Saskatoon: Series round seven preview

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes -- Saskatoon * Velocity Prairie Thunder Notebook * Canadian Tire 100 Post-Race Notebook * First Visit To ACMS Not A Concern Racing A Big Part Of The Multi-Faceted...

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes -- Saskatoon

*         Velocity Prairie Thunder Notebook

* Canadian Tire 100 Post-Race Notebook
* First Visit To ACMS Not A Concern

Racing A Big Part Of The Multi-Faceted Bourque

Racing and politics are certainly odd bedfellows, but Pierre Bourque's life revolves around both worlds.

The two are separate and distinct driving forces for Bourque (No. 29 Aaron's Dream Machine Dodge). He founded a political website--www.bourque.com--Canada's version of the American no-nonsense political site, the Drudge Report, and has aspirations of making NASCAR history.

He was not born with racing in his blood, but it was a passion that developed over a period of time beginning with an opportunity to see his racing hero compete in a world-class event.

"I fell in love with the sport when I found myself in Monaco the same weekend as the Grand Prix and got to see my hero, Gilles Villeneuve, race and see the sport at its most resplendent," said Bourque.

After beginning his racing career in the late 1970s, the native of Ottawa, Ont., stepped away from the sport for nearly 15 years before being asked to head up communications for the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame. During that time, he learned of NASCAR's interest in Canada, as well as Canada's interest in NASCAR which set off a chain of events, including a meeting with Richard Buck, NASCAR's Director of Touring Series, that precipitated his getting back behind the wheel of a race car.

"While meeting with various people with a vested interest in racing, Richard Buck put me in touch with Andy Hillenburg," he said. "I ended up racing in the (NASCAR Camping World Series East) in 2006 and, of course, later on in the (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1). That's how I got started in NASCAR. It's just fantastic."

As a self-proclaimed ultimate Canadian NASCAR fan, Bourque has his sight set on further involvement in stock-car racing.

"I'm chomping at the bit to race a full (NASCAR Nationwide Series) season and we're getting pretty close to putting something together," he said.

But it doesn't end there. He has another goal in mind.

"What I would really like to do, and it may seem a little crazy, but I'd like to become the first Canadian to race in the Daytona 500 in 40 years. "It may not come to that, but that's what I'd like to do."

His involvement in the political circle is nearly as roundabout. Shortly after ending his first stint in racing, a spot on the Ottawa city council opened and Bourque was approached to fill the vacancy. He decided to give it a try and won the position.

Along the way, he became fascinated by the internet. In the early non-graphical days of the world wide web, he launched a page to provide coverage of the Canadian political scene from a variety of national and international sources which grew exponentially just as the face of news coverage on the internet was changing.

"I had this little site that was getting plenty of traffic when Matt Drudge broke the Monica Lewinsky story in the United States," he said. "Out of that was born the idea of breaking news on the internet. I, along with many others, believed that Canada needed a similar product."

The web site, according to Bourque, has no agenda or political allegiances, and now has approximately 10 million readers per month.

"It's become pretty massive and I'm really proud of that," he stated. "It has become a source for people both in and out of the politics, as well as the media around the country. It's a well-rounded site that presents stories from all points of view."

Dreams do come true, but not by happenstance. They require work and Bourque, a master networker and full-fledge believer in the NASCAR product, has built the key relationships, both in and out of the sport, to aid in bringing his dreams to life.

***

Fast Facts

The Race: Velocity Prairie Thunder presented by Bayer Crop Science
The Place: Auto Clearing Motor Speedway, Saskatoon, Sask.

The Date: Wednesday, July 29
The Time: 7:30 p.m. CT (Saskatoon)

TV Schedule: TSN, Aug. 22, Midnight ET

Track Layout: .333-mile oval
Race Purse: $79,023 CAD

2008 Winner: Event Not Held
2008 Pole: Event Not Held

Schedule:
Practice 1:30-3 p.m.; Qualifying 5:30 p.m.

***

Thomson Aims To Turn Season Around

It's almost unfathomable to think it would take Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet) six races to pick up his first top-five finish this season, though that is exactly the case.

Thomson has four NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 wins to his credit in two and a half seasons, but the five-time CASCAR Super Series champion is off to an unusually slow start in 2009.

In last Saturday's Canadian Tire 100 in Edmonton, Alberta, he posted a season-best finish of fifth. His previous best was a pair of ninth-place efforts in the season opener at Autodrome St. Eustache and at SunValley Speedway earlier this month.

Even his qualifying runs have been off a little. For most drivers, starting inside the top five in five of six races would be more than satisfactory, but it's not quite up to the Thomson standard. Ironically, his only start this year outside the top five came in the race which produced his best finish. He is the series' all-time leader in poles with nine including an amazing seven in 13 races a year ago.

Thomson currently occupies the 10th spot in the championship driver standings, but don't expect the resident of Hamilton, Ont., to finish there. An ultimate competitor and workaholic when it comes to his race cars, he will do everything within his power to right the ship and resume his accustomed position at the top of the charts.

***

Saskatoon News & Notes

The Race: This event is the seventh of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 schedule and the final leg of the three-race swing through western Canada. It is the series' first visit to the track.

The Procedure: The starting field is 22 cars, including provisionals. The first 19 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 250 laps covering 83.25 miles.

