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Keeping Pace

Wed., July 8, 2009, 6:30 p.m.

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - St. Eustache

Andrew Ranger (Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR) (Matthew Murnaghan / The Spokesman-Review)
Andrew Ranger (Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR) (Matthew Murnaghan / The Spokesman-Review)

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series runs in the Eastern portion of the country this weekend before heading West with next Saturday's race at Sun Valley Speedway in Vernon, B.C. This week's race and Sun Valley will feature some big names in auto racing taking part in the series.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Ranger Primed For First Oval Track Win

The road to his 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship started with a win at Mosport International Raceway.

While winning another title is certainly a goal, Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford) has a more immediate target in his crosshairs—his first series victory on an oval track.

The accomplished road racer, who has four road-course wins to his credit, has flirted on numerous occasions with an oval-track triumph. His most recent opportunity at this elusive item on his to-do list came in the 2009 season opener at Autodrome St. Eustache in his home province of Quebec on May 23. In that race, he led a race-best 144 laps, clearly demonstrating his evolution from open-wheel to stock-car driver is near completion.

He established very early, after making the move from the former Champ Car Series, his ability behind the wheel of a race car. It was simply a matter of mastering the nuances of piloting a stock car.

As a result of his Mosport win, the 22-year-old out of Roxton Pond, Que., jumped to second in the championship driver standings, just eight points behind leader Ron Beauchamp Jr.

The question two seasons ago was if he could win on an oval track. Now, it seems to be just a matter of when. And it would be quite apropos to complete his transition in his native Quebec with a car bearing the same No. 27 as the iconic Gilles Villeneuve sported at the time of his tragic and untimely death in 1982, and on a night with Jacques Villeneuve as a teammate.

Something New For Veteran Villeneuve

Many world-class drivers are willing to return to their roots when the occasion allows, but not many sign up for something they've done very little of in their careers.

Jacques Villeneuve (No. 7 Jacombs Racing Ford), the 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 Formula 1 world champion, will go short-rack racing in the Tide 250 at Quebec's Autodrome St. Eustache and make his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series debut in the process.

Stock cars and NASCAR racing, in particular, are not new to Villeneuve, who has competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as well as, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping Word Truck Series. Be that as it may, there are no .4-mile flat ovals, like the St. Eustache track, in any of those series.

He spent about an hour in a Jacombs Racing car in mid-May, but it was far from a programmed test session.

"I was in the area when (Autodrome St. Eustache track owner Alan Labrosse) called and told me the car was at the track," the 38-year-old Villeneuve said. "I went over there with my running shoes on and had to put a pillow under my bum."

He got about 30 laps in, mostly to get used to the car and the track.

"We didn't make any adjustments to the car. I just went round and round," he said. "I haven't spent a lot of time on a track that small. It took a little time to get used to everything, but it was pretty entertaining."

Primarily living in Europe, Villeneuve recently moved back to his native Montreal and still fosters ambitions of a full-time return to racing whether it be in the upper levels of NASCAR or, possibly, the Formula 1 circuit.

"That's my priority now. Actually, to look at my NASCAR options, is the main reason I moved back to Montreal," Villeneuve said. "There's a lot of chaos in F1 right now, but I know that it is something I do well, so I am taking a look at that, as well."

Definitely on his radar is the NASCAR Nationwide Series race scheduled for Aug. 30 in Montreal at the track that bears the name of his legendary late father—Gilles Villeneuve.

"I'm confident we'll be able to put something together for that race, but not as late as last year."

Regardless of past accomplishments, much like Tony Stewart, Villeneuve simply likes to race anything anywhere.

"I like racing and driving race cars, so whenever you have time; you jump into anything you can," he said. "I think I would welcome the opportunity to race more in this series if my schedule allows."

Fast Facts

The Race: Tide 250
The Place:
Autodrome St. Eustache, St. Eustache, Que.
The Date: Saturday, July 11
The Time: 8:05 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: TSN, July 19, 2 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .4-mile flat oval
Race Purse: $85,398 CAD
2008 Winner:
Event not held
2008 Pole: Event not held
Schedule: Practice 1-2 p.m. Qualifying 4:45 p.m.


1.  Ron Beauchamp Jr.    500
2.  Andrew Ranger          492
3.  DJ Kennington           465
4.  Anthony Simone        459
5.  Kerry Micks              450
6.  Dave Whitlock           442
7.  Scott Steckly            438
8.  Mark Dilley               409
9.  Jason Hathaway       392
10. Kent Nuhn               384
11. Don Thomson Jr.      379
12. Jason White            375

ASE News & Notes

The Race: This event is the fourth of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule. It is the third trip to the track for the series and second in 2009.

The Procedure: The starting field is 22 cars, including provisionals. The first 19 cars will be determined from two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps (100 miles).

The Track: The Autodrome St. Eustache racing complex, located northwest of Montreal, consists of a .4-mile flat oval, a 1.7-kilometer road course and a .125-mile drag strip. There is also a karting track on the premises. The track was founded in 1965 as Fury Speedway de Fabreville, and the current configuration has been hosting various types of racing since 1970. The track was purchased by Alan Labrosse prior to the 2008 race season.

