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Keeping Pace

Thu., Aug. 27, 2009, 6 p.m.

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Montreal

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

Five drivers—Andrew Ranger, JR Fitzpatrick, Daryl Harr, DJ Kennington and Alex Tagliani—will do double duty and compete in both the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Ranger Looks To Complete Road Sweep In Montreal

Four-game road series sweeps are a coup for pennant-winning baseball teams, but they are almost unheard of in racing circles—even for championship drivers like Andrew Ranger.

With victories already in hand at Mosport International Raceway, Rexall Speedway and Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford), in Montreal, aims to pull off the unlikeliest of feats—a win in each of the four road-course events on the 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule.

"We've had great success on the road courses this year," said Ranger. "I hope it continues. Montreal is a very special place."

Like most road-course tracks, the four on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule all have a technical portion that requires a proper-handling race car, as well as, a speed section which demands a stout motor with plenty of horsepower. The two combined raise the degree of difficulty and heighten the opportunity for something to go wrong, which makes Ranger's accomplishment of three wins—let alone four—all that much more impressive.

"There's always a chance that something will break at any track," he stated. "It's the competition in this series that makes it harder. It drives us to be better each race."

In his championship season of 2007, the driver out of Roxton Pond, Que., won just a single race—Mosport International Raceway—but his title was cemented by runner-up finishes in each of the other three road races and holding his own in the eight contests on oval tracks.

This season with two oval wins already under his belt, his dominance on the road courses is even more profound. No longer can the short-track racers count on making up ground on the oval tracks.

"It can't be luck," said rival DJ Kennington (No. 17 Castrol/Mahindra Tractors Dodge). "He's very skilled and comes ready to race with  great care every time out."

Ranger is a much more complete driver than he was just two years ago. With four wins in the last five series events, he has built a 124-point lead on Kennington in the points standings.

His five wins, to date, is a new series record and he now has sole ownership of the series career wins mark with eight.

"It's been a fantastic year, but there is still much work to do," Ranger said. "None of these other guys are going to quit, so we can't either."

Fast Facts

The Race: NAPA AUTOPRO 100 
The Place: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Que.
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 30
The Time: 11:45 a.m. ET
TV Schedule: RDS, 11:30 a.m. (Live), TSN, Aug. 29, Noon ET (Tape)
Track Layout: 2.73-mile road course
Race Purse: $74,153 CAD
2008 Winner:
Andrew Ranger
2008 Pole: Kerry Micks
Schedule: Saturday: Practice 7:45-8:45 a.m.; Qualifying 1 p.m.
Track Contact: Normand Prieur, (514) 794-8900,
nprieur@videotron.ca
NASCAR Contact: Shon Sbarra, (704) 309-5493, ssbarra@nascar.com

Beware Of Micks In Montreal

Amid all the talk of the road-course prowess of Andrew Ranger and the always fast JR Fitzpatrick, and his ability to steal the show, the forgotten man in the conversation is Kerry Micks.

As an accomplished road-course racer in his own right, Micks (No. 02 Beyond Digital Imaging Ford) has a pair of series road-course victories to his credit, including a thrilling last-lap pass of Ranger for the 2007 win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Micks, out of Mount Albert, Ont., also set a series track record in qualifying at last year's event, by navigating the 2.73-mile track in 106.664 seconds (91.465 mph), further demonstrating his capacity for success at this venue.

After encountering mechanical woes at both Mosport International Raceway and Edmonton's Rexall Speedway, he posted a season-best finish of sixth on Aug. 16 at Trois-Rivieres among the three road races this season. Micks logged top 10s in three of the four road-course events in 2008.

"He has a great feel for road courses and he pushes very hard," said Ranger. "He's right there if you make a mistake."

Micks has seven top-10 finishes in nine races this year and currently holds down sixth place in the championship points standings, 258 points behind Ranger, the leader. The potential point differential from first to last this week is 129 points, which could certainly spin the title hunt in an all new direction with three races remaining on the slate following this weekend's race.

Montreal News & Notes

The Race: This event is the tenth of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule and the last of four races on road courses this season. It is the series' third visit to the track.

The Procedure: The starting field is 34 cars, including provisionals. The first 29 cars will qualify through NASCAR Road Race (group) qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 23 laps covering 100 kilometers (62.137 miles).

