Saturday, August 27, 2011

Seeing Red Bull at Spa: Vettel Tops in Qualifying

Photo Credit: Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Dealing with wet as well as drier weather conditions, this Formula 1 race weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps race track has pressured drivers and teams to be quite adaptive. Rain as well as water-covered track surfaces assured two practice sessions Friday where Pirelli slick and rain tires received considerable usage. Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, the changing competition structure due to weather played a role in the three timed sessions.  

Qualifying started with competitors logging laps on wet weather Pirelli tires as earlier rain dampened the Spa-Francorchamps race course. Early into the Q1, a more dramatic moment during Belgian Grand Prix qualifying was a mechanical problem that transpired on the Mercedes GP car of Michael Schumacher. Being on the top of the practice sheet following the first track session Friday, Schumacher encountered a loss of a rear wheel and tire assembly. The Mercedes GP race machine spun through turn 7 and 8. Such a sudden spin out, Schumacher initially suspected he simply lost control of the race car. Finding some wit in reaction to the lost wheel, Michael Schumacher commented, “Well, obviously I would have wished for a different end to today’s qualifying, but it is difficult to drive on three wheels - even if I should have the experience to do so in Spa." While Michael Schumacher was unable to log a qualifying time, Formula 1 stewards granted the 7-time World Champion and his Mercedes GP car the right to race Sunday.

Once the wide Q1 qualifying grouping ended, the Mercedes-powered McLaren of Jenson Button and the Mark Webber's Red Bull-Renault car were the top of the time chart. Clocking a time of 2 minutes, 1.813 seconds around the 7.004-kilometer Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the #4 McLaren, Button led the remaining 17 Formula 1 race cars into the Q2 session.

Traditionally faster than the first time trial session, the Q2 qualifying grouping was actually a fraction slower. A drying race track nullified performance improvements made by Formula 1 teams. Almost a 1 slower than Jenson Button's Q1 time, Fernando Alonso led after the second Formula 1 time trial session in his Ferrari. The biggest performance fall-off occurred with the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button. Button was the fastest driver in Q1 but was relegated to a 13th place starting spot for the Belgian Grand Prix.

As the Spa-Francorchamps course dried, the 10 remaining vehicles running Q3 session began to undertake a potentially risky move to place slick Pirelli tires on their race machines. With the Belgium race track developing a dry groove, the choice to tread on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit demonstrated an immediate pay-off. Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton wore the Pirelli optional slick compound in a final time trial attack. While competing in the dodgy course conditions, the final 10 cars performed laps that were around 15 seconds faster on slick tires as they fought for top positions for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Taking pole for the Sunday's event, Sebastian Vettel emerged from relative silence throughout the race weekend. Vettel achieved a 1 minute, 48.298 second lap time in his Red Bull-Renault preserving the team's undefeated streak in qualifying so far in 2011. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton took 2nd place despite an on-track qualifying incident with the Williams F1 car of Pastor Maldonado. As Hamilton's McLaren team members quickly fixed the front wing damage, Maldonado will be assessed a five-grid position penalty dropping the Williams F1 driver to 21st place. Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber captured the 3rd place starting spot for the Belgian Grand Prix race ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

A few surprises in the top-10 includes the Scuderia Toro Rosso team car of Jaime Alguersuari planted in a stunning 6th place. Powered by Ferrari powerplants, Alguesuari is joined close to the front by Sauber's Sergio Perez in 9th position also propelled by the same Italian engine supplier. Also prominently fixed in the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix is the Lotus Renault GP cars. The first competitive run in the team's race car, Bruno Senna will start 7th in his first Formula 1 event since 2010. The second Lotus Renault GP driver Vitaly Petrov will start 10th.

The Belgian Grand Prix is 12th round of the 2011 Formula 1 season set to start at 2 PM local time (8 AM Eastern time). Weather forecasts call for a very cool 44-lap event which could also present the after effects of a rain shower.


2011 Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

  1. 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
  2. 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
  3. 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
  4. 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
  5. 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
  6. 19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
  7. 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
  8. 9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
  9. 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
  10. 10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
  11. 18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
  12. 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
  13. 4 Jenson Button McLaren
  14. 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
  15. 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
  16. 21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
  17. 15 Paul di Resta Force India
  18. 20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
  19. 24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing
  20. 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
  21. 25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
  22. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
  23. 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
  24. 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP

Ryan Newman Commands Concrete of Bristol for Cup Pole

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Known for its highly banked turns and concrete surface, Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams for the IRWIN Tools Night Race Saturday. With the Chase for the Sprint Cup fast approaching, the Saturday night race at Bristol Motor Speedway's tight short track becomes a serious test for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers needing a strong points showing. 
Besides the potential Chase contenders, all 43 Sprint Cup drivers and team qualifying into the IRWIN Tool Night Race will prepare for 500 laps around a race track that tests physical as well as mental states. The 0.533-mile short-track supplies an exciting combination of speeds and tight quarters which has allowed the Bristol Motor Speedway to become a top attraction on the NASCAR circuit.

In qualifying for the 250-lap IRWIN Tools Night Race on Saturday night, the #39 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman scored the top spot ahead of the Roush-Fenway Racing Ford Fusions. Newman's 48th career pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, the Stewart/Haas Racing driver starts from the pole position for a 2nd time in 2011. Fortunately for Ryan Newman, his last pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway concluded with victory. Ryan Newman heads into the Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race with the motivation of a victory gained in a Whelen modified race on the Bristol Motor Speedway track Wednesday.

Second fastest in qualifying was the #99 Ford of Carl Edwards followed by Roush-Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth. Contending for the top spot entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Edwards enters Bristol after a costly 36th place finish following the past Michigan event. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin (two Hendrick Motorsports vehicles) have qualified 4th and 5th for the Saturday night event.

While Ryan Newman took Stewart/Haas Racing to the highest of highs in the Friday time trial, the driver/owner behind the wheel of the #14 Chevy ended up far away from the pole-winning #39 race car. Tony Stewart will start 42nd after an off-pace qualifying effort. Winning once on the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2001, Stewart's last two Cup efforts on the 0.533 short track resulted in 19th and 27th place finishes.

The IRWIN Tools Night Race will start 7:30 PM Saturday for 500 laps around the Bristol Motor Speedway. Weather forecast indicate conditions should be hot but dry. 

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
IRWIN Tools Night Race
Bristol Motor Speedway
Starting Lineup

  1. 39 Ryan Newman Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Chevrolet
  2. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Dental Ford
  3. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  4. 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
  5. 5 Mark Martin Farmers Insurance/ Chevrolet
  6. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Chevrolet
  7. 27 Paul Menard Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet
  8. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  9. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
  10. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
  11. 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
  12. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  13. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet
  14. 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
  15. 29 Kevin Harvick Realtree/Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet
  16. 33 Clint Bowyer Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  17. 34 David Gilliland Thanks Bristol Fans Ford
  18. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  19. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  20. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
  21. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  22. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMPEnergy/Bristol50thAnny/NtnlGrd Chev
  23. 18 Kyle Busch Doublemint Toyota
  24. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  25. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  26. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  27. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  28. 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Pellet Wood Stoves Toyota
  29. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  30. 47 Bobby Labonte Bush's Baked Beans Toyota
  31. 30 David Stremme Echostar Technologies Chevrolet
  32. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing Toyota
  33. 38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
  34. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Freedom Ride Dream Machine Toyota
  35. 36 Dave Blaney Golden Corral Chevrolet
  36. 46 Scott Speed Green Stuff Ford
  37. 95 David Starr Advocare Ford
  38. 71 Andy Lally Interstate Moving Services Ford
  39. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
  40. 51 Mike Bliss PhoenixCnstrctn/ThnkATchrToday Chev
  41. 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Ford
  42. 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Office Depot Chevrolet
  43. 60 Mike Skinner Big Red Toyota

Schumacher Splashes, Webber Wails in Belgian GP Friday Practices

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

After nearly a month off after completing the first 11 grand prix races of 2011, the Formula 1 tour convenes on the fast and lauded Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The Belgian Grand Prix ignites the powerful Formula 1 engines with Formula 1 vehicles which have undergone what was likely a sizable examination through the season's summer break.

