Toronto Al Turner building on history-making season

TORONTO, ON - Al Turner is accustomed to driving in Toronto traffic as he commutes to the city each day for his job as a firefighter in the city's north end. On Saturday afternoon, the Barrie, ON resident hopes to show off his skills and blaze...

TORONTO, ON - Al Turner is accustomed to driving in Toronto traffic as he commutes to the city each day for his job as a firefighter in the city's north end. On Saturday afternoon, the Barrie, ON resident hopes to show off his skills and blaze his way to the front of the pack at the CASCAR Castrol Exide 99 Street Fight; part of the Molson Indy Weekend in Toronto.

A win at the Indy would be just what the doctor ordered in a history-making season for Turner, who became the first ever racer to collect a CASCAR feature victory in an Intrepid. Turner made the car sing in its debut event; the season opening Mopar Parts 250 at Delaware Speedway Park, on the May long weekend. "To win at the Mopar race, that was a big day," smiles Turner, when recalling that exciting day.

The CASCAR veteran enjoyed the win so much, in fact, that he went out and won again in the second race of the season, two weeks later, at Cayuga Speedway, near Hamilton, ON. Another victory, on June 25 at New Brunswick Int'l Speedway (Fredericton, NB), bumped Turner's 'win' total to three, in six events, as the series takes to the streets of Toronto for Saturday's first road course outing of the year for the CASCAR competitors.

Only a couple of unfortunate on-track incidents have kept Turner from running at the front in every event. Turner has cause to be feeling somewhat confident of his chances for victory in the Exide 99 Street Fight. In last year's inaugural CASCAR race on the temporary street circuit, Turner finished a close second to experienced road racer Robin Buck.

"We set the fastest lap of the race, three laps from the end in that one," recalls Turner. "I think we had Robin worried a bit. In terms of a Winston Cup parallel, Turner would have to be compared to Jeff Gordon, who also came from an oval racing background but has expanded his road racing skills as the series expanded beyond its short track roots.

"I love racing, oval or road course - there are certain people for whom it comes naturally," said Turner, of his strong recent showings in CASCAR road course events. "I picked it up as I went along. There are others, [Don] Thomson and [Peter] Gibbons; they haven't done many road courses either, I don't think. We're kind of in the same ballpark. We're racers, we love racing." Turner has to be included on anyone's list of favourites for the Exide 99 Street Fight on Saturday afternoon.

"I'd like to think we're a contender," said Turner. "We've done as much work as we possibly can on the road course car. If we get some breaks, we'll be there. There's an awful lot of pressure on Robin [Buck]." Like most of the racers, Turner has been kept busy in the days leading up to the Exide 99 Street Fight with car preparation and sponsor relation duties. He has carved out a successful and mutually beneficial relationship with his primary sponsor; Blue Streak. Turner is an integral part of the company's marketing efforts.

"We do a lot with Blue Streak all year long," said Turner. "We're going to have three cars here [at the Indy grounds]. One will be in the DaimlerChrysler booth, and we have a backup car as well." Turner says Blue Streak has 100 customers, from across the country, who will be taking in the race from their two pit hospitality suites.

CASCAR QUICK FACTS:

- The 30-minute practice session for the CASCAR drivers takes place Friday morning at 8 a.m. They return for their half-hour qualifying session at 5:45 p.m. The CASCAR paddock is located in the National Trade Centre, just inside of the Princes Gates. Fans are welcome to watch the teams prepare their cars for action on the Indy track. As well, many will have hero cards and posters available for those seeking autographs.

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Series NASCAR Canada
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Al Turner