Go Canada Racing team owner Steve Meehan and Michael (Pinball) Clemons with the race car.
Lots of racing going on this weekend. Here’s some info you’ll need to plan, but first . . .
J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge will be driving the No. 67 Go Canada Racing Ford in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen and instead of corporate logos on the car there will be several promoting charities.
Canadian businessman Steve Meehan, who owns the team, is using the race car to drive awareness and raise funds for charitable causes not only at the Glen this weekend but at Montreal next week when the Go Canada team will compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
Fitzpatrick’s car at both races will be decked out with logos for the Michael (Pinball) Clemons Foundation (MPCF) and the Rally for Kids with Cancer Scavenger Cup in support of SickKids Foundation.
Said Meehan: “The NASCAR team is a great way to raise funds and awareness for good causes. Given the huge popularity of NASCAR in Canada and the potential exposure a team can receive, it creates a great opportunity to help other organizations and inspire others to be philanthropic in their community.”
Sad news. One of the founders of the Deutscher Automobil Club and a sports car racer in his own right back in the Fifties and Sixties, Rudolf (Rudy) Mueller, died on Monday and his funeral is planned for today (Friday) at noon at the Marshall Funeral Home, 10366 Yonge St., Richmond Hill. He leaves his daughter Margaret and his brother Inge. He was predeceased by his wife, Norma. Rudy, who’ll be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, was 77. A trophy honouring the DAC Women’s Champion is named for him.
Okay, the racing.
As mentioned, Fitzpatrick will be driving the 67 car in the Nationwide race Saturday afternoon (pre-race show at 1 on TSN2, with the race to follow at 2). Ron Fellows will be partnering Jimmie Johnson on Dale Jr.’s JR Motorsports team. Said Fellows this week about driving the 5 car at the Glen:
“You can bet our Canadian Tire team will be ready to go this weekend. We came so close to winning at Road America. It was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone after that race. As a racer, it’s so difficult to have the win seemingly in your grasp and then be told you’re runner-up instead. And unfortunately, there is no trophy for second place. So we’ve got a lot of motivation on our side heading up to Watkins Glen.
“I’m confident in this team. I’m thrilled to be back with (crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. and all these guys. Their hard work and dedication showed when we unloaded at Road America as fast as we were. I know they’ll do the same this week at the Glen.”
By the way, Brad Keselowski’s injured ankle is still hurting him, so he’s stepped out of his Penske Racing ride in the Nationwide race and will be replaced by Kurt Busch.
That puts Kurt Busch and Johnson on the track together for the first time since their little dust-up on the final lap at Pocono last weekend, following which there were angry words exchanged.
As someone wrote in the last day or two, this could set up a little joust in which these guys can “have at it” without worrying about being penalized and losing points in the Sprint Cup series.
In any event, Fellows, second Canadian Andrew Ranger and all the Cup regulars in addition to Busch the Elder and Johnson will be lining up for the Sprint Cup race at the Glen that will go at 1 on Sunday on TSN2 with the pre-race show coming on at noon.
Tony Stewart – who says he’s broken up with his girlfriend, sprint car driver Jessica Zemken – has won this race at the Glen about six times, so I suggest he could be a favourite.
If you’re interested in watching practice and qualifying in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series, all of which are on Speed TV, go to www.racefantv.ca for the schedule of times. Oh, and by the way: the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race from Watkins Glen can be seen on Speed at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Later on Sunday at 4 p.m. on TSN2 (unless the Cup race goes late), the IZOD IndyCar Series return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be covered and it’s great to see James Hinchcliffe’s name on the entry list. For a rookie, he does pretty well on ovals: he finished seventh in Iowa and sixth at Milwaukee.
Having said that, IndyCar hasn’t raced at New Hampshire for eons and Hinchcliffe hasn’t even seen the place. Ergo, he was planning to watch some old videos of races there (I would suggest the ’93 duel between Paul Tracy and Nigel Mansell as one place to start).
“Certainly old videos help a lot,” Hinchcliffe said. “They give you a sense of what the place looks like from onboard and also the old race footage can teach you a little bit about how the track races. I wish I had a simulator that had this track! That would help a ton!”
A big field – 27 cars – will take the green flag for that New Hampshire race. Besides Hinchcliffe, Alex Tagliani is the other Canada entered.
One quick thing before we go. Sprint Car racing’s biggest show, the Knoxville Nationals, are on this weekend but for the second year in a row there is no live TV coverage.
The people who run the Nationals noticed several years ago that crowds were declining and reacted by taking the live show off TV but showing the Saturday night final heats and the A Main a couple of weeks later.
For the sake of a couple of thousand tickets sold (the place is still pretty much packed for the Nationals), a potential TV audience of millions is blacked out.
If I’m a sponsor of World of Outlaws sprint car racing, I’m not happy.
And regardless of how terrific a race (or the racing) might be, I do not watch something that is two or three weeks old, whether it’s baseball, hockey, football or auto racing.
The folks who produce tape-delay events always seem to be able to come up with glowing viewership numbers and I’ve never been able to figure that out. I could understand it in 1991 but in 2011, forget it.