A 19-turn course reaching 7.001 kilometers in length, the Belgium motorsport track presents technical as well as high-speed corners. Along the Kemmel Straight, speeds are expected to reach over 330 kilometers per hour (205 miles per hour). Providing difficult conditions for the Formula 1 drivers and teams to shake off their cobwebs, the first competitive sessions at Spa were performed in damp weather. Requiring valuable track time ahead of Saturday's qualifying and the Belgium Grand Prix on Sunday, Formula 1 teams were belted into their race machines setting the first track timed benchmarks of the weekend.

Provided with an initial practice session that was 90 minutes in length, the Mercedes GP cars were the only cars to trek out on the Spa-Francorchamp circuit early in the session. Able to run Pirelli stick tires on the then-dry Belgium surface, the Silver Arrows delivered two times in the 1 minute, 54 second bracket. Leading the Mercedes GP cars was the 7-time champion Michael Schumacher who was almost half a second faster than teammate Nico Rosberg on track. The lucky ones in the first practice sessions, rains quickly drenched the race track effectively protecting their top times against any challenges from Red Bull or McLaren race cars.

As rains pounded the Belgian Grand Prix course, the best efforts outside of the Mercedes GP duo was posted by the McLaren-Mercedes of Hungarian Grand Prix victor Jenson Button. Button was almost 8 seconds slower than the second fastest Mercedes GP car of Rosberg. More than 9 seconds under the pace of Michael Schumacher's dry track fastest time, the Red Bull-Renault of driver championship leader Sebastian Vettel and the McLaren-Mercedes of 2008 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top-5 in the first practice.

Having been for the both part outclassed this season in the team by the younger Nico Rosberg, some speculation during the summer break eluded to Schumacher making an early departure from the Mercedes GP team. A little over a week ago, Michael Schumacher stated he will stay with Mercedes GP through the Formula 1 2012 season. This 2011 event at the Spa-Francorchamps circuits marks a 20-year anniversary since the famous German driver piloted his first Formula 1 car. Piloting a Jordon, Schumacher's career debut in Formula 1 started unimpressively with a retirement due to a faulty clutch. For the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher is commemorating his first grand prix with a golden helmet.

For the second practice session in the afternoon, the Spa-Francorchamps surface conditions have improved enough where slick tires could once again for mounted to race cars. In this dryer afternoon practice, the top-16 fastest drivers at the conclusion of the 90-minute session outran Schumacher and his Mercedes GP car. At the top of the charts after Friday's second practice was the Red Bull Racing team. Piloted by Mark Webber to a 1 minute, 50.321 second fast time, the Renault-powered race car fended off the challenge of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari by 0.14 of a second. Most surprising in the second practice was the separation between the two Red Bull-Renaults on the time sheet. With Mark Webber delivering the team to their familiar position at the highest plateau of the practice charts, the car of reigning Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel could only muster a 10th fastest time.

The McLaren-Mercedes cars captured 3rd and 4th fastest times in the second practice despite that fact the pairing of Jenson Button as well as Lewis Hamilton each spent only 9 laps on track. Felipe Massa collected the 5th quickest time in the afternoon session ahead of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes GP car. The Sauber-Ferrari driven by Sergio Perez posted a 7th fastest laps ahead of the Force India-Mercedes drivers who captured 8th and 9th top times.

A third practice session ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix starts at 11 am local time (5 am Eastern time) followed by Formula 1 qualifying running at 2 pm (8 am Eastern time).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

XSL Speed Reporter's Lost 2008 Patrick Carpentier Interview

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

I remembered an interview with CART champion Alex Zanardi in the late 1990s where he was asked what he would want out of a race season. Instead of getting into specifics of how many races or where he foresees himself at the end of the race season, Zanardi responded he just wanted to leave the season with "no regrets". A man of terrific spirit and passion, Alex Zanardi's words have been a drive I am still envying. One thing I have a lot of in life and the early part of my writing career is regret. There have been opportunities I have missed, times I have been too slow and other occasions where I needed cooperation I never received.

Recently, my improving presence through this website as well as with other publications has given me a chance to begin to vanquish some regrets. I object which has truly sat as a lost opportunity in the early stage of my career came as a result of an interview with then-NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Patrick Carpentier. In 2008, it was my goal to obtain an interview with Carpentier as a prelude piece to the year's NASCAR Nationwide Series event in Montreal. Thanks to the gracious efforts of Gillett Evernham Motorsports representative and of the French-Canadian driver, I received some valued insight on the former Champ Car contender's migration to NASCAR. Having the material for an original article, I was unable to attract several established publications. Complicating matters was also the sudden departure of Carpentier from the #10 Valvoline Dodge near the end of the 2008 Sprint Cup season.

However, as the 1996 Toyota Atlantic Series champion Patrick Carpentier proceeds with retirement from professional motorsports following the 2011 NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal, I felt this was the best chance to share my unique interaction with the French-Canadian driver. Though dated, it is my pleasure to grant XSL Speed Reporter readers with this question and answer collection.

XSL: Up until a few years ago, had you ever considered the prospect of driving a stock car?

PC: I think it was something I had always wanted to do, but it seemed like it would be quite a hill to climb to break into NASCAR. My manager and I really started getting the word out in 2005. That’s when it really hit me as to how much of a challenge it was going to be.

XSL: When did it become decisive to pursue a NASCAR career?

PC: I don’t know if it ever became decisive. I just knew that I didn’t want to be involved in CART or the IRL anymore. Sometimes you just know when it’s time to turn a corner in your career. So if I wanted to continue racing NASCAR just seemed like the next step.

XSL: Being a NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie, do you believe that you have earned the respect of your competitors?

PC: I’ve been doing my best. Some of the guys on the NASCAR circuit have been doing it for years and it’s hard to gain their respect, especially when you have a yellow rookie strip across your bumper. But there are things I’ve been doing. I have been trying to race clean, smart and show all the guys respect both on and off the track. Anytime the guys come and offer me advice I always listen and use as much info as they can give me. I think that helps. I may be a veteran racer but this year I’m still a rookie in NASCAR so sometimes it pays off when you listen and learn.

Photo Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

XSL: Is there any major changes to your more established professional routine resulting from the race schedule that runs nearly twice as longer than open-wheel series?

PC: It’s been different. I mean here the schedule is so long. I think it’s like 36 races in 42 weeks or something like that. So it takes a lot out of you, whether you’re prepared for it or not. But what most people don’t realize is how many other commitments the drivers have. A lot of times we’re needed for sponsorship appearance and we may spend the next two days testing. Then it’s off to the next race. So it’s been a unique transition for me, since my family and I still live in Vegas.

XSL: With limited pre-season testing, what resources have you been able to use to adjust to lesser familiar race tracks? Have your experience racing ovals with Champ car and Indy car proved useful?