The Track: The 2.73-mile, 14-turn temporary road course is located in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Notre-Dame, a man-made island on the St. Lawrence River. The track was originally named Île Notre-Dame Circuit, but was renamed in 1982 following the death of legendary Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve.

The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 106.664 seconds (91.465 mph) set by Kerry Micks on Aug. 1, 2008. The race record is held by Andrew Ranger at 54 minutes, 57 seconds set Aug. 2, 2008 for an average speed of 68.058 mph.

Last Year: Ranger dueled with JR Fitzpatrick the entire race as the two swapped the lead three times in the closing laps before Ranger was able to escape with the victory in front of a hometown crowd. It was Ranger's second series career victory and his first  in Quebec.

Record Field: The series record for the largest field was set at last year's Montreal event with 33 cars. This year, the starting field is 34 cars and 34 are expected to be on hand.

Local Flavor: Just as was the case two weekends ago in Trois-Rivieres, the entry list is peppered with Quebec drivers. Nine drivers native to Quebec will be on hand. Points leader Ranger will be joined by Patrice Brisebois, Miguel Duhamel, Alan, Labrosse, Patrick Laperle, Alex Tagliani, L.P. Dumoulin, Dexter Stacey and Derek White.

Double Duty: Five drivers—Ranger, Fitzpatrick, Daryl Harr, DJ Kennington and Tagliani—will do double duty and compete in both the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

NCATS Notebook: GP3R 100 Wrap-Up

Very Impressive Record: With his victory at Trois-Riveres, Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford) picked up his sixth series career win on a road course. In 11 starts on road courses, Ranger's worst finish came last year at Mosport Int'l Raceway, where he finished sixth. The remaining four starts consist of three second-place finishes and a third, giving him an average finish of 1.91.

Proving To Be A Force: Equaling his series career-best finish of second was Anthony Simone (No. 95 Crown Modular/United Lumber Chevrolet). There is no sophomore jinx for last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up. He currently ranks fifth in the championship standings, just 75 points behind fourth-place Scott Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire/Tow Truck in a Box Dodge).

Charity Work: Among the many drivers factoring charities into their racing program at Trois-Rivieres was Alex Tagliani (No. 03 Canadian Tire Motomaster Chevrolet), who auctioned off his firesuit and Patrice Brisebois (No. 71 L'equipper/Dreams Take Flight Dodge), who is raising funds to allow disabled children to visit Disney  World.

Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, Ranger collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for the fifth time this season.

Mopar Quick Three: This program rewards the top three finishing Dodges in the race eligible for the award. In the GP3R 100, third-place finisher DJ Kennington (No. 17 Mahindra Tractors/Castrol Dodge) was the highest-finishing eligible Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1 Dodge), who came home in fifth place, was the second-highest finishing eligible Dodge, which earned him a $1,000 award. Picking up $500 for finishing as the third-highest eligible Dodge was Joey Hanssen (No. 40 Prime Champ Dodge). He finished ninth overall.

Coca-Cola Move of the Race: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Cale Gale (No. 13 Rheem Canada Chevrolet). Racing in the series to learn road-course racing, the American-born Gale started 27th on the grid before navigating his way to a finish of 11th. As a result, he earned the $1,000 award from Coca-Cola.

MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race: In a new program for 2009, the driver who compiles the most points in a specialized system involving qualifying, race finish and leading laps collects the $1,000 award.  Ranger qualified third, won the race and led the most laps (22).

In Case You Missed It: TSN coverage of the GP3R 100 from Trois-Rivieres will premiere on Saturday, Aug. 29 at noon ET. Check local listings for the most up-to-date information. The final chance to catch the exciting Vortex Brake Pads 200 on the half-mile oval of Mosport Speedway comes a little earlier in the day at 3:30 a.m. ET.

Up Next: Barrie

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 bids farewell to the expanse of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the other road courses for the year and greets the cozy confines of the .333-mile tri-oval of Barrie (Ont.) Speedway.

DJ Kennington likens the experience of racing at Barrie to flying a jet fighter in a gymnasium. There just isn't a lot of room for error in a race which most competitors count finishing as a victory in its own right.

This year, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series pays just one visit to the track after making a pair of trips there in the first two seasons of series history.

A year ago, Scott Steckly helped stake his claim to the series championship by winning both races at the track.




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Keeping Pace

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