Name It, Probably Seen It In Montreal
In the four previous races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the 2.710-mile, 14-turn course set on the man-made Isle de Notre Dame just outside Montreal, bizarre and exciting finishes have become the norm.
Last year, Boris Said edged Max Papis in a photo finish for his first series victory. The .012 margin of victory is the sixth-closest in series history and was the third among four races there to have an MOV of under a half second. Said returns this year in the No. 30 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports.
Carl Edwards’ win in 2009 came after a race started in dry conditions, then a switch to rain equipment before a finish on a dry track that featured Edwards clearing Marcos Ambrose on the final turn of the last lap. Edwards returns, as does Ambrose, who leads all drivers with two poles and 149 laps led at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Ambrose, driving the No. 9 for Richard Petty Motorsports, has vowed to compete at Montreal until he wins this race.
Canadian Ron Fellows won on his home soil in the rain-shortened event in 2008. History was made when teams bolted on rain tires, donned a windshield wiper or Rain-X and a brake light strip – the first NASCAR national series points race run in the rain – but deep puddles due to the driving rain forced the finish to end under caution.
Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick won the inaugural event in 2007, but Robby Gordon thought otherwise. Gordon had bumped, then passed Ambrose under caution late in the event and failed to blend back in, bringing out a black flag from NASCAR. Gordon kept pushing through the end of the race and joined Harvick – and Quebec’s Patrick Carpentier – in a donut-fest on the frontstretch. Harvick and Gordon celebrating, thinking each had won the race and Carpentier elated over what he assumed was a second-place finish from the pole. Harvick was declared the winner, Carpentier – who will retire from racing after Saturday’s event – was indeed second and Gordon, still steaming over the result to this day, was relegated to 18th. Gordon will be back this year, too.
Star Power Personified
The Montreal entry list reads like a motorsports’ who’s who.
There are the top series regulars, led by points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He’s the lone driver among the top three in the standings – second-place Reed Sorenson (-10) and third-place Elliott Sadler (-24) – who has run at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, finishing 24th last year.
Danica Patrick returns to series competition, making her stock-car debut on a road course. This will be her first series race since July at Daytona, where she finished 10th. Another former open-wheel racer, Scott Speed, will make his first series start since 2009, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Double-duty drivers include Marcos Ambrose, Monday’s winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, 2007 series champion Carl Edwards, Robby Gordon and Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner.
Canadian hopefuls include Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier, Andrew Ranger, JR Fitzpatrick, Ron Fellows and Maryeve Dufault. Should Dufault, Patrick and Jennifer Jo Cobb make the race it would mark the first time three women have started a NASCAR race at the track. Two of Villeneuve’s three career top-five finishes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series have come at this track, which bears his father’s name. No shortage of drama there.
Additionally a couple of NASCAR K&N Pro Series drivers are entered. Jason Bowles, the 2009 West champion, is in a third car for Rusty Wallace Racing. It’s also his third road-course race this year for RWR. Luis Martinez Jr., currently third in the West standings, is entered in the No. 39 Ford for Go Green Racing. He made his series debut in May at Iowa.
Subs for double-duty drivers, who won’t arrive at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from Michigan until Saturday, include Michel Jourdain Jr. for Trevor Bayne; Billy Johnson, a Roush Fenway Racing GRAND-AM driver, for Carl Edwards and Owen Kelly, a fellow Tasmanian, for Marcos Ambrose. … Team owner Steve Meehan has turned his Go Canada Racing team into a vehicle to drive awareness and raise funds for charitable causes with a series of initiatives. At Montreal, the hometown No. 67 Go Canada Racing Ford will don logos for both the Michael 'Pinball' Clemons Foundation (MPCF) and the Rally for Kids with Cancer Scavenger Cup in support of SickKids Foundation.