*Bowyer Hopes Surprises Are At A Minimum In Montreal *Canadian Entries Led by Carpentier, Villeneuve, Fellows *In The Loop: Ambrose Vying For Same Effort, Different Result *Young Drivers Have Wealth Of Experience To Display Standings Leader ...
*Bowyer Hopes Surprises Are At A Minimum In Montreal
*Canadian Entries Led by Carpentier, Villeneuve, Fellows
*In The Loop: Ambrose Vying For Same Effort, Different Result
*Young Drivers Have Wealth Of Experience To Display
Standings Leader Bowyer To Wear Rookie Stripe In Montreal
Daytona Beach, Fla. (July 29, 2008) - Does everyone really like surprises?
The majority of us do. Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) probably does too -- but Saturday in Montreal, that will be debatable.
Bowyer, the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader, is in for a surprise he hopes won't be a negative factor in his march toward the 2008 championship.
He's been in first place in the rankings for the last 17 weeks and has had only four finishes of 18th or worse this season.
He leads second-place Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) by 174 points and Keselowski will also be wearing a rookie stripe at the 2.710-mile road course.
But Montreal could turn out to be an equalizer.
"I've never seen the place," Bowyer said. "I didn't get a chance to watch (the race) on TV (last year) and it looks like my first laps on the track are going to be when the green flag drops."
This year, Bowyer, 28, will join four other double-duty drivers who will make their way from Pocono Raceway to Montreal Saturday for the race. Practices and qualifying at Pocono overlap with the Montreal schedule forcing the double-duty drivers to rely on substitutes to set their cars up for the race.
And all but Bowyer competed in Montreal last year.
Even Keselowski may have an edge since he'll be able to practice and qualify his car.
Although Bowyer didn't run in the inaugural race, his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the event and his substitute driver Stephen Leicht finished fifth, at least providing the Emporia, Kan., native with plenty of information.
Carpentier, Villeneuve, Fellows Lead Canadian Contingent
Patrick Carpentier (No. 9 Subway Dodge) is so focused on winning a NASCAR race in his native Canada and defending his 2007 pole at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that he will forego Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono to concentrate solely on the event in Montreal.
Ron Fellows (No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) has three wins and two poles in NASCAR Nationwide Series road course competition but none in his home country.
And Jacques Villeneuve (No. 32 L'Equipeur/Ganotec Toyota) has the pressure of returning to NASCAR racing on the track that bears his legendary father's name.
The "big three" are among a group of eight Canadians entered in Saturday's race. Also included is DJ Kennington (No. 81 Mahindra Tractor Dodge), who is pulling double-duty of a different kind this year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Drivers from five different countries will be represented in the event: Australia, Canada, Italy, the United States and Venezuela.
Young Drivers Expect Strong Results At Historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The field in Montreal contains a mix of hometown heroes, series-only regulars, double-duty drivers and up-and comers.
But ask season-long series observers who to watch and even with the entry of road-course aces, former NASCAR national series champions and veteran drivers the focus should be on the young talent on display.
Brad Keselowski, 24, is vying for a championship. Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota), 18, will make his road course debut but comes in with one win, two poles, three top fives and five top 10s in his six races. Landon Cassill (No. 4 Miccosukee Chevrolet), 19, has a pole and four top 10s in his last seven races. Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Dodge), 20, put up his then-career best of 10th at Mexico City in April.
Perhaps the sleeper of the group is Brad Coleman (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford). Despite his age (20), Coleman has extensive road-course experience that has translated well to stock cars.
He shares the world record for youngest team in Rolex 24 GT class to claim a top-10 finish with Colin Braun, 19, who will serve as the sub driver for Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford). Braun won his first career pole at Mexico City and claimed another last Saturday at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
Coleman was eighth at this event last year and followed with a fifth-place finish at Watkins Glen International one week later.
"These days, a top driver can only bring an oval car up a few spots over its' technical potential because there's so much good equipment and so many good drivers out there," Coleman said. "But the playing field balances out the equipment a little more on a road course and allows drivers to make a bigger difference in the outcome."
Road-Course "Ringers" Not Locks For Wins In Recent Series Races
Since road-course racing was re-introduced in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2005 following a three-year hiatus, only once in eight races has a road-course specialist won (Juan Pablo Montoya, Mexico, 2007).
In the other seven events, its been stock car drivers who have won, including three series regulars.
Patrick Carpentier, Ron Fellows, Max Papis (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet), Scott Pruett (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge), Boris Said (No. 25 No Fear / Team Smithfield Ford) and Scott Gaylord (No. 52 Jimmy Means Racing Ford) are some key road-course aces in the field seeking to join Montoya's one-man victory band.
Of Note In Montreal ...
Substitute drivers other than Colin Braun for Greg Biffle and Stephen Leicht for Clint Bowyer include: Erik Darnell for reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 CitiFinancial Ford); Auggie Vidovich for David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) and Chris Cook for David Reutimann (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota). ... Jason Keller (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Co. Chevrolet), the series' all-time starts leader with 444, will carry a rookie stripe in Montreal having never raced on the course before. ... Reutimann's TRD engine tuner, Yves LaFrance, is a native of Quebec and Dave Carrier, from Saskatchewan, is a mechanic / catch can man for Eric McClure's No. 24 Hefty Brands Chevrolet.
