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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Montreal

There will be plenty of “double-duty” racing in Montreal, starting with the “usual” kind involving NASCAR national series competition.  Kyle Busch and Colin Braun (No. 16 3M Ford) are entered in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night before coming to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 25, 2009) - One of NASCAR’s youngest races has become one of its most unpredictable.

In 2007, the inaugural event for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Circuit Gilles Villenueve in Montreal, three drivers did burnouts on the frontstretch after the race. Two – actual winner Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon – thought they had won. The other, Quebec’s Patrick Carpentier (No. 99 NAPA Toyota), couldn’t contain his excitement at finishing second.

And who could forget last year? Certainly not Ron Fellows (No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet), another native Canadian who not only won the race, but did so in historic fashion as NASCAR ran its first points race in the rain. Another lasting image – Carl Edwards (No. 60 CitiFinancial Ford) using a Swiffer while driving to clear the raindrops from his windshield.

This time around, Fellows is back to defend his victory, but will be challenged by the strongest field of Canadian drivers in the short three-year history of the event.

Also among the nine Canadian entrants, Carpentier returns as does Jacques Villeneuve (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota), driving on the track named after his father. Andrew Ranger (No. 11 Ridemakerz Toyota), 22, leads the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series standings. Open-wheel star Alex Tagliani (No. 81 Quebec Dodge Dealers Association Dodge) will drive for Canadian owner Randy MacDonald. J.R. Fitzpatrick, now on board as a developmental driver for Kevin Harvick Inc., will be in the No. 33 Shick Chevrolet, a tall order for the 21-year-old to step into a former winner’s (and his bosses’) shoes.

Darryl Harr (No. 31 Chevrolet), Jean Francois Dumoulin (No. 23 Mahindra Chevrolet) and DJ Kennington (No. 61 Specialty Racing Ford) round out the Canadian contingent.

Among the group, only Dumoulin and Tagliani are debuting in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car.

More to watch: Marcos Ambrose (No. 47 Armor All Toyota) has unfinished business. He was challenging for the win in 2007 – he led 37 laps – before he and Gordon staged a memorable late-race spinning match; Ambrose got the short end and wound up seventh. Last year he led 27 laps but was caught speeding on pit road – again, late in the event – and lost his momentum and the race.

There’s also the intrigue surrounding Ambrose and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota), the series standings leader. Three weeks ago, the last time the two drivers met in series competition, Ambrose sprung a “surprise” pass on Busch in the chicane at Watkins Glen, overtaking Busch for the lead and ultimately the win. This will be Busch’s debut on the track, but he’s 1-1 in international series races, winning at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City in his only race there in 2008.

Different ‘Double-Duty’ At Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

There will be plenty of “double-duty” racing in Montreal, starting with the “usual” kind involving NASCAR national series competition.  Kyle Busch and Colin Braun (No. 16 3M Ford) are entered in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night before coming to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Add to that mix a new type of double-dip for Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose and Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 USFidelis Chevrolet), who will debut in Rolex Grand-American racing in addition to their regular NASCAR Nationwide Series duties this weekend in Montreal.

Edwards and Ambrose will team together in the No. 77 Ford Dallara for Doran Racing in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class. Gaughan will join Rolex 24 and Daytona champion Andy Lally in the No. 66 Porsche GT3 for TRD. Lally also was announced this week to run in the NASCAR Nationwide race, driving the No. 0 sponsordavis.com Chevrolet for J-D Motorsports. He has competed at least once in each of NASCAR’s national series, most recently earlier this month at The Glen in NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Additionally, five drivers will run in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Nationwide races this weekend: JR Fitzpatrick, Darryl Harr, DJ Kennington, Andrew Ranger and Alex Talgiani. 

Young Drivers Make Their Mark In Montreal

Road-course specialists – like defending winner Ron Fellows – Boris Said (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford), Max Papis (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) and the numerous other experts in the field for Montreal are expected to compete well in their familiar discipline.

But Fellows is the only road-course ace among them who has had winning success in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Otherwise, stock-car regulars more than hold their own or are actually considered favorites on road courses.

Fellows has four wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on road venues, three at Watkins Glen and last year at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Fellows has to be considered a favorite going in to Sunday’s race, but it’s not just the stock-car aficionados who are worth watching. Keep an eye on the younger drivers, too.  Last year at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Colin Braun, 20, won the pole in his third NASCAR Nationwide start. He set up the car for 2002 series champion Greg Biffle for this race last year; Biffle finished eighth.

