the lead for the restart after the front two had their incident. She Gemmell and JR Fitzpatrick began a hard charge through the field, and on lap 31 Gemmell made a bold three wide move to get back into the top 15. Lap 35 saw Fitzpatrick return to the top 10 as Matt Pritiko continued to lead.
Shae Gemmell returned to the top 10 on lap 44, and then to the top five on lap 64 after a ludicrous drive through the field, all under green flag conditions. Lap 71-73 saw Andrew Gresel close the gap as he and leader Matt Pritiko worked lapped traffic. 88 laps into the race Shae Gemmell returned to the top three, as the battle for the lead was heating up between Andrew Gresel and Matt Pritiko.
Just as the two leaders were beginning to fight and lean on each other, everything was changed when a crash on the back straightaway with Jamie Cox and Billy Schwartzenburg brought out the caution on lap 96. The restart was disaster as Ron Beauchamp Jr. got loose in front of the field and was hit hard by Treyten Lapcevich. Billy Schwartzenburg, Patrick Freel, and JR Fitzpatrick also were involved in the crash. The final restart saw Andrew Gresel take the lead on the high side as Pritiko was forced to try and fight for his win. Gresel was able to hold on for the victory, his third Great Canadian Race win. Matt piratic finished second, Shae Gemmel third, Branden Verhoeven fourth and Shawn Chenoweth rounded out the top five.
The next event for the APC Series is the annual awards banquet on October 21st at the 4 Points by Sheraton in London, Ontario. The annual celebration will honour the champion as well as all the great series partners and full fleet of drivers and teams.
Photos by Paul Buck - Delaware Speedway