TORONTO, ON - Last summer, when the CASCAR Castrol Super Series East took to the streets of Toronto for the first time ever, the majority of the 'experts' made the easy prediction; picking Robin Buck to win the inaugural Toronto Molson Indy CASCAR...
TORONTO, ON - Last summer, when the CASCAR Castrol Super Series East took to the streets of Toronto for the first time ever, the majority of the 'experts' made the easy prediction; picking Robin Buck to win the inaugural Toronto Molson Indy CASCAR event.
The Oakville, ON resident didn't disappoint. Dominating practice, qualifying and the race, the UAP/NAPA #66 Pontiac Grand Prix driver would not be denied in his quest for his first career CASCAR Super Series victory. The former CASCAR rookie of the year capitalized on his years of road racing experience and his knowledge of racing full-bodied stock cars. This year, almost all of Buck's rivals in his quest to return to victory lane at the Indy have a year's experience, at Toronto, under their belts. This means they have a better understanding of the track itself and a knowledge of the setups that will maximize their cars' performance for the Exide 99 Street Fight. The busy Toronto Indy schedule means that all of the racing divisions have limited track time, and those who 'roll off the trailer' with the best setups will have a definite edge in perfecting their chassis for Saturday's feature race.
But in spite of the progress the other contenders have shown, Buck has to be considered the favourite for victory in CASCAR's return visit to the temporary Toronto lakeshore circuit.
"You don't want to make any mistakes," said Buck, understating the obvious. The majority of the tight Indy circuit is ringed with heavy concrete blocks. "You'd like to prove everybody right [by winning]. There's obviously additional pressure when everybody picks you to win... especially your sponsors. There's a lot of hype behind such a big event." With the other racers being more prepared, Buck knows it won't be as easy to lead the way again. "I would think the guys will be more prepared, so we'll see. A lot of the top road course drivers now have purpose-built road racing cars. That should help them out quite a bit. We've got one now, too. Last year, we converted our old [oval] car."
In terms of his racing season to date, Buck has strung together some of the best oval results of his six-year CASCAR career. His third-place run at Cayuga Speedway, on June 4, was his best ever non-road course finish and he is solidly among the contenders for the CASCAR National Championship. The National title chase sees drivers add their two best 'regional' (East or West) oval results to their finishes in the four National rounds to determine the overall champion. And with two of those races (Edmonton City Centre Airport & Mosport Int'l Raceway) being held on road circuits, Buck's chances for attaining National supremacy are looking good.
The results "have been getting better for us. A lot of mechanical problems have hurt us," said Buck. "We're just getting all the pieces in place. The team is as good as it has ever been."
Like every other racer who is preparing for Saturday's Exide 99 Street Fight at the Indy, Buck is well into a busy schedule that will culminate with the most important race of the CASCAR season. There are many off-track appearances to satisfy fan, media and sponsor commitments. Simultaneously, Buck and his team are making last-minute preparations to get their car perfectly prepared for this all-important weekend.
Buck was featured on the Fram Speed Zone motorsport show on TSN last weekend and has several television and radio interviews scheduled for this week. The team has also scheduled a test session at Shannonville Motorsport Park, near Belleville, ON, for Wednesday. "We just want to do a good shakedown before the weekend," said Buck.
CASCAR QUICK FACTS:
- Veteran Kelly Williams is another CASCAR competitor with a busy media schedule during the days leading up to the Exide 99 Street Fight. Williams is going to appear on TSN's popular 'Off the Record' panel show, with Michael Landsberg, tonight (Tuesday) at 6 p.m.