Montreal, Quebec - Jason Bowles did everything he could Sunday at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to win the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Napa Auto 100. In a spectacular finish, Bowles dove beneath then-leader Andrew Ranger on the last lap in the ...
Montreal, Quebec - Jason Bowles did everything he could Sunday at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to win the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Napa Auto 100. In a spectacular finish, Bowles dove beneath then-leader Andrew Ranger on the last lap in the hairpin when Ranger left the door cracked open and seized the lead heading onto the final straightaway. But as Bowles had a two-car length lead going into the chicane for the final turn, Ranger piled into the back of his RaceWithRusty.com Toyota, sending Bowles into the tire barrier. Ranger then sped off for a questionable victory.
It was a stunning end to an otherwise successful weekend for Gaunt Brothers Racing. The team, including Jason, started the event with a total of 15 laps around the 2.71 mile road course. It was a small amount of time to find an enormous amount of speed, especially considering Ranger and Mosport winner JR Fitzpatrick combined had raced in 13 events on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Bowles was having to figure it out on the fly.
"The first time I saw this track was on Saturday morning in the pace car. It's like anything, we just had to work harder and be quick studies. There were a few tricky parts that I needed to figure out, but we had most of it covered by the end of practice," said Bowles prior to qualifying on Saturday.
Bowles went from being close to six seconds off the pace in early practice to qualifying third and coming within a few hundredths of a second of posting the race's fastest lap.
There was a strong fan showing for Sunday's events with the partisan French-Canadian crowd cheering for the local boy Ranger. When the green flag fell after an aborted start, Fitzpatrick quickly bowed out of the top-three fray with an axle problem. This left Ranger and Bowles primarily in line to fight for the win. The race was a short 23 laps or one hour long, whichever came first, so there would be no pit stops. Just a sprint to the end.
Ranger captured the lead and held the top spot for all but a lap or two at the start when Fitzpatrick passed him prior to his problems. Bowles played his strategy, which in part involved learning more about the track and where he could make up speed on Ranger.
Cautions were sprinkled throughout the race, culminating with the fifth of the day on lap 19 that would bring out a green-white-checker finish. The race had already eclipsed it's one-hour time window, but NASCAR was granted an extension and competitors were told there would be only one restart to decide the race. Bowles lined up outside Ranger for the restart. At the green Ranger pulled two car lengths on the No.11racewithrusty.com Toyota and held the advantage through the first lap.
As the two took the white flag, Bowles began to creep closer to Ranger and looked to make his move as they entered the hairpin.
"I had a run coming up through the esses there leading to the hairpin and had decided I was going to brake deeper there even on the lap before," said Bowles. "When I got in there, he left the door open a little bit and I stuck my nose in. He came over, we touched and it got him loose, just enough to let me by.
As Bowles left the hairpin, Ranger corrected and chased the No.11 machine down the back straight, albeit from a few car lengths behind.
"I knew going down the back straight he was going to try and out-brake me into the chicane, I just didn't know he was going to use me as his brakes. When I went in, I went in deeper there than I had all day and I left him the opportunity to out-brake me, but he was back I think a little too far to try that. So I guess he figured he had only one option and that was to pile-drive me and stick me in the fence. Everyone is going to talk about this for a long time. The reality is, if it were reversed he would have done the same thing to me in the hairpin, that was racing - he even said he was being conservative in that corner after the race. The difference is I wouldn't have done what he did in the last corner to him.
"At least just try and out-brake me, right? I didn't even really have a defensive line going in, he could have tried to out-brake me, blown the corner and gotten into me that way. Honestly, I would have been cool with that, I fully expected him to come back at me, that's just competitiveness. But he just showed what kind of racer he is though in outright taking me out. It's ok though, I'll be back next year and we'll go round two."
When Bowles and the No.11 Camry crossed the line after getting out of the tire barrier, the scoreboard showed a 20th-place finish. After finishing third at Mosport, and second at Toronto, Bowles was obviously hoping for that last step up on the podium in Montreal.
"Hey, we had a lot of fun coming to Canada and racing," Bowles said. "This team came a long way in a short amount of time, especially on the road racing side where they didn't have a lot of experience. It's too bad we don't have a couple more road races left to try and even the score, but John (Gaunt) can take over again and hopefully race it to the top in the last three races."
GBR takes to the track again in two weeks at the Barrie Speedway in Ontario. Barrie is John Gaunt's hometown and a track he owns multiple championships racing on over the years.
-source: jason bowles PR