Fellows wrecks early at Montreal
MONTREAL -- Ron Fellows had high hopes of defending his history-making NASCAR win a year ago at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. He left in despair.
The Canadian road racing star, who won the first NASCAR points race run in the rain a year ago on the tricky 14-turn street circuit, qualified third for Sunday's Nationwide race and brought the Canadian crowd to its feet with a classic pass of eventual race-winner Carl Edwards in the hairpin turn on the first lap.
Fellows smoked the brakes on his No. 5 Chevy in making the smooth pass and set out to challenge Marcos Ambrose for the lead. But Fellows had to pit on lap five to fix damage to his front-end valence that happened during that hard braking, and his day ended prematurely when he was involved in a three-car crash on lap 26 caused by rookie Justin Allgaier.
Allgaier sideswiped Fellows, then slammed Kyle Busch's right rear.
"I got down in and just got on the brakes and wheel-hopped," Allgaier said. "I tried to save it. This is a tough place, for sure. Probably just trying too hard."
Fellows and Allgaier sustained too much damage to continue, but Busch spun completely around, kept going, and finished 10th.
"The car is an absolute wreck," Fellows said. "I got hit so hard I banged my head pretty good. It's just crazy. This road race is my Daytona 500 and here I sit, watching."
On the bright side for Canada, three Quebec-born drivers finished in the top seven. NASCAR Canadian Tire Series leader Andrew Ranger was third, followed by Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One champ, and Jean Francois Dumoulin was seventh.
That they managed to survive a crash-filled race that featured 11 cautions for 31 of 76 laps was a triumph in itself.
"It's the wildest one (I've ever been in)," Villeneuve said. "If you did that in F1, you wouldn't survive five minutes. This was wild, definitely crazy. It's a good thing these cars are strong."
Montreal-born Patrick Carpentier might have been in the mix, too. He started 40th and was running in the top five on lap 17 when he blew a tire and then his motor.
P.R. MAN: Road racing veteran Victor Gonzalez Jr. made history on Sunday, becoming the first driver from Puerto Rico to compete in the Nationwide Series.
Regarded as a road course ace, the Trujillo Alto native has over 30 career wins and is aiming to race a full Nationwide schedule in 2010.
"It's something new. We're working to do a full deal," said Gonzalez, who has dedicated most of his professional career representing Puerto Rico internationally, competing in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series, and North American Touring Car Series. "I'm just here to get as many laps as I can in the series. I have really good expectations. Hopefully, I can stay out of trouble."
He did until the closing laps, when he made contact with Steven Wallace to bring out the 11th and final caution.
Still, Gonzalez finished 14th after starting 36th in the GDSI/Ford Racing Fusion.
"I thought it was like a wrestling match," said Gonzalez, who had to qualify in the rain to make the race. "I never in my life saw so many crashes. But we survived. We could have been top 10."
Gonzalez also has driven GTS and Grand-Am GT cars as well as late model stock cars, and he's the only instructor at Skip Barber Racing School to hail from the U.S. territory.
THAT'S RACIN': Andrew Ranger leads the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series standings by 126 points with five wins in 10 starts of the 13-race season. But after finishing second on Sunday to J.R. Fitzpatrick in the CTS Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Ranger said he should have finished lower.
That's because on a green-white-checkered finish, Ranger, running third behind D.J. Kennington, spun him out in the second turn.
"I spun D.J., and that's not what I want to do," Ranger said. "We finished second and D.J. deserved to be there. I don't like to play like that."
Fitzpatrick was slow entering the turn, Ranger slammed Kennington, and that bunched the field behind them, forcing at least five cars to cut through the grass between the first two turns.
"I got brake-loose and caused that," Fitzpatrick said.
Daryl Harr was one of the drivers who went off course, and when he reached the pavement again cars were three wide. That was a recipe for disaster. Scott Steckly flipped on his roof after a collision with Don Thomson Jr., and that ended the race. Both drivers were treated and released.
"That's part of the sport," third-place finisher Kerry Micks said. "Best man wins."
NASCAR spokesman Richard Buck said after Kennington spun, the driver got back in line fourth under caution, and that's where he finished.
"We tell the drivers, some days it's your day and some days it's not," Buck said.
SPARK PLUGS: Boris Said qualified fourth but blew an engine during the session on Saturday, replaced the motor, and had to start at the rear of the field. Justin Allgaier and Tony Raines also were put at the back for transmission changes, as was Max Papis after his crew worked on his damaged car after impound. ... Kyle Busch was bidding to win a NASCAR road race in a third country. He won at Mexico City and at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in 2008. ... Longtime Montreal Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois, a free agent and still wondering if he'll play again this year, made his second start in NASCAR's Canadian Tire Series. He started 15th and finished 12th.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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