SES: Fontaine takes first All Pro start at USA Speedway

Chris Fontaine put the Discount Auto Parts/Suntrust ...

Chris Fontaine put the Discount Auto Parts/Suntrust #46 NASCAR All Pro Monte Carlo on the starting grid in the 31st position for last Saturday's Discount Auto Parts 200 at his home track, Lakeland's USA Speedway. It was his first career start in a NASCAR All Pro event.

Chris was credited with a 26th place finish for the event, having completed 121 laps before being forced to retire for the evening with steering problems after getting in an accident on lap 71. The finish moves him up 4 spots in the 2001 NASCAR All Pro points race to 33rd.

The CJF Racing Team had worked long hours to prepare the car for the race, and had just finished installing the new Volunteer Performance built engine in the car at midnight the night before the race. Robbie White of Volunteer Performance of Tennessee was on hand to help out during the race, as was Derrick Kelly, Discount Auto Parts' Hooter's Cup Driver and his crewchief Jack Gagnon. The car breezed through tech without a hitch, and Chris was fourth in line to make his qualifying run. He turned a 21.881 on his second lap, good enough for 31st and only .653 from the pole in a very close field with less than a second separating 37 cars.

In the first few laps of the race Chris slid back a couple of spots while his tires were warming up, but by lap four he was beginning his charge, pressuring the car in front of him in the corners. The two dueled for several laps until Chris got by him in turn two to take the spot on lap 10. Two laps later, the car Chris had passed spun, bringing out the first caution. On the restart, Chris continued his charge, and passed two slower cars a few laps later. Several laps later, Chris passed a slower car on the front straight and then joined a train of four cars for the next several laps. The group played tag for the next few laps until the leaders began to lap them. Then on lap 71 going down the backstretch into turn three, the #18 who Chris had been pursuing, hit the brakes hard. Chris had nowhere to go with the wall on the left, and he turned right to avoid the #18 car, taking him right into the #54 car who was passing on the right. The two cars spun, bringing out the second caution. Once Chris got the #46 turned around he headed for the pits where the team quickly looked the car over to assess the damage and sent Chris back out.

The only apparent damage was a banged up fender, but on the restart, Chris had steering problems and brought the car in again. This time the pit crew did a more through inspection and attempted to fix the problem before a red flag came out because of another wreck. After the red flag, Chris was underway again. On the restart, Chris was at the back of the pack, but quickly passed two cars. Several laps later though, Chris had to battle to retain his position and overcome the car's handling problems. When another yellow came out, Chris pitted and the team tried putting new tires on, but when the strategy failed they had retire for the race.

Chris and the Discount Auto Parts/Suntrust #46 received a lot of prerace press, with mentions in several newspaper articles and NASCAR releases, and Chris was interviewed along with other All Pro drivers the morning before the race on WPCV radio. The #46 also carried the Discount Auto Parts in-car camera during the race.

The race was taped and will be televised on Fox Sports South TV and Sunshine Network TV in the coming weeks. Airtimes on Sunshine Network will be May 8, 7:30 PM, May 9 12:00 AM, May 17, 1:00 PM,. The next event for Gatorade All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring drivers will be the Ingles 200 on April 28 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Greenville, S. C.

-CJF-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Chris Fontaine