In The Loop: Ambrose Aiming For Same Strong Showing, Different Result Than 2007
Talk about a weird curtain call -- though it was a fitting end to an extraordinary inaugural event.
Last year's inaugural race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve ended with the typical celebratory burnout -- except three different drivers did the celebrating.
One was Kevin Harvick, the true winner of the race.
One was Robby Gordon, who thought he was the winner of the race -- but actually was scored in 18th as the checkered flew.
And the other was Patrick Carpentier, hometown hero and runner-up finisher.
But the one driver who arguably deserved to be smoking his tires -- Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 STP Ford) -- was nowhere to be found.
Ambrose led a race-high 37 laps before being spun out by Gordon, ending any hope for his first NASCAR win. Still, Ambrose took solace in his impressive run -- and hopes a repeat occurs Saturday.
Last season, Ambrose racked up race-best stats in practically every key category. He has a Driver Rating of 133.4, an Average Running Position of 2.9, 14 Fastest Laps Run and was the only driver to run all 75 Laps in the Top 15.
If not Ambrose, Carpentier could be the driver to beat. He certainly wants it, giving up his NASCAR Sprint Cup ride at Pocono to concentrate only on the Montreal event. Last year, Carpentier exhibited the road course prowess that could result in victory this time around.
Carpentier had a Driver Rating of 122.1, an Average Running Position of 6.6, nine Fastest Laps Run and ran all but five laps among the top 15.
But, as is the case whenever NASCAR hits a road course, the so-called "road course ringers" should pose a definite threat.
Two in particular had strong runs last season -- Scott Pruett and Max Papis. In last year's Montreal event, Pruett earned a Driver Rating of 112.7 and an Average Running Position of 5.3. Papis had a Driver Rating of 109.3 and an Average Running Position of 8.7.
The Director's Take: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Caters To The Technicians
"This venue is one of the neatest we go to," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director, about Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
"There's almost a mystique about a racetrack located on a man-made island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River in such a historic city as Montreal."
Of the track itself, Balash noted that the talent of the driver will be the order of the day on Saturday.
"It's a very technical road course -- which means the driver's skills in shifting up through the gears, their coordination of working the gears and brakes, their ability to hit their marks as they hit the corners -- really come into play.
"Because of all those factors, any small mistake by other drivers can lead to the opportunity to make a pass."
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Track Length: 2.710 miles / 14 turns
NAPA Auto Parts 200: 200.9 miles / 74 laps
2007 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2007 Pole: Patrick Carpentier
NNS Etc. -- Montreal
Barretts Back Together In Montreal
The father -- son team of Stanton Barrett (No. 30 NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet) and his father Stan (No. 61 Ford), 65, are entered in the event and will try once again to run side-by-side on a road course.
The Barretts were also entered earlier this year in Mexico City and Stan Barrett participated in practice. But it was ultimately decided that the elder Barrett -- who hadn't competed in NASCAR since 1990 -- would hold off until Montreal in order to gain more seat time.
Stan Barrett was the first man to exceed the speed of sound in a ground vehicle, reaching 739.666 mph in 1979. He started 19 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 1980-90 with two top-10 finishes. His son has over 150 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts and finished 17th in this race last year. Both are accomplished stuntmen and are credited with roles in some of Hollywood's top action movies.
Venezuelan Garcia Thanks The Fans
Alex Garcia (No. 98 Dixien/OmniSource Chevrolet) may be a native of Venezuela but will carry a distinctly French message on the rear deck lid of his car in Montreal. Garcia, who is a driver / owner, will sport a "Merci Fans!" message as he attempts to compete in his second series race this year.
Last year in Montreal, Garcia was running in the top 10 until engine failure relegated him to a 34th-place finish.
Bill France Performance Cup Standings
Last year's inaugural race in Montreal was a strong event for all manufacturers but Toyota.
Chevrolet won and put four cars in the top 10. Ford had three top-10 finishes and Dodge won the pole and was runner-up in the race.
Toyota had one top-10 finish last year. But beware -- it also had one top-10 finish on its most recent road course race last April in Mexico City where Toyota won.
Up Next: Zippo 200 @ Watkins Glen International
The third and final road-course race of the season awaits the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen on Saturday, Aug. 9.
ABC will also broadcast its final series race of the year beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Kevin Harvick won in 2007 while Kurt Busch claimed his second consecutive pole, tying him with Terry Labonte and Ron Fellows as the all-time leader.
Labonte is the all-time series wins leader at The Glen with four.
The Race: NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge
The Place: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The Date: Saturday, Aug. 2
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200.9 miles / 74 laps
Track Size: 2.710-mile road course
2007 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2007 Pole: Patrick Carpentier
Friday--Practice, 10:45 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m.; Final Practice, 2 -- 3:25 p.m.
Saturday--Qualifying, 12:10 p.m. (NASCAR Road Course Qualifying)