Differing Days for JR Motorsports Teams in Canadian Crash-fest
MONTREAL, (Aug. 30, 2009) - NASCAR’s third venture onto Canadian soil was one of cautions, crashes and carnage, as it featured a record 11 yellow flags, one red-flag period to equip cars with rain tires, and a shocking finale to a wet and wild NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Brad Keselowski in the No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet survived it all to finish fifth, although not without his own excursions. It was Keselowski’s fifth top-five in the last six races. Defending race winner Ron Fellows, driving the No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet for the second time this year, had his chances of repeating dashed early when Justin Allgaier bounced his No. 12 Dodge off several cars in a bonsai move that didn’t work. The damage to the No. 5 was terminal, and Fellows finished 35th. Marcos Ambrose started from the pole and dominated by leading 60 of 76 laps, but a costly mistake on the final turn on the final lap allowed Carl Edwards to make a pass and score his third victory of the season. Until then, Ambrose had comfortably maintained the lead despite four double-file restarts in the final 12 laps. Canadian Andrew Ranger finished third followed by 1995 Indy 500 and 1997 Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve in fourth.
No. 5 Fastenal Team / Fellows
Start – 3rd / Finish – 35th / Laps Led – 0 / Points – 58 / Point Standings – 31st
Until the incident on lap 26 in which Allgaier drove his Dodge too deep into a sharp turn to the point of losing control, things were falling into place well for Fellows and the Fastenal team.
Starting third, Fellows moved to second on the very first lap with a swift pass of Edwards. From there, yellow flags waved frequently. Fellows was one of only a handful of drivers to receive pit service on lap four, with special attention given to the front valance that was damaged during Saturday’s time trials. With a repaired valance, he restarted 36th.
From there Fellows began a methodical climb up the leaderboard. He eclipsed 12 positions in four laps, and by staying out under a competition caution on lap 10, he shuffled to 13th.
Not even a quarter of the way through the race, fuel strategy became imminent, as crew chief Brian Campe called Fellows back in for fuel on lap 16. This allowed the team to make it the rest of the way on only one more stop. With a full tank of gas and strategy falling into place, Fellows raced up to eighth while managing to narrowly miss the wrecking car of Alex Tagliani on lap 23.
Three laps later, it went for naught. On a lap-26 restart, the field successfully raced to the back half of the course. But while entering turn nine, 11th-place Allgaier carried too much speed into the sharp right-hander, sending his car wheel-hopping across the curbing out of control. He barreled into the No. 5 Chevy and also collected the No. 18 of Kyle Busch. The day was over for the Fastenal team.
“We’re not even halfway (through the race),” said a dejected Fellows. “This is crazy. This thing is wrecked. These road races for me are my Daytona 500s. But we will be back. I just love working with these guys. To Dale Jr and Mr. (Rick) Hendrick, thank you very much.”
No. 88 GoDaddy.com Team / Keselowski
Start – 19th / Finish – 5th / Laps Led – 0 / Points – 155 / Point Standings – 3rd
Under the constant threat of rain, Keselowski made an incredible comeback to finish fifth after spinning twice. Keselowski took the green flag in the 19th position and quickly radioed to the crew that the car was loose. Because qualifying was done in the rain the day before, NASCAR called a competition caution on lap 10, and Keselowski came to pit road for service. He restarted 24th on lap 13.
By lap 22, Keselowski had moved the GoDaddy.com Chevy into the seventh position. But as he was coming around to take turn six of the 15-turn road course, he lost control of the car and spun. Fortunately, no contact was made. After a pit stop, he restarted in 27th.
Keselowski would spin one more time on lap 32 in the hairpin turn. Again, no contact was made, but he lost valuable track position and dropped to 34th. Keselowski began to work his way back to the front. As pit stops began to cycle through, Keselowski got the break he was looking for – a timely caution on lap 49. The team was scored in the 15th position.
During a lap-54 caution, the rain began to fall. NASCAR called the teams down pit road and gave them five minutes to make their cars “rain ready” which included rain tires and a windshield wiper. They were also permitted to make adjustments to the car in the time remaining.
The field took the green flag on lap 63 and Keselowski, in ninth place, continued to move forward. Four more cautions would plague the final nine laps. When the field took the green on lap 74 for a green-white-checkered finish, Keselowski was in the sixth spot. He made contact with another competitor going into turns one and two causing a tire rub. Fortunately, the tire held out through the final two laps and Keselowski finished the race fifth for his fourth top-five finish in the month of August.
“What a race,” Keselowski said. “I am so fortunate to come away from this thing with a top-five finish. There was so much beating and banging going on here, you’d never think we were at a road course. It was more like Bristol out there! My guys did a great job today, just continuing to work on this GoDaddy.com Chevy to help me turn better. This finish is definitely the result of a total team effort.”
The month of August has been good to Keselowski having earned two wins, four top-fives, five top-10s and one pole award. The finish in Montreal brings his total to 14 top-fives and 19 top-10s on the season. This means that Keselowski has finished in the top-10 in 76 percent of the races this season. The Montreal finish continues Keselowski’s success at road courses having already earned a top-10 finish at Watkins Glen earlier this season.