The Track: Auto Clearing Motor Speedway is a .333-mile oval with graduated banking. Saskatoon Stock Car Racing Association Ltd. originated from the Saskatoon Stock Car Racing Club that was formed in 1954. Racing in Saskatoon began at the 8th Street Racing Oval. In 1970, as a result of city expansion, stock-car racing moved to the current Prairieland Exhibition at Bridge City Raceway. In 1999, the City of Saskatoon expanded once again which paved the way for a new track, Auto Clearing Motor Speedway, to be built. Construction of the new track began in April 2005.

A Race Of Firsts: Being the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series' first visit to Auto Clearing Motor Speedway, the Velocity Prairie Thunder is the first NASCAR-sanctioned event in the province of Saskatchewan. It is also the first time the series has raced on a weekday.

Sold Out: Auto Clearing Motor Speedway officials sold out of their permanent seating over six weeks ago. As of last Friday, they sold out of the temporary seating they brought in to accommodate the demand.

***

NCATS Notebook: Canadian Tire 100 Wrap-Up

Third Time Is A Charm: After three starts on the pole, Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide/Charmin Ford) finally took the checkered flag at Rexall Speedway. Failing to close the deal in his first two visits to Edmonton, Ranger led each of the 32 laps for the first wire-to-wire win in series history.

Fighting Adversity: The qualifying session on Friday closed with engine problems for Trevor Seibert (No. 69 Lake Excavating/Avion Motorsports Ford). He qualified with the 10th-quickest lap, but an engine change forced him to the rear of the field for the start of the race. However, he was able to weave his way through traffic to finish fourth for his best finish since taking third at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in 2007.

Frequent Visitor: For the fourth time in six races this season, Scott Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire/Tow Truck in a Box Dodge), with his third-place effort, finished on the podium. Dating back to his July 11 win at Autodrome St. Eustache, he has three consecutive top-three finishes.

Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory at Rexall Speedway, Ranger collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort. It is his third victory of the season.

Mopar Quick Three: This program awards the top three finishing Dodges in the race. In the Canadian Tire 100, sixth-place finisher Ron Beauchamp Jr. (No. 60 Mopar/Mobil 1/Exide Batteries Dodge) was the highest-finishing eligible Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus. Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Vortex Brake Pads Dodge) was the second-highest finishing eligible Dodge, which earned him a $1,000 bonus. Picking up $500 for finishing as the third-highest eligible Dodge was Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries Dodge). He finished eighth overall.

Coca-Cola Move of the Race: Improving his position the most over the course of the race was Jarrad Whissell (No. 44 SMS Equipment/Komatsu Ford). After qualifying and starting 21st on the grid, he was able to finish 11th. As a result, he earned the $1,000 award from Coca-Cola.

MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race: In a new program for 2009, the driver who compiles the most points in a specialized system involving qualifying, race finish and leading laps collects the $1,000 award. Ranger dominated the weekend and collected the maximum number of points by winning the race, starting on the pole and leading the most laps.

In Case You Missed It: Coverage of the Canadian Tire 100 will premiere on Sunday, Aug. 9 at noon ET on TSN. Check local listings for the most up-to-date information. Additionally, the A&W 300 from SunValley Speedway will premiere on Sunday, Aug. 2 at noon ET.

***

Auto Clearing Motor Speedway: New Track Is Not A Concern

New things often can be a source of concern and cause a level of angst for many, but a first trip to Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Sask., isn't causing any sleepless nights for NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 drivers and teams.

"We've always done pretty well at new tracks," said Kerry Micks (No. 02 Beyond Digital Imaging Ford). "For me, I'm able to adjust pretty quickly. I hope some guys are a little tentative and we can use that to our advantage."

In the garage area following last Saturday's Canadian Tire 100 in Edmonton, no one claimed, or at least admitted, to have gone to any effort to obtain a scouting report on the track that is new to the series schedule this year and a place that most of the competitors yet to have even seen.

"It wouldn't do me any good anyway," said Don Thomson Jr. (No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet). "I can't talk to anybody, walk around the track or drive it in a regular street car. I don't get it that way. I have to get out there in the car and feel it."

The conventional wisdom is that an oval track is an oval track the world over. They all have their own set of peculiarities, but short-track racing comes down to getting the car to turn in the corners which varies from time to time regardless of how many visits to a track have been made.

"We go to all the ovals with the same basic setup and just tweak it according to the conditions," said Micks.

Bill Burns, crew chief for points leader Andrew Ranger (No. 27 Walmart/Tide Ford), has competed at the track two times when working with a CASCAR Western Series team in 2006, but he doesn't see that as any sort of advantage.

"It was three years ago and a totally different car," he said.

Defending series champion Scott Steckly (No. 22 Canadian Tire/Tow Truck in a Box) said he knew nothing more about the track than it had graduated banking like Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) at which he raced in last January's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

In any event, the sellout crowd will get to see how Canada's finest short-track racers tackle a new challenge.

***

Up Next: Mosport

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 team get a little respite after travelling across Canada and back going along with four races in the last three weeks.

The next event comes on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the familiar confines of Mosport Speedway, a half-mile oval track located in Bowmanville, Ont.

Last year's race was delayed a day due to rain, but it didn't dampen the spirit of Kerry Micks, who was able to collect his first series win on an oval after winning a pair of road-course events in 2007.

It will be the third visit to the track for the series. In 2007, Don Thomson Jr. won the inaugural race.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Canada
Drivers Andy Hillenburg , Gilles Villeneuve , Mark Dilley , Kerry Micks , Don Thomson Jr. , Scott Steckly , Andrew Ranger , Trevor Seibert , Pierre Bourque , Jason Hathaway , Jarrad Whissell