Just about everybody competing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series considers J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge to be a nice guy and a clean racer.
IndyCar star Alex Tagliani, talking about racing against Fitzpatrick at Circuit ICAR three weeks ago, stressed again and again how much of a pleasure it was to do battle with him because he was always fair.
Sunday, at the conclusion of the Canadian Tire Series' Vortex Brake Pads 200 at Mosport, winner D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas went on and on about second-place finisher Fitzpatrick’s talent and good nature.
“I had a good run with J.R. and obviously he’s one of the best in Canada,” said Kennington. “He raced me clean. He could have moved me out of the way there at the end but he knows I’d do the same for him (hold off from hitting him).
“I don’t know how J.R. does it. He goes on the edge every lap. He never lifted once.”
Which is all very well and good, but you wonder if Fitzpatrick could win more if he, perhaps, wasn’t so nice.
For instance, he was furious at third-place finisher Robin Buck when he climbed out of his car at the end of the race but, after blowing off a little steam, he was his usual, philosophical, 23-year-old self.
“Everybody’s goin’ hard out there,” he said. “Everybody’s trying. He’s a part-timer and if he wants to try and wreck people who are going for the championship, well, that’s his business, I guess. Not much I can do about it.”
Fitzpatrick was more concerned about what he suspects might be differences in motors in the series.
“This is a spec motor series and we’re gettin’ killed," he said. "It’s ridiculous.”
It was a thrilling finish to what had not been a particularly good race. Kennington took the lead from Fitzpatrick on the second-to-last lap of the 51-lap contest, which was interrupted so often by yellow flags (six) that 21 laps were run under caution, and held it to the finish.
He crossed the finish line an eyelash in front of Fitzpatrick, who was a half-car length in front of Buck at the checkers.
Fitzpatrick led the race for 19 laps, while Buck was in front for 15. Kennington took the lead on lap 50 and was in front for the final two.
Fitzpatrick, who finished ninth in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., Saturday, was racing on only two hours’ sleep, which might have explained some of his grumpiness.
He drove to Chicago from rural Wisconsin Saturday night, arriving near midnight, checked into a hotel, then was up at 3 a.m. to drive to O’Hare Airport for a 6 a.m. flight to Toronto. He arrived at Mosport at 10 a.m., with minutes to spare before the drivers’ meeting.
As a result, he was allowed to start third. Qualifying had been rained out on Saturday and the starting field was determined by points. There was some question that Fitzpatrick might have had to start at the back but, in the end, he went off third.
Buck made the biggest advance during the race, starting 22nd and finishing third.
Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was fourth, Scott Steckly of Milverton was fifth, Jason White of Sun Peaks, B.C.. finished sixth, Dexter Stacey of Kahnawake, Que., was seventh, Isabelle Tremblay of St. Hippolyte, Que., finished eighth, Howie Scannel Jr., of Milton, was ninth and Joey McColm of Ajax was tenth in the 26-car field.
Kennington last won a race on the road course at Mosport 10 years ago under the CASCAR sanction. One of the drivers he defeated was John Fitzpatrick, J.R.’s father.
The next Canadian Tire series race will be at the Honda Indy Toronto in two weeks.
Kurt Busch wins rough Sprint Cup race
If people who saw the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America on Saturday thought there was some rough racing in that one, it didn’t have anything on the shenanigans that went on in California Sunday.
When the smoke cleared at Infineon Raceway, Kurt Busch was the winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 with Jeff Gordon second and Carl Edwards third.
Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano (it’s about time he had a top ten finish), Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top ten.
But there was more than a little bashin’ and crashin’ going on out there and we’ll get to that in a moment.
Now, anybody who was paying attention knew the Nationwide Series race Saturday finished under controversy (see post below explaining how Mississauga’s Ron Fellows was robbed of victory). What isn’t as well known is that there were threats of bodily harm levelled after that race against Canadian ex-Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, who ticked off more than a few other drivers.
On a late-race restart, Villeneuve somehow went off-track and onto the grass and, in trying to slip back into line, he managed to crash into at least three other cars, sending one being driven by Max Papis off course and into a tire wall.
“Congratulations, Jacques. Well done,” the sarcastic Papis said over the radio to his team.
Following the checkered flag (Villeneuve officially finished third in the race, behind the second-place Fellows; Reed Sorenson was declared the winner after a review), Papis stopped his car in the pits beside Villeneuve’s (which was already a little banged up as the result of salutes he received from other drivers on his way back to the pits) and exchanged pleasantries, including a suggestion that if he did something like that again, he would regret it.
Villeneuve remained in his car (smart lad) and refused to be drawn into a discussion, other than to suggest to reporters later that he’d been going so fast that he hadn’t noticed the track narrowing and that’s why he was on the grass and that’s why he lost control and that’s why he crashed into some of the cars that he hit.
Okay . . .
At Infineon, Juan Pablo Montoya was doing his usual imitation of a battering ram, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was caught up in more than a few “tradin’ paint” sessions. The most serious incident, or incidents, however, involved a game of “take this” (Tony Stewart) and “take that” (Brian Vickers).
Stewart said Vickers was blocking him so he ran into the back of Vickers and turned him around. Awhile later, Vickers let Stewart pass him and then, catching up, rammed him into a tire wall.
Nothing subtle about that little bit of payback.
Both those guys should take a pill. Stewart is fighting to make the Chase and has to finish races, not get caught up in the nonsense. And Vickers will be out of a job at the end of the season if the Red Bull Cup team shuts down, as has been announced, so is auditioning for employment.
Car owners are not amused by people who lose their tempers. They like guys like Johnson, who’s won five straight championships and is easy on the equipment and doesn’t lose his cool.
Stewart and Johnson would both be wise to emulate Johnson, rather than some of the losers out there.
– Richard Boake of King City won both rounds of the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship at Mosport at the weekend. While Dean Fantin of Amherstburg was second in both races, Sasha Anis of Mississauga was third on Saturday while Arek Wojciechowski of Ottawa finished third Sunday. All were in the Super Touring Class. P.J. Groenke of Toronto won the Touring Class race both Saturday and Sunday. . .
– Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett won the Grand Am Rolex Series race at Road America. The AIM Autosport of Woodbridge entry of Mark Wilkins and Burt Frisselle finished well down the grid after qualifying fourth.
Mike Forest of Edmonton finished fourth, co-driving with Ryan Dalziel. Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto, with Bill Auberlen, was 18th driving in the GT class. . .
– Gord Bentley of Vancouver and Andrew Novich of Novato, Calif., driving for Karl Thomson of Toronto’s Compass 360 Racing Team, won the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Road America.
Dalla Lana of Toronto (driving again with Auberlen) was tenth while Scott Maxwell of Toronto and Joe Foster finished 11th driving for Multimatic Motorsports of Markham. Daniel DiLeo of Uxbridge finished 15th; Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster was 42nd.