The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series at the track is 17.219 seconds (83.629 mph), set by Don Thomson Jr. last year on July 5. The 250-lap race record is held by Scott Steckly at 1 hour, 53 minutes, 11 seconds, also set last July 5 for an average speed of 53.484 mph.

Making Debuts: In addition to Jacques Villeneuve, two other drivers—Jonathan Bouvrette and Hugo Vannini—will be making their series debut in the Tide 250. Bouvrette is the reigning track and provincial champion in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Last Time In St. Eustache: In the 2009 season opener on May 23, Dave Whitlock, just days after announcing that he will retire at the close of the 2009 season, started the year off right with a win in the Tufoil 250. It was his first career series victory. Kerry Micks and Ron Beauchamp Jr. took second and third, respectively.

Also On Tap: Joining the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series on Saturday night will be the Ippersiel Sportsman and Lucas Oil Sport Compact classifications of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Additionally, the Papa Johns ANCA Modified Legends and REVSTAR sprint cars will be on hand.

NCATS Notebook: Dickies 200 Wrap-Up

Road Warrior: For the second time in three years, Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford) took the checkered flag at Mosport Int'l Raceway. He dominated the entire weekend by leading both practice sessions, earning the pole position and winning the race by a series record margin of victory—6.678 seconds. In the nine road-course races since the series began in 2007, the driver out of Roxton Pond, Que., has been victorious in four of them and runner-up in three others. His other two wins came last season in Montreal and Trois-Rivieres.

Still The One: By registering his third top-five finish in three starts this season, Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1/Exide Batteries Dodge) retained his position at the top of the driver standings. He holds an eight-point advantage over Ranger, who moved into the second spot with his Dickies 200 victory.

Mosport Superlatives: With a runner-up finish at Mosport, Anthony Simone (No. 95 Crown Modular/United Lumber Chevrolet) established a new personal-best finish. So far this season, the sophomore driver out of Holland Landing, Ont., has a pair of top fives and currently sits fourth in the driver standings, 41 points behind Beauchamp. Howie Scannell Jr. (No. 56 Lucas Oil/RC Trailers Dodge) scored a ninth-place finish in his series debut.

Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Mosport International Raceway, Ranger collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort.

Mopar Quick Three: This program awards the top three finishing Dodges in the race. In the Dickies 200, DJ Kennington (No. 17 Castrol/Mahindra Tractors Dodge), who finished fourth, was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Fifth-place finisher Beauchamp was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,000. Picking up $500 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Vortex Brake Pads Dodge). He finished eighth, overall.

Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Jeff Lapcevich (No. 23 Tim Hortons Chevrolet). After qualifying and starting 19th on the grid, he was able to navigate his way to a seventh-place finish. As a result, he earned the $1,000 award from Coca-Cola.

MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award: 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. By virtue of starting on the pole, leading the most laps and winning the race, Ranger earned the bonus.

Home Tracks Update: Bouvrette Is Looking For Another Title In 2009

The weather and beating Jonathan Bouvrette in the Ippersiel Sportsman classification in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series have been two of the most difficult things at Autodrome St. Eustache in 2009.

Since the beginning of May, St. Eustache has received nearly seven inches of rain, which has not done wonders for the racing schedule.

Bouvrette, of St. Therese, Que., is the defending track and Quebec provincial champion and has six wins in 10 outings in 2009. The other four finishes also have been inside the top five.

Occupying second place in the standings is a familiar name to NASCAR Canadian Tire Series fans—Andre Coursol, who has been a regular this season in his familiar-looking No. 5 Chevy. He has one win to go along with eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 10 starts. Despite those impressive numbers, they pale in comparison to Bouvrette's gaudy stats, which have Coursol down 65 points.

Like Bouvrette, 2007 track champion Guy Jubinville has posted a top 10 in every race, but he has yet to reach Victory Lane in 2009.

The Ippersiel Sportsman class is scheduled to have a 60-lap event on Saturday night prior to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Tide 250.

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series serves as the foundation of NASCAR – grassroots racing across the United States and Canada. Whelen Engineering, a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting, is the series sponsor. More than 10,000 drivers compete at NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks throughout both countries.

Up Next: SunValley

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series packs up and heads west for the next three races.

The first stop is the speedy half-mile tri-oval of SunValley Speedway in Vernon, B.C., for the A&W Cruisin' The Dub 300 on Saturday, July 18. It's a long trip for the teams, but well worth it to race on one of Canada's premier oval tracks.

Fitzpatrick Motorsports has had its way at the track, nestled in the mountains of southern British Columbia, with JR Fitzpatrick winning in 2007 and Don Thomson Jr. picking up the victory a year ago. Thomson has started on the pole in both SunValley Speedway events.

Scott Steckly, twice, has been the runner-up at the track.

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Keeping Pace

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