PC: I do a number of things. Dover is a good example. That’s a track that I had never seen before showing up to race. Gillett Evernham Motorsports is quite helpful and they’ve supplied me with a number of resources. I’ll start the week off by using a race simulator to help me get an accurate visual of the track from behind the wheel. I’ll also watch in car footage from the races at Dover last year. Kasey’s in-car footage from last year was in my DVD player in the week before Dover. I get some reports from the other drivers and data from last year about those tracks I’ve never visited.

Unfortunately there isn’t very much from my open-wheel experiences I can use because the cars differ so drastically. It’s a much different feeling getting around the tracks in Champ Car at 235 mph than in a stock car at 180 mph. In open wheel there is so much more downforce on the car. The cars are light and the tires are very wide. They’re built for speed. In these stock cars you need to have a lot more car control. It takes a little more finesse to muscle them around the track. The cars weigh more and they’re always slipping and sliding around. When you’re out there running with 42 other cars that are slipping and sliding equally, it makes things much more challenging. It’s pretty crazy to watch all the cars around you sliding through and off the corners.

XSL: On your website, you blogged after the Dover race about assistance that your teammate Elliot Sadler provided in adopting to the 1-mile oval. With both team cars piloted by veteran Sprint Cup drivers, have they been helpful in accelerating your adaptation to the series (On and/or off track)?

PC: Everyone at Gillett Evernham Motorsports has been extremely helpful to me this year. It’s a very unique situation that we have here. I mean here I am with years of racing experience under my belt. But in NASCAR I’m still just a rookie driving the Valvoline Dodge. And sometimes I feel like one. There so much to learn in the sport and that’s where Elliott and Kasey come in. Anytime I have a question or want to better understand something they’re who I go to first. Elliott’s been racing in the Cup Series for years and as over 300 starts. He was especially helpful this year at Daytona and Talladega. Those are both restrictor plate tracks and he took me under his wing to understand the draft a little bit better. It really helped me out.

XSL: What would you regard as your most positive experience so far this year on and off the track?

PC: I don’t think I could pick one. There’s been several. I think qualifying fourth at Richmond in the LifeLock Dodge was a big one. We ended up getting wrecked out of that race but I learned so much running up front with the leaders. Darlington was another. It’s a tough, old track and we managed to lead four laps there. We didn’t get the finish we deserved at Michigan but it still ended up being our second best of the year [24th]. We had a top-15 in our sights before getting caught up in another wreck. But we’re going to start heading back to these tracks for a second time and I think that’s when you’ll see this team start performing better.

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

XSL: Canadian have long supported NASCAR, even when the presence of our country's native drivers are limited to just a few races a season. With your full-time ride with Gilliet Evernham Motorsports, Alex Tagliani is running in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, and Paul Tracy has just recently tested a Craftsman truck, would you agree that this new focus on NASCAR may have been overdue?

PC: I don’t know if I’d say overdue. It’s all about timeliness. I mean a few years ago no one would consider taking a chance on an open-wheel driver in NASCAR. They’d look to pull someone from the sprint cars or midget cars. But trends change. That’s what happened here. Now it’s the thing to do. Try and open-wheel driver and see how they do. Either way it’s good to see Canadian’s involved in motorsports and getting recognition for it. It’s such a challenge to succeed at these levels.

XSL: Your road course prowess his been well-exhibited in a stock car, supported by your success outing at Mexico City this year. Are you looking forward to the Infineon Raceway and Waltkin's Glen?

PC: I like racing at any track but I prefer ovals. Road racing is fun, it’s just a different kind of animal. In the years I spent in open-wheel I learned a lot on the aspects of road racing. But driving a stock car on a road course is quite the chore. With all the weight that’s involved in slowing down a 3,400 pound stock car it can really wear your brakes out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Villeneuve Tops Montreal NAPA Auto Parts 200 Starting Field

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

The only 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series race held outside of the United States of America, a man-made island off the coast of the Canadian city of Montreal acts as the stage for the 600-700 horsepower of stock cars. Ile Notre-Dame's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course provides 2.71 miles of high-speeds as well as 13 corners testing braking of 3,300 pound stock cars. Providing the knowledgeable and loyal Canadian NASCAR community with the second-ranked touring series in stock car racing organization's rich portfolio since 2007, the 2011 presentation of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 is the province of Quebec's 5th year holding the race.

Each and every year, the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve leaves a permanent mark on the North American auto racing community. However, for Canadian race fans, the 2008 race where fellow Canuck Ron Fellows won a wet and wild victory left a lasting impression on the circuit Gilles Villeneuve inaugurated with a Formula 1 win in 1978. After NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at the Canadian road course, the son of the track's namesake those honours as being the hometown hero.

Driving the #22 Dodge Challenger for the second time in the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series season (first being in a rather eventful Road America event in June), Jacques Villeneuve guided the Penske Racing fielded machine around the Montreal race course in 1 minute, 35.800 seconds. The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion's first NASCAR pole position, the 40 year-old Villeneuve scores it at a very symbolic locale. Through the events the second-generation Canadian racer has competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve's most significant victory came in Toyota Atlantic Series race in 1993. Eluded the coveted pole position in Formula 1 competition at the track, none of the 12 grand prix top trophies had been collected at the Canadian Grand Prix round. In NASCAR Nationwide competition, his best race effort came in 2009 when he finished in 4th spot.

A former graduate of the Players drivers development program (an initiative that developed a multitude of Canadian auto racers to greatness in the 1990s), Villeneuve starts alongside a more recent member of the same open wheel launch pad. For the 2011 NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, current INDYCAR driver Alex Tagliani is partnered with Jacques Villeneuve in the Penske Racing Dodge Challengers. Penske Racing teammates for the weekend will top the front row for Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event. In time comparison, Tagliani's #12 Dodge was only 0.127 seconds slower on his fastest lap than the #22 car.

A race won two of the four times by a NASCAR star more accustomed with ovals, these drivers do benefit from more robust team chemistry earned across the Nationwide Series race schedule. In 3rd spot, Jason Leffler will lead over proficient road racers Scott Speed and Michael McDonnell at the start of Saturday's event. Other NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars starting near the front includes Steve Wallace in the 7th and Justin Allgaier rolling off 10th for the race. Series championship frontrunners for 2011 had a sub-par qualifying effort Friday. Elliot Sadler starts 16th in the #2 Chevrolet while the #32 Dollar General Chevy of Reed Sorenson is placed 23rd.

Even behind Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Tagliani, the Canadian contingent for the 2011 edition of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 appears to be extremely strong. In the 43-car field for the NAPA Auto Parts 200, 9 of the 43 cars will be piloted by a Canadian driver.

Champ car winner and one-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Patrick Carpentier will start 8th in an event which could be the final time the French-Canadian will race professionally. In 11th place, aspiring NASCAR star Andrew Ranger looks to top a 3rd place effort in 2009 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race. As Ranger and most Canadian drivers seek a first win, 13th place Ron Fellows has already been to victory lane (at least within a garage area sheltered from strong 2008 downpour). Fellows is again competing with JR Motorsports equipment sponsored by Canadian Tire. JR Fitzpatrick will start 21st in a Canadian-owned #67 Ford for Go Canada Racing. Maryeve Default, Lous-Philippe Dumoulin and 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series points champion DJ Kennington make the 43-car field with deep starting positions.

Besides Canadian driver, the usually American driver heavy NASCAR Nationwide Series will also feature the prowess of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' latest winner Marcos Ambrose. The Tasmanian driver will be pulling double duty between Sunday's Cup race in Michigan and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Foiled for victory after being a strong contender in all four NAPA Auto Parts 200 races held in Montreal, Ambrose makes a special appearance for the NASCAR Nationwide Series event continuing to hunt the road course win that has taunted the driver in previous years.