Brad Coleman (No. 20 BigSpot.com Toyota), 21, who teamed with Braun in 2005 as the duo became the youngest to run in the Rolex Grand-Am GT Class (they finished seventh), began his career on road courses.

Stephen Leicht (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet), 22, finished fifth in the inaugural race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. He dialed in the car last year for Clint Bowyer; the eventual series champion finished ninth.

Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet), 22, isn’t synonymous with road courses but he’s had success on them. He was 10th in this race last year and also was 10th in Mexico City in 2008. He was 12th at Watkins Glen earlier this month.

Andrew Ranger and JR Fitzpatrick don’t have extensive experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but their stock-car IQ is growing with each race in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Ranger won that series’ title in 2007, is the current standings leader and won the Canadian Tire Series race in Montreal last year.

Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet) turned 20 on June 22 and is the youngest driver in the field. He’ll be making his NASCAR national series road course debut in only his second series race, but has been solid on NASCAR Camping World Series East road courses. In 2008, he posted two top fives in three races (Lime Rock Park and The Glen).

Unique Sponsorship Opportunity Has Fans “Riding” With Wallace

Almost speechless.

Believe it or not, that describes Kenny Wallace (No. 28 Thank You Fans Chevrolet), after he learned that more than 5.000 fans – or in this case “sponsors” – have extended their support to Wallace in Montreal.

For a $20 donation, fans were able to submit their name which appears on the hood of Wallace’s car for Sunday’s race.

“We were able to raise enough money to compete in the race,” Wallace said. “I couldn’t be more thankful or more humbled.”

The idea came about through Wallace’s social networking avenues. His friends on his Facebook page suggested a fan-sponsored car for the event and the response was tremendous.

The fans’ names are on the hood, TV panel and rear deck lid and are from 49 states (excluding Hawaii), Canada, India, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“We have to offer our own special thanks to Kenny and the fans for putting the No. 28 Chevy in a great position (to) be fully prepared with a car capable of competing for the win,” said team owner Jay Robinson.

IN THE LOOP

Favorites Live Up To Expectations

In sports, statistics don’t always match with the predictions.

A prognosticator’s favorites at a NASCAR race sometimes – even oftentimes – fail to match the stat sheet.

That’s not the case at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where those drivers with the pressure of being called “favorites” live up to those expectations.

At the top of any prediction list at a road course: Marcos Ambrose, Ron Fellows, Patrick Carpentier and Boris Said.

At the top of the pre-race Montreal Driver Rating: Ambrose, Fellows, Carpentier and Said.

They are clearly the favorites Sunday (though Kyle Busch will make his first start at Montreal, and does not have any statistics).

Here is a miniature statistical bio on each of the above drivers:

Ambrose, winner of the last two Watkins Glen road course races, has a Driver Rating of 138.5, an Average Running Position of 2.3, 29 Fastest Laps Run and has run all 123 of the laps in the top 15.

Fellows, winner of last year’s Montreal race, has a Driver Rating of 121.7, an Average Running Position of 5.5, six Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 97.6.

Carpentier has a Driver Rating of 120.9, an Average Running Position of 5.2, 11 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 95.9.

Said, always a threat on a road course, has a Driver Rating of 97.7, an Average Running Position of 9.8, five Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 82.9.

So, the question is: who can dethrone the favorites. Carl Edwards is a likely candidate, but there’s no telling which Edwards will show up.  At Montreal, he had a strong finish (sixth) and a bad one (30th).

Combined at Montreal, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 89.3, an Average Running Position of 17.3 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 55.3.

Those numbers don’t scream “favorite.” But if Edwards has another road course race like the one he did at Watkins Glen, he could wind up in Victory Lane.

In his third-place finish at Watkins Glen, Edwards had a Driver Rating of 123.7, an Average Running Position of 5.4 and led 25 laps.

