Watkins Glen: Ron Fellows race report

Fellows Finishes Fourth at Watkins Glen Ron Fellows overcame a costly pit-road speeding penalty en route to a fourth-place finish at Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Centurion Boats at the Glen, giving the No. 96 DLP® HDTV Chevrolet for...

Fellows Finishes Fourth at Watkins Glen

Ron Fellows overcame a costly pit-road speeding penalty en route to a fourth-place finish at Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Centurion Boats at the Glen, giving the No. 96 DLP® HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing its best finish in 14 months and its second-ever top-five result.

Fellows, the Canadian road-course specialist sitting in for regular driver Tony Raines for the second time this season, came from far back in the pack twice during today's 90-lap event around the 2.45-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Raceway circuit. It gave the No. 96 DLP® HDTV team its best finish since Terry Labonte came home in third place in June 2006 on the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif.

Fellows started 26th on a grid set by owner points after Friday's qualifying session was rained out, foiling the team's hopes of starting at the front of the pack after Fellows posted the third-fastest practice time to open the weekend. Nonetheless, Fellows made full use of his stout racing machine to march toward the front from the start, and was able to avoid several on-track melees in the process. He picked up four spots on the very first tour of the circuit and never looked back, cracking the top-20 by Lap 3, the top-15 by Lap 13, and he found himself within one spot of the top-10 when the second caution period of the day came out on Lap 22.

On the first pit stop of the day, crew chief Brandon Thomas called for four tires and fuel and pressure adjustments on both rear tires to correct a slightly loose condition exiting the fast, sweeping turns, particularly the final one leading onto the front straight. After the pit work was complete, Fellows was blocked into his pit box briefly by Bobby Labonte and resumed in 28th when the race went back to green on Lap 25. Again, the Canadian meticulously picked off car after car, working his way back up to seventh when the caution came out again shortly after the race's midpoint on Lap 52, setting the stage for the day's second and final pit stop.

When Fellows and the lead pack pulled onto pit road on Lap 53, NASCAR officials ruled he was more than 5 mph over the 35-mph pit road speed limit, based on their scoring loop data, sending Fellows to the end of the line of lead-lap cars on the Lap-54 restart in 40th position.

"I don't understand it because I was following (Juan) Montoya, and I looked at my tack and saw we were doing 3,500 (rpm) in first gear, and pit road speed was 3,900," Fellows said. "So I don't know if they got the wrong guy, or what. We were stacked up. We were running decently at that point, so it's just a shame that we didn't continue to hang with those guys. I don't know what happened, but they called us out. But it is what it is and we were fortunate to go on and get a top-five."

From the 40th position, Fellows again mounted a determined drive to the front -- his best of the day -- which saw him back in the top-10 when the race was red-flagged on Lap 75 in the aftermath of a multi-car pileup in Turn 1. The final 13 laps after the Lap-77 restart saw the day's most eventful moments unfold in front of Fellows as he continued moving forward.

He passed Greg Biffle for ninth on Lap 78, and Matt Kenseth for eighth before the yellow came out a final time on Lap 80. During the final eight laps, all run under green, Fellows got by Martin Truex, Jr., for seventh and Robby Gordon for sixth and was in hot pursuit of Jimmie Johnson for fifth with four laps to go. That time wasn't sufficient to enable Fellows to catch Johnson. But leader Jeff Gordon spun in Turn 1 on the next-to-last lap to put Fellows in the top-five, and then-second-place Carl Edwards spun while chasing new leader and eventual race-winner Tony Stewart on the final lap, moving him up to his finishing position of fourth.

"It's awesome," said Fellows of his finish. "We continued to step on our own toes, but Brandon Thomas and all the guys here at Hall of Fame Racing did such a great job. I want to thank everyone at Texas Instruments DLP HDTV brand, along with Bill Saunders (general and managing partner) for giving me this opportunity. And Tony Raines, as well. Tony was up in the esses spotting for me. I really enjoy working with all of these great people.

"I wish we would've had five more laps today, and I really wish I could get to race next week. I don't know if we had enough speed for Tony Stewart, but we were certainly potentially a second-place car. Track position is what cost us a chance for the win. But we passed a lot of cars and the car was good. It was fun. Everything was perfect. At the end, I was disappointed because we were running our quickest laps of the day and just ran out of time."

The fourth-place finish was Fellows' third career Nextel Cup top-five in 17 starts, the previous two both being runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen in 1999 and 2004.

The No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet is now 22nd in the Nextel Cup Series owner standings with 2,000 points.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Aug. 19 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.

-credit: hofr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon , Ron Fellows , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards
Teams Hall of Fame Racing