The 2011 NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be the first such event not to be limited to an all-male starting field. Driving the #81 Dodge from a 39th place starting position, Canadian Maryeve Default will be taking the green flag with INDYCAR star Danica Patrick who is driving the #7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. In her first NASCAR road race, Patrick acquired a 25th place start at the Montreal track.

A race lasting 74 laps, the final NASCARNAPA Auto Parts 200 race will be met with temperatures as high as 29 degree Celsius with a 30 percent chance of a thunderstorms.

2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
NAPA Auto Parts 200
Starting Lineup
  1. 22 Jacques Villeneuve Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge
  2. 12 Alex Tagliani Hot Wheels Dodge
  3. 38 Jason Leffler Great Clips Chevrolet
  4. 33 Scott Speed Rheem Heating Cooling Water Heating Chevrolet
  5. 18 Michael McDowell Sherwin Williams Toyota
  6. 77 Robby Gordon MAPEI/Menards/SPEED Energy Dodge
  7. 66 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota
  8. 99 Patrick Carpentier NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  9. 9 Owen Kelly Stanley Ford
  10. 31 Justin Allgaier Florida Gulf Safe Chevrolet
  11. 53 Andrew Ranger Quebec Dodge Dealers Dodge
  12. 30 Boris Said Great Clips Chevrolet
  13. 5 Ron Fellows Canadian Tire Chevrolet
  14. 60 Billy Johnson Fastenal Ford
  15. 64 Jason Bowles Fuel Doctor Toyota
  16. 2 Elliott Sadler OneMain Financial Chevrolet
  17. 16 Michel Jourdain, Jr. 3M Ford
  18. 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal Ford
  19. 11 Brian Scott Shore Lodge Toyota
  20. 88 Aric Almirola Grand Touring Vodka Chevrolet
  21. 67 J R Fitzpatrick Go Canada Racing Ford
  22. 97 Kyle Kelley NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet
  23. 32 Reed Sorenson Dollar General Chevrolet
  24. 9 Kenny Wallace Toyota Toyota
  25. 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
  26. 23 Alex Kennedy Media Master Chevrolet
  27. 1 Mike Wallace G&K Services Chevrolet
  28. 62 Michael Annett Pilot/Flying J Toyota
  29. 19 Mike Bliss Del Monte Chevrolet
  30. 44 Jeff Green TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet
  31. 75 Chris Cook Alvin And The Chipmunks-Chipwrecked Ford
  32. 15 Timmy Hill Rick Ware Racing Ford
  33. 14 Eric McClure Hefty BlackOut/Reynolds Chevrolet
  34. 39 Luis Martinez Jr. King Taco Ford
  35. 40 Josh Wise Key Motorsports Chevrolet
  36. 87 Kevin Conway NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
  37. 51 Jeremy Clements Clements Racing Engines Chevrolet
  38. 70 Blake Koch Dodge
  39. 81 Maryeve Dufault Quebec Dodge Dealers Dodge
  40. 28 Derrike Cope Jay Robinson Racing Dodge
  41. 52 Louis-Philippe Dumoulin Jimmy Means Racing Chevrolet
  42. 89 Morgan Shepherd Victory In Jesus Chevrolet
  43. 13 DJ Kennington Dodge

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ambrose Ambushes Field at the Glen for First Cup Win

Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick Autostock USA

The second of only two road course races on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, the Heluva Good! Sour Cream at the Glen runs accommodates the heavy stock cars for a 25th consecutive year. Regular drivers routinely face-off with specialists of the twist and turns of Watkins Glen International. The 2011 event was no exception as Ron Fellows, Boris Said, as well as road racing proficient Cup regulars Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya will be presenting an opportunity to dominate. Strong opponents against the primarily oval-based drivers, the competitive gap between Sprint Cup regular and Road Race Ringers have long been narrowing making 90-laps at the Watkins Glen course an eagerly awaited affair.

Running one day late to due a significant downpour flooding the Watkins Glen race track on the scheduled Sunday date, the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup stock cars raced early Monday morning at the former Formula 1 US Grand Prix circuit. The Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen started with Richard Petty Motorsports Ford getting the better of the pole-winning Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota piloted by Kyle Busch. Taking the lead by the first lap, the #43 of AJ Allmendinger advantage was gained through his front row starting position. Formerly an open wheel racing star, Allmendinger spent the early stages in the first place position until his teammate Marcos Ambrose snatched the lead away on lap 9 at Watkins Glen. Winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Watkins Glen three year in a row, Tasmanian native Ambrose time in the stock car racing series has seen the road racing specialist grow as an oval racer. However, driving the #9 Stanley Tools Ford Fusion, Marcos Ambrose's talent racing tracks like Watkins Glen makes him a real favourite for a first victory.

While Kyle Busch was bested by the Richard Petty Motorsports cars early in the run, the M&Ms Toyota roared back to the lead for lap 17 getting around the #9 of Ambrose who had pitted early.   Most competitors in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen race chose to make the 90-lap distance on just two pit stops. In essence running 30 laps per every full tank of fuel, the plan proved too  Sticking to a plan to run the race with a three-stop strategy, the #9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion could focus on setting fastest lap times on the Watkins Glen circuit.

As the Fords of Richard Petty Motorsports devoted themselves to a safer fuel strategy, the Roush/Fenway Racing Ford Fusions are along many who pushed for lap 30 to make their first fuel stop. For the team's #16 car of Greg Biffle, the fuel cell on his stock car ran dry after 28 laps. Slowing and eventually stopping on track, the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen first caution was deployed.

While the Roush/Fenway Racing car of Greg Biffle received a push back to the pits on a fellow Ford, the timing of the caution was a benefit to some drivers including Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr who had made pit stops during the green flag. For a second time, Ambrose led at Watkins Glen before turning the position over to Juan Pablo Montoya's #42 Chevrolet. Taking the lead on lap 37, Montoya stayed out front for 3 laps. After Juan Pablo Montoya's time at the front, fellow Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon took over until the #18 Toyota of Kyle Busch swept back into the top spot on the 45th lap.

Slowed first by a stopped vehicle on track, the next series of cautions during the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen involved dramatic collisions. As Kyle Busch was putting a driving clinic at the front of the field on lap 48, the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge piloted by brother Kurt Busch plowed hard into the turn 5 tire barrier. Ending in a retirement for the Sprint Cup chase hopeful, Kurt Busch was not the only member of the NASCAR Sprint Cup's top-12 in points to meet the Watkins Glen retaining barriers. On lap 67, Denny Hamlin went for a frightening ride when his Joe Gibbs Racing #11 Toyota sailed straight in turn 1. A product of a stuck throttle, Hamlin was unable to slow down the stock car from over 100 mile per hour. Only the turn 1 tire barrier and wall could stop the speeding FedEx #11 Toyota. Enduring a hard hit, Denny Hamlin (like Kurt Busch in the previous crash) left the vehicle thankfully unhurt.

After the Hamlin crash, green flag was shown with 20 laps to go for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen NASCAR Sprint Cup event with Kyle Busch taking the race lead back from Jeff Gordon. Building up a sizable lead on second place Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch's advantage was erased on lap 87 by the backstretch crash of Paul Menard's #27 Chevrolet.

The Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen race came down to a final showdown between the two most superior race cars of the day. In the lead, Kyle Busch faced off with the #9 Ford of Marcos Ambrose for what would be the race's green-white-checker finish. Side-by-side, Busch and Ambrose launched with near identical restarts. Into the corner, the #2 Dodge of Brad Keselowski entered into the battle for the Watkins Glen lead. Kyle Busch bobbled slightly as Keselowski pointed his car perfectly into the first corner taking the top position. While Busch quickly settled his vehicle, the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver was effectively out of contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. Marcos Ambrose remained close to the new leader Brad KeselowskiHeluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. In second place, Marcos Ambrose found considerable speed through the back straight portion of the track in the #9 Ford to pass the #2 Dodge through the Watkins Glen's inner loop section.

As Marcos Ambrose crossed the start/finish line with a commanding lead at this vital time, the Tasmanian should only need to worry about the competition for about half of the final lap. Bringing out the race solidifying caution, a violent wreck involving three cars provided a dramatic conclusion. The major incident started in turn 1 as the #6 Ford of David Ragan was sent wide into a wall in turn one. Striking the wall hard with an uneven front impact, the Ragan's Ford bounced back into the race track and slammed the #00 Toyota of David Reutimann. Impact on Reutimann's car sent the Michael Watrip Racing Toyota for the wildest impacts first into the inner wall. Hitting the steel barrier, the force of the #00 car's impact sent the vehicle onto its side and later roof as it slid into the outside wall. The #36 Chevrolet of Ron Fellows was also clipped in the incident ending what was a difficult day for the Canadian road racer. Thankfully ending the race on a positive note, Fellows, Ragan and Reutimann walked out of their cars without serious injury.  

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR

Due to the last lap caution, the #9 Ford crossed the finish line under the yellow flag to win the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. Rewarding the relatively sizable NASCAR race crowd returning to the rescheduled Monday morning event at the 2.45-mile road course, Marcos Ambrose lit up his tires in celebration of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. The victory for Richard Petty Motorsports #9 car of Ambrose comes almost two years since their last win with Kasey Kahne at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Richard Petty Motorsports win at Watkins Glen is also the first with a Ford product in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. The term 'first time winner' has become a refreshingly more common on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Marcos Ambrose's name joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan and recent Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard.

Brad Keselowski finished 2nd at the Watkins Glen road course still enduring pain suffered in a Road Atlanta crash weeks before. Bringing the #2 Miller Lite Dodge of Penske Racing home in the runner-up position served as come much-needed medicine as Keselowski attempts to gain a spot in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Though Kyle Busch missed out on the race victory, his third place finish locked the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the top spot in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup driver points. Toyotas of Martin Truex Jr and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.

The next stop for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a second visit to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway Sunday.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Watkins Glen International
Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen
Race Results
  1. 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
  2. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  3. 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
  4. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  5. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
  6. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  7. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  8. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  9. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  10. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  11. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  12. 99 Carl Edwards Ortho Home Defense Max Ford
  13. 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
  14. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  15. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
  16. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY Chevrolet
  17. 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
  18. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  19. 47 Bobby Labonte CapitalDPO Toyota
  20. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  21. 71 Andy Lally Interstate Moving Services Ford
  22. 51 Boris Said PhoenixConstruction/ThankATeacherToday Chevrolet
  23. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  24. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
  25. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  26. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  27. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  28. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  29. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  30. 36 Ron Fellows Golden Corral Chevrolet
  31. 16 Greg Biffle Valvoline Ford
  32. 27 Paul Menard Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet
  33. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  34. 38 Terry Labonte Long John Silver's Ford
  35. 32 Andrew Ranger Bully Hill Vineyards Ford
  36. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
  37. 50 T J Bell Green Smoke Chevrolet
  38. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
  39. 37 Scott Speed Green Stuff Absorbent Ford
  40. 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
  41. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing, LLC Toyota
  42. 55 JJ Yeley Front Row Motorsports Ford
  43. 60 Mike Skinner Big Red Toyota

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Montreal NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 Entry List

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series
NAPA Auto Parts 200
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Montreal, Quebec
Entry List

  1. 01 Mike Wallace Chevrolet TBA
  2. 2 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet OneMain Financial
  3. 03 Jean Francois Dumoulin Chevrolet N TX Pipe
  4. 04 TBA Ford TBA
  5. 5 Ron Fellows Chevrolet Canadian Tire
  6. 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Roush Fenway Racing
  7. 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
  8. 09 Kenny Wallace Toyota TBD
  9. 09 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley
  10. 11 Brian Scott Toyota Shore Lodge
  11. 12 Alex Tagliani Dodge Hot Wheels
  12. 13 Dan Brode Dodge
  13. 14 Eric McClure Chevrolet Hefty BlackOut/Reynolds
  14. 15 Timmy Hill Ford Rick Ware Racing
  15. 16 Trevor Bayne Ford 3M
  16. 18 Michael McDowell Toyota Sherwin Williams
  17. 19 Mike Bliss Chevrolet TBA
  18. 21 Tim George Jr Chevrolet Applebee's / Potomac Family Dining Group
  19. 22 Jacques Villeneuve Dodge Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday
  20. 23 Alex Kennedy Chevrolet Media Master
  21. 28 Derrike Cope Chevrolet
  22. 30 Boris Said Chevrolet TBA
  23. 31 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet Florida Gulf Safe
  24. 32 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Dollar General
  25. 33 Scott Speed Chevrolet Rheem Heating, Cooling and Water Heating
  26. 38 Jason Leffler Chevrolet Great Clips
  27. 39 Luis Martinez Jr Ford King Taco
  28. 40 Josh Wise Chevrolet TBA
  29. 41 Tomy Drissi Ford Alvin & the Chipmunks-Chipwrecked
  30. 42 Chase Miller Chevrolet Key Motorsports
  31. 44 Jeff Green Chevrolet TBA
  32. 46 Chase Miller Chevrolet Key Motorsports
  33. 47 TBA Chevrolet TBA
  34. 49 Mark Green Chevrolet TBA
  35. 51 Jeremy Clements Chevrolet Clements Racing Engines
  36. 52 Louis-Philippe Dumoulin Chevrolet TBA
  37. 53 Andrew Ranger Dodge TBA
  38. 55 Brett Rowe Chevrolet Imperial Bedding
  39. 60 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal
  40. 62 Michael Annett Toyota Northland Motor Oils
  41. 64 Jason Bowles Toyota TBA
  42. 66 Steve Wallace Toyota 5 Hour Energy
  43. 67 J R Fitzpatrick Ford Go Canada Racing
  44. 70 Blake Koch Chevrolet TBA
  45. 75 Chris Cook Ford Rick Ware Racing
  46. 77 Robby Gordon Robby Dodge Speed Energy
  47. 81 Maryeve Dufault Dodge Quebec Dodge Dealers
  48. 82 Blake Koch Dodge
  49. 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota TBD
  50. 88 Aric Almirola Chevrolet Grand Touring Vodka
  51. 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet Victory in Jesus Racing
  52. 97 Kyle Kelley 11 Chevrolet TBD
  53. 99 Patrick Carpentier Toyota UAP, Inc

Teams File Official Protests with INDYCAR New Hampshire Race Results

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

The IZOD INDYCAR Series' return to the 1.02 New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval succeeded in producing a memorable event. After 115 laps, the 225 race ended with the #28 Andretti Autosport car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay presiding in victory lane. However, as the Florida native celebrated his first win since the 2010 Long Beach event, the result was marred by a subjective ruling by the IZOD INDYCAR Series race control.