NNS Etc: Montreal Edition

  • In The Garage

    Canadians in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend include:

    Patrick Carpentier (Ville Lasalle, Quebec) – No. 99 driver
    Jean Francios Dumoulin (Trios-Rivieres, Quebec) – No. 23 driver
    Ron Fellows (Toronto, Ontario) – No. 5 driver
    JR Fitzpatrick (Cambridge, Ontario) – No. 33 driver
    Daryl Harr (St. Albert, Alberta) – No. 31 driver
    DJ Kennington (St. Thomas, Ontario) – No. 61 driver
    Randy MacDonald (Oshawa, Ontario) – No. 81 owner
    Shaun Peet (Namaimo, BC) – No. 32 jackman (not in attendance this weekend)
    Andrew Ranger (Roxton Pond, Quebec) – No. 11 driver
    Alex Taglinani (Montreal Quebec) – No. 81 driver
    Jacques Villeneuve (Montreal, Quebec) – No. 32 driver

  • A True International Event

    The NASCAR Nationwide Series will have drivers from four countries represented this weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

    The United States (33) and Canada (nine) have the majority of drivers entered, while Australia (Marcos Ambrose) and Italy (Max Papis) are each represented by one driver.

    Also, the first driver with a hometown listed as Puerto Rico will attempt to make his series debut.  Victor Gonzalez Jr. will drive the No. 05 31-W Insulation Ford for owner Wayne Day. A road-course specialist who has worked as an instructor with the Skip Barber Racing school, Gonzalez has raced in many different car types and series disciplines including Late Models.

NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

    Driver                    Team        Points
1. Justin Allgaier          Penske      206
2. Brendan Gaughan    RWR         191
3. Michael McDowell    K-Auto       181
4. Michael Annett        Germain     160
5. Scott Lagasse Jr.    N/A            154
6. Jon Wes Townley    RAB           109
7. Erik Darnell             RFR            104
8. Ken Butler III           R3               75

  • Stand-Alone Season Stands Down

    Sunday’s race will be the eighth of nine stand-alone events on the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule.

    Including the NAPA Auto Parts 200, seven of the series’ 13 races since June 6 at Nashville Superspeedway have been stand-alones.

    The final stand-alone event of the season is at Memphis Motorsports Park on Oct. 24.

  • 2009 Manufacturer’s Championship Standings

    In the series’ brief history in Montreal, Chevrolet has been the most successful manufacturer, winning both races.

    Ford, however, arguably has been the most dominant at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, having led a total of 64 laps over the two events, all by Marcos Ambrose.

    Dodge has been strong at the 2.709-mile, 14-turn road course, winning both poles and leading 28 laps, second-most among the manufacturers.

  • Milestones In Montreal

    Stephen Leicht will make his 70th career start on Sunday. He has one win, 14 top-10 and 38 top-20 finsihes in his previous 69 races.

    Michael McDowell (No. 96 ConelyAuto.com Dodge) will attempt to make his 30th series start. He’s 10th in the standings and will drive the second car for Brian Keselowski’s K-Automotive outfit. Brian Keselowski will get back in the No. 26 2XL-ConelyAuto.com Dodge for the first time in five races after serving as crew chief on the car for the last four events.

Up Next: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Nationwide Series goes under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. ET.

Due to the 2009 schedule change with Auto Club Speedway’s previous fall date, the DegreeV12 300 will be the first series race in September at the super-fast 1.54-mile track.

Over the past four years – and for 12 of its 17 series races, the event has been run in March. Three races were run in October from 2002-04, while two were held in November.

Matt Kenseth won last year, building on Roush Fenway’s series dominance at Atlanta (five wins). Kenseth also won at Atlanta in 2004.

Only the weather stopped Kyle Busch from winning a third consecutive AMS pole – last year’s starting lineup was set per the rule book.

Some history: Jeff Gordon won the inaugural series race at Atlanta in 1992 and Shawna Robinson became the first woman to win a pole in NASCAR national series competition when she did so at Atlanta in 1994.

FAST FACTS

The Race: NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge
The Place: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (2.709-mile road course)
The Date: Sunday, August 30
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200.466 miles / 74 laps
TV: ESPN2, 2:00 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Winner: Ron Fellows
2008 Polesitter: Scott Pruett
Event Schedule (all times ET): Saturday – Practice, 9-11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.; NASCAR Road Course Qualifying, 4:40 p.m.


2009 STANDINGS

     Driver                  Points
1   Kyle Busch           3,900
2   Carl Edwards         3,652
3   Brad Keselowski    3,597
4   Jason Leffler          3,353
5   Justin Allgaier        2,843
6   Steve Wallace        2,785
7   Jason Keller           2,727
8   Mike Bliss              2,713
9   Brendan Gaughan   2,649
10 Michael McDowell   2,608


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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