Attempting to end the race with one final green flag run for the 225, damp weather conditions caused many drivers a sense of distress. Several competitors such as Will Power and James Hinchcliffe were livid in the cockpit as droplets of water were filling their visors and coating the New Hampshire Motor Speedway pavement. Against the wishes of what would be revealed to be many open wheel drivers, the green flag flew on lap 215. As Firestone racing slick tires struggle for grip, race drivers were brought to mercy of the very little traction remaining on the surface. Immediately on this double-file restart, the #7 car of Danica Patrick spun out of turn 4 coming to green collecting Takuma Sato's #5 KV Racing Technology vehicle as well as the #12 of championship contender Will Power. For some, the driver's anger was summed up in the actions of an infuriated Power. Jumping out of his Verizon Penske Racing Dallara, the Australian driver displayed obscenities with both hands directed towards INDYCAR Race Control.     

With those wrecked vehicles demoted in positions on the unsuccessful restart, the lead of the race was claimed by Newman/Haas Racing driver Oriol Servia. Appearing as if the Newman/Haas driver would take the New Hampshire victory, INDYCAR effectively cancelled the existence of the race's final 10 laps and the chaotic restart. The reset returned Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay to the top of the race lineup for lap 215. Throwing a red flag on the field following the last restart, INDYCAR chose to immediately call the race 10 laps ahead of the 225-lap distance. Slapping a tentative tag on the race results, the New Hampshire event ended with some teams and drivers instantly expressing their displeasure for INDYCAR's decision to revert the field back to their positions prior to the restart crash.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Newman/Haas Racing filed official protests against the race results of the INDY 225 within 30 minutes since the checkered flag fell on the controversial finish. Disputing that the race result ruling goes contrary to series rules, both teams had significant gains on the final restart deleted. For Newman/Haas Racing, their #2 car was guided to a certain victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway through Oriol Servia's jump position in the lead ahead of the red flag. Through the reverted finishing order which is currently unofficial, Servia comes 2nd in the event with teammate James Hinchcliffe taking 4th.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing had a difficult 225 even as the #9 car of Scott Dixon claimed a 3rd place finish. The major heartbreak for the team resulted with their #10 car retired on lap 118 after a collision with Takuma Sato on a race restart. The #10 car driven by Dario Franchitti suffered a rare DNF result and opened the door for the driver championship rival Will Power to gain significantly on the day. Running 5th on the final restart, that championship challenger Power was along those caught in the frontstretch wreck greatly erasing the potential points gain on Franchitti. Able to hold on to a top-5 finish, Will Power close 15 points on Dario Franchitti in the overall 2011 IZOD INDYCAR Series championship.

Scheduled to take place during last week (August 22-26), a hearing will be assembled byINDYCAR president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart. Criticized for his role in Race Control Sunday for electing to green flag the field for the notorious restart, Barnhart emphasizes the hearing will involve a panel of selected individuals. "Given my role in Race Control, I feel that it is in everyone's best interest to have an independent panel hear the protests. I believe a panel will help maintain a fair hearing." said Barnhart. Hearing panel judges have not been chosen by this name but should be decided soon.

Although Andretti Autosport was not part of the official protest (despite losing a vehicle on the poorly-conceived restart), the #28 team representatives will be present at the upcoming hearing. The Andretti Autosport #28 team's victory grants the organization interest in the overall outcome of the official INDYCAR ruling for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway event.

Intent to overturn the current result of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway event, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Newman/Haas Racing are likely to be fighting an uphill battle. In the current series' 15-year history, a race victory has never been altered through post-race hearings.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kyle Busch, Ambrose Top NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice at the Glen

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

A highlight weekend for American road racing, the Watkins Glen track comes alive with the competition of the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series as well as the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series for 2011. A busy weekend at the 2.46-mile Watkins Glen road course in lower New York state, the track time for the top-level NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gave the teams only two practices for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. Both occurring on Friday, 46 NASCAR Sprint Cup machines are set to compete for 43 spots in Saturday qualifying.
Despite the rich contingent of road racers making limited series starts, Kyle Busch conquered the lead position in practice session 1 at Watkins Glen. Piloting his Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Toyota Camry, Kyle Busch flew to a 1 minute, 1.24 second top time. Recently resigning with to drive the 2012 season in the #42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing, Juan Pablo Montoya grabbed second fastest time. Montoya returns to the Watkins Glen race as the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup race winner of the 2010 event. 
Third through fifth in the initial NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at the Watkins Glen track were stock cars driven by AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. Honourable mentions for fast times in the session also goes to Jeff Gordon who's 7th fastest, Dale Earnhardt Jr capturing the 11th quickest time and Andy Lally who drove his #71 TRG Motorsports Ford to a 15th fastest time.  
In the second practice session, Tasmania's Marcos Ambrose reached for the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time charts. The #9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion was guided around the 2.46-mile Watkins Glen track in 1 minute, 9.67 seconds. Winning Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event for the past 3 years, Ambrose is still hunting for his first Sprint Cup Series victory. In 3 previous Sprint Cup Series races at the Watkins Glen road course, Marcos Ambrose owns 3 top-five finishes.  

Following Ambrose's fastest time in the second and final practice for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr collected top-5 speeds. Committed to drive the #2 Miller Lite Dodge for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, Brad Keselowski is still nursing a angle injury suffered two weeks ago testing at Road Atlanta. Likely to go the distance in the 90-lap Sunday event, Keselowski is giving up his #22 Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch.  
After setting top time in the first Watkins Glen practice, Kyle Busch's #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was found in 16th place. Other drivers who showed a larger drop-off on the practice standings sheet between the two sessions were Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Matt Kenseth. It should be alluded stock cars dialing in race setups rather than for top qualifying speed.  

Qualifying for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen race will start at 11:40 am Saturday. 

Practice 1
  1. 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
  2. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  3. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  4. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY Chevrolet
  5. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  6. 16 Greg Biffle Valvoline Ford
  7. 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
  8. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  9. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  10. 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
  11. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
  12. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  13. 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
  14. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  15. 71 Andy Lally Interstate Moving Services Ford
  16. 99 Carl Edwards Ortho Home Defense Max Ford
  17. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
  18. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  19. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  20. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  21. 27 Paul Menard Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet
  22. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
  23. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  24. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  25. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  26. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
  27. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  28. 51 Boris Said PhoenixConstruction/ThankATeacher Chevrolet
  29. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  30. 47 Bobby Labonte CapitalDPO Toyota
  31. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  32. 32 Andrew Ranger Bully Hill Vineyards Ford
  33. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  34. 36 Ron Fellows Golden Corral Chevrolet
  35. 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
  36. 46 Brian Simo Fisher Nuts Ford
  37. 55 JJ Yeley Front Row Motorsports Ford
  38. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
  39. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  40. 38 Terry Labonte Long John Silver's Ford
  41. 35 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
  42. 77 PJ Jones GNC/SPEED Energy Dodge
  43. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing, LLC Toyota
  44. 50 T J Bell Green Smoke Chevrolet
  45. 37 Scott Speed Green Stuff Absorbent Ford
  46. 60 Mike Skinner Big Red Toyota

Final Practice
  1. 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
  2. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
  3. 99 Carl Edwards Ortho Home Defense Max Ford
  4. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  5. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  6. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
  7. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  8. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  9. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  10. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  11. 71 Andy Lally Interstate Moving Services Ford
  12. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  13. 27 Paul Menard Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet
  14. 37 Scott Speed Green Stuff Absorbent Ford
  15. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  16. 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
  17. 47 Bobby Labonte CapitalDPO Toyota
  18. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
  19. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
  20. 16 Greg Biffle Valvoline Ford
  21. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  22. 55 JJ Yeley Front Row Motorsports Ford
  23. 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
  24. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  25. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  26. 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
  27. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing, LLC Toyota
  28. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  29. 51 Boris Said Phoenix Construction/Thank A Teacher
  30. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  31. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY Chevrolet
  32. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  33. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
  34. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  35. 35 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
  36. 77 PJ Jones GNC/SPEED Energy Dodge
  37. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  38. 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
  39. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  40. 36 Ron Fellows Golden Corral Chevrolet
  41. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  42. 46 Brian Simo Fisher Nuts Ford
  43. 50 T J Bell Green Smoke Chevrolet
  44. 38 Terry Labonte Long John Silver's Ford
  45. 32 Andrew Ranger Bully Hill Vineyards Ford
  46. 60 Mike Skinner Big Red Toyota

Canadians Come to NASCAR Watkins Glen Races

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Converging on the 2.46-mile road course at Watkins Glen on its traditional August state of New York weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is assembling for the Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen race. Held in conjunction with the preparations of the Sprint Cup Series is the NASCAR Nationwide Series as well as the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car tour.

With the many NASCAR regulars assembled within the unfamiliar confides of a road course, the services of road racing professionals are called in as participants in the two major NASCAR organizations. For three Canadian drivers, their proficiency in handling twists and turns have earned them a call for various stock car race teams. Watkins Glen, Ron Fellows, Andrew Ranger and JR Fitzpatrick will battle in one or both NASCAR events as "Road Race Ringers".

Ron Fellows

NASCAR Sprint Cup: #36 TBR Chevrolet Impala
NASCAR Nationwide: #7 Canadian Tire Chevrolet Impala

Possessing a winning record in competition at the Watkins Glen course, accomplished Canadian driver Ron Fellows has again been a sought-after wheelman. Winning 6 NASCAR-sanctioned road course races, 5 of Fellows' victories were earned on the Watkins Glen track in either the Nationwide or truck series. Reteaming with JR Motorsports for the 2011 Nationwide Series season road courses, the driver/ownership pairing 4th season together comes with sponsorship from Canadian retail giant Canadian Tire covering the Chevy Impala.   
Ron Fellows will be making what is expected to be his only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series appearance in Watkins Glen, New York. For the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen, Fellows will be driving the Tommy Baldwin Racing #36 Chevrolet Impala for the second year in a row. In last year's event, Ron Fellows and the #36 car team retired just past the halfway point suffering suspension breakage. Fellows has finished in the runner-up position twice (2000 and 2004) at Watkins Glen in the 90-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contest.

Andrew Ranger

NASCAR Sprint Cup: #32 Bully Hills Vineyards Ford Fusion
NASCAR Nationwide Series: #53 Bollegraaf/Lobo USA Dodge Challenger

Competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event in the #53 Waste Management Dodge, the Watkins Glen weekend will also see the debut of French-Canadian driver Andrew Ranger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. To drive the #32 Ford for Frank Stoddard Racing, Ranger will be wearing Bully Hill Vineyards sponsorship. As a race team backer, Bully Hill Vineyards is a motorsport mainstay that was ridden to Watkins Glen's victory lane in previous years by Canadian Ron Fellows.

A former open wheel driver, Andrew Ranger has been fighting to earn respect as a stock car racing star. A resident of Roxton Pond, Quebec, Ranger's stock car presence is becoming best expressed on road courses. Winning multiple times on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (including the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto stock car event), other series Andrew Ranger have added as a conquest to his career were the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West divisions as well as the ARCA Racing Series with a May win at New Jersey Motorsport Park. Ranger's best finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a 3rd at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve event in 2009.

JR Fitzpatrick

NASCAR Nationwide Series: #67 Go Canada Racing Ford Mustang

A talented stock car racing star from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, JR Fitzpatrick has demonstrated his skill on multiple occasions on ovals. Yet, Fitzpatrick is still regarded as a road race ringer on the basis of his Canadian stock car racing experience. On the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series tour, road and street course play a much heavier role in the championship with 5 of 12 races for the 2011 season.

For 2011, JR Fitzpatrick has been able to make more NASCAR Nationwide Series runs after teaming up with the newly-formed #67 Go Canada Racing organization. This season, Fitzpatrick's best effort with the freshman Go Canada Racing team was a 10th place result at Road America.

Racing for a third year at Watkins Glen, JR Fitzpatrick's previous two events in NASCAR Nationwide Series resulted in a 11th and a 18th place finish.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Canada's Kyle Marcelli Wins in ALMS Prototype Challenge Class

This past Saturday, the American Le Mans Series run a wickedly wet race at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. As rain soaked the 2.258-mile road course, the racing-prepared sports cars skated through the late stages of a 2 hour, 45 minute event practically on the edge of control. Claiming some of the better, more experienced road race drivers in the American Le Mans Series field, there was one young Canadian competitor who weathered the horrific driving conditions to claim glory winning his first American Le Mans Series sanctioned event.

Partnered with experienced American road racer Tomy Drissi, the Intersport Racing #89 car Mid-Ohio event started under inclement circumstances prior to the rain drenching competitors. Competing in the Oreca-Chevrolet only Le Mans Prototype Challenge category, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge saw Marcelli and Drissi playing catch up for nearly two hours of
the race’s timed distance. Early in the American Le Mans event, Drissi made contact with another race vehicle while running in 4th place. The Intersport Racing team collected a 60-second penalty from the American Le Mans Series officials for avoidable contact (one of many drivers to be assessed a reprimand in what quickly turned into a rough sports car sprint race).

When the race's first caution flew after 45 minutes into the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge, the #89 team initiated a driver change as Kyle Marcelli entered the Intersport Racing car. A lap down to the leading Prototype Challenge car, a combination of team strategy and fastest laps from the driving talent placed the #89 Intersport Racing vehicle into class winning contention.

Grabbing the lead into the final hour in the LMPC category, a last pit stop allowed the Intersport Racing’s sister #37 car. In the final 30 minutes, Kyle Marcelli would have to race around the #37 car being skillfully handled by Jon Field. An exciting dice between the two team machines resulted with Marcelli taking the advantage in turn one. A 21-year old racer hailing from the Ontario city of Barrie, emerging motorsport talent Kyle Marcelli put his inclinations on Canadian roads to use keeping his #89 Intersport Racing Prototype Challenge adhered to the slippery race track. Able to persevere the limited traction, Marcelli drove to victory and 3rd overall in the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge.

This Mid-Ohio victory was an important claim to redemption after Kyle Marcelli was spoiled out of a top Prototype Challenge class finish at the previous Grand Prix of Mosport. The only Canadian event on the 2011 American Le Mans Series schedule, Marcelli had cut his teeth on the historic 2.54-mile race track and wanted a home field victory. Posting the fastest time in class for the Mosport event, Marcelli and his #89 Intersport Racing team were forced to retire due to mechanical problems.

Marcelli's first class victory in the American Le Mans Series, this top podium finish is the sophomore driver's second major triumph in 2011. In July, Marcelli was part of the winning driving team for the 6-hour race at the Italian Imola circuit. Behind the wheel of the #99 JMB Racing/Merchant Services Limited prototype race car with co-drivers Chapman Ducote and Nicolas Marroc, this race win for Kyle Marcelli came in his European debut in sports car competition.

Able to contend for class victories in only his second year of sports car racing, Kyle Marcelli currently stands 5th in the overall American Le Mans Series driver points for the LMPC class along with teammate Tomy Drissi.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday Adventure at the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto Part 5

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Once again, the sound of around 700 horsepower pulsed the Toronto waterfront in a sound wave I can only term angelic. The keepers of Honda engine power, the drivers of Dallara race chassis vehicles was given a second chance to burn up the steaming hot streets of Toronto. Taking several vantage points across the track, I was able to hear the tones of the open wheel IZOD INDYCAR machines blitzing the race track.
In the afternoon session, the notes of the morning session have provoked a harder charging mentality amongst the drivers. Only 8 minutes into the start of the IZOD INDYCAR  Series' second practice, the #77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car piloted by Canadian hero Alex Tagliani spun in turn 8. Briefly stoppd on the course, Tagliani's car was impacted by Graham Rahal's #38 Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda. Creating the first full course yellow in the session, the practice restarted promptly after the Holatro Safety Team were able to assist both vehicles in restarting. Afternoon practice for the IZOD INDYCAR Series was slowed once more when 2004 Toronto race winner Sebastien Bourdais stopped in the same turn 8 area as the Tagliani/Rahal caution prior.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

The second practice ended with the #12 Penske Racing car piloted by Will Power claiming the edge on the 1.755-mile race course. Maintaining a cautious optimism, Power commented, “The Verizon car is good, but we are still not quick enough.” The reigning winner of the Honda Indy Toronto, the Australian mentioned, “It is great to be in Toronto, through, and really good to see all the fans.” A final chance to get an impression for the Toronto street course during the first day of the event's three day run, drivers were both eager to rest after a testing day on the bumpy city streets and debrief with crews as they search for more speed.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

The fourth fastest in the session, Canadian James Hinchcliffe provided a lap giving the hometown crowd a real reason to cheer. As with every Honda Indy Toronto I've attended the appearance of Paul Tracy is equally as appreciated regardless to his practice time performance. Besides, any Paul Tracy fan knows the “Thrill from West Hill” truly shines during the actual race.
Following the IZOD INDYCAR practice, the excitement level at the track was maintained by the performance of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series conducting their time trials for Saturday's main event. Divided into groups, the stock cars were released up to the track in order to post fast time. The most anticipated performances during the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series qualifying were expected from Andrew Ranger and Jason Bowles making part-time appearance in the tour. Both skilled road racers, it was Andrew Ranger who posted a pole-winning effort with Bowles settling for a front row starting position beside his main opponent. Crucially fighting for the championship in Canada's top stock car racing series, Scott Steckly was third quickest in the #22 Dodge. One of my last duties at the race track was to observe the post-qualifying press conference held in the conference room.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Unlike the previous years when I had so much fun at the track but knew when it was time to leave, this year's Honda Indy Toronto was not so clear. Even past 5 PM, the track environment still felt lively as spectators were still rounding the track and walking through the paddock areas of race teams. On the track, the Castrol Canadian Touring Cars were rolling with the sound and look of street cars.
Witnessing the first day of the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto, the health of the major motor racing festival could be given a clean bill. Thanks to some brilliant weather, successful promotion through events such as Honda's Free Friday, and the gaining stability of the headlining IZOD INDYCAR Series, this 2011 Honda Indy first day lured one of the biggest crowds since the early 2000s.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

As I left the race track, I was gladly greeted by a Dr Pepper brand representative providing a complimentary can of pop as a final act of courtesy to race fans. Leaving the track where I partook in the start of what could be one of the greatest Honda Indy events since INDYCAR reunification, the inefficiency of the City of Toronto was presented with the TTC Streetcar service. Normally, I am very grateful and would speak highly for the TTC service. However, for some bizarre reason, the TTC streetcar would not receive passengers near the Princess Gate requiring prospective riders to walk more than half a kilometer down the road to the next streetcar stop. While it is all right for someone able bodied such as myself, my concern was over families with little children walking across the roadway used by under-considerate Toronto drivers. It was also disappointing that the TTC dispatched a smaller streetcar to pick up the large crowd leaving the 2011 Honda Indy.

Despite this late day inconvenience, my excursion to the Honda Indy Toronto can not be substantially impacted by a return to real life. In fact, the Honda Indy is one of the few times in the entire year I personally feel completely alive. Unable to completely bring myself to realizing my emotions, it has taken me about a month to completely finish my thoughts and experiences of this one day. To celebrate the automobile in the best fashion through good natured competition, cars being unleashed to their full potential, even the knowledge I am only one of many in this Toronto makes me feel so enriched by what is probably the only love I need in my life.

The photo presented below is a complication of afternoon practice action for the IZOD INDYCAR Series.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Friday Adventure at the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto Part 4

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Around noontime, the red-hot exhausts of five racing series worth of vehicles heated the CNE grounds as the Honda Indy Toronto entered in full swing. It was also at this time in the sun has sufficiently baked the Canadian city. Embracing the heat of the new afternoon, the fifth and final form of motorsports given a crack at the road course was the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Of all the series that practiced on the Toronto street course, the fiberglass-bodied stock cars provided the most eventful session of the still-young weekend of racing.

Kerry Micks' car stopping on track plus damage to the cars of Steven Matthews and 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion DJ Kennington concluded the session. Based on the prestige and crowds attending the 2011 Honda Indy, the NASCAR Canadian Tires Series event on the Saturday was considered a major race. Drawing names like Jason Bowles and Canada's own Andrew Ranger away from action south of the 49th parallel, the preparation for the 100-mile stock car event.

Attending the Honda Indy for so many years has given me a reliable natural compass to guide me to where I can expect to see action on and off the track. Following the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series practice, I planted myself within the paddock area of the stock car series. Inside Toronto's Direct Energy Centre, the stock car roared up to their small service areas behind their race haulers. With NASCAR Canadian Tire Series qualifying only 4 hours away, the #15 car crew of Steven Matthews and the #17 Castrol crew of DJ Kennington were quickly sent to work on restoring their race machines to peak performance.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Much like the IZOD INDYCAR Series rolling down Gasoline Alley during the morning practice at Toronto, audiences appeared in droves to see cars and drivers up close belonging to Canada's premier stock car racing series. By the appearance of men, women and children hustled inside the Direct Energy Centre, it seems the Honda Indy is reigniting that magnetic race enthusiasm for auto racing in Toronto.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Back on the 1.755-mile track, the Ferrari Challenge series opened up their Italian-built V-8 powerplants down the frontstretch. One of the drivers competing in the 2011 debut of the Ferrari Challenge at Toronto was popular businessman and TV Personality Robert Harjavec. After being out of almost every deal that came into the Canadian version of the business pitch show Dragon's Den, Harjavec was in fact 'in' control of a F420 Challenge car numbered #007.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Notification of a massive autograph signing in the INDYCAR Fan Zone instantly lured the most anxious fans wanting to have the signature and a few seconds with their idols from the IZOD INDYCAR Series. While IZOD INDYCAR afternoon practice sent out exhaust notes of Honda V-8 engines, over a hundred individuals awaited patiently in the hot summer weather for an event still more than an hour away. Danica Patrick, James Hinchclffe, Paul Tracy and JR Hildebrand were among those seated at the head of fans greeting each admirer warmly.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Bringing memories of when I waited in line for autographs from the 2001 Players Racing duo of Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier, the wait can certainly be worth the time spent. I remembered on that day leaving the autograph session I inadvertently ended up in the way of Michael Andretti riding a scooter back to his race team's paddock. Unfortunately, I would not obtain my first digital camera until late in that year. Andretti and the #6 Newman/Haas Racing team went on to win the Toronto race with Alex Tagliani finishing just behind in 2nd place. I mused afterwards that if Michael Andretti would have accidentally ran into me he could have won the CART championship.

In the next edition, for what will be my final chapter in this visit to the 2011 Honda Indy, I will conclude this tale with a revisit from the IZOD INDYCAR Series and the exciting qualifying of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.