Fellows on sidelines as co-owner in Canada
August 28, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Fellows will be trading his race helment for his "Mayor of Mosports" hat this weekend
Ron Fellows held the unofficial title of “Mayor of Mosport” as a hometown favorite among drivers well before he took the official title of track co-owner two years ago.
On the cusp of the 2.459-mile road course hosting its first NASCAR national series event, the Windsor, Ontario native now finds his mayoral duties to be much broader.
“Yeah, every once in a while I guess you've got to stop and smell the coffee,” Fellows said Wednesday during a NASCAR teleconference. “But yes, we've made a lot of improvements, but I think we'll all rest a lot easier when we get to Sunday night and hopefully it's a great weekend, we get great attendance, and I think that's when we'll relax. Yes, we've come a long way when you look at the facility, but we want to continue to grow and move forward.”
The big leap forward comes this weekend when Canadian Tire Motorsports Park -- as Mosport is now known -- hosts the first international event for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). In breaking new ground at the Bowmanville, Ontario track, the series also marks its return to road course racing for the first time in 13 years.
Fellows was in the field for the truck series’ most recent road-course event, finishing third behind race winner Greg Biffle and runner-up Kurt Busch at Watkins Glen International on June 24, 2000. In the years that have followed, he’s seen the level of competition among NASCAR regulars on road circuits dramatically improve.
“In the first Cup race I did in I believe it was '98 in the Caterpillar car for Buz McCall, you could count on one hand pretty much who you were going to have to race against,” Fellows said. “Now you look at certainly in the Cup grid, I've been in that two-dozen group, and in Cup it's easily 26, 28 guys capable. There's just a lot more emphasis put on the racing in general, whether it's a road course, a short track, superspeedway, or mile-and-a-half. It just doesn't seem to matter. If you're good, you're going to be good at everything.
“I think that showed up a lot at the Nationwide race, as well, at Mid-Ohio. Yeah, we had a lot of practice; yes, the regulars got an opportunity to really do their thing; but it was painfully obvious that those guys are really good racers. And that's the way it is now. There's no weekends off, and a great racer is a great racer.”
When the green flag falls Sunday, Ron Hornaday Jr. will be the only driver in the field who has previously competed in a road-course event in the series. The 55-year-old veteran has done so with a modest dose of success, tying Joe Ruttman for the all-time series lead with three road-course wins.
Now nearly four years removed from the most recent of his record four truck championships and almost 14 years since his most recent road race in the series, Hornaday has his sights set on enjoying the moment, all while showing the road-race newbies a thing or two.
“The trucks haven't seen it in a while, and it's a lot of fun,” Hornaday said. “... Now going up to Canada is going to really make it special because we know the fans up therejust love racing. The trucks really put on a great show. When they run over the ripple strips, how heavy the trucks are, the tires come off the ground, just the sparks off the exhaust. It's just exciting to go to a road course.”
Four Camping World Truck Series regulars -- defending champion James Buescher, Jeb Burton, Ty Dillon and Chad Hackenbracht -- will be entered in the Sunday preliminary NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event, all as a means to gain more track time. When they get there, they’ll find a circuit that resembles the fast, sweeping nature of Watkins Glen more than it does the intricate, technical Sonoma Raceway.
Series leader Matt Crafton, who carries a 49-point lead over Buescher into the weekend, also took the opportunity to test a Canadian Tire Series car at the track earlier this season. His report from the Great White North: A tough, fast course with little margin for error.
“That track is really, really cool,” Crafton said post-race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Really look forward to going there. All we’ve got to do is keep all four tires on the black stuff, not on the green stuff -- just stay on the blacktop and we’ll be all right.”
The challenges for Fellows will be different this time around at Mosport, just more than an hour northeast of his Toronto-area stomping grounds. Instead of searching for passing zones and getting the most out of a race car this weekend, he’ll be wearing his mayor/promoter hat -- watching the weather, hoping for solid attendance and making sure everything goes smoothly.
“There were a few opportunities to race, but I just didn't feel like it's the right thing to do,” said Fellows, 53. “I've got more races behind me than in front of me, and it seemed like that inside the weekend I'd probably be thinking more about things relative to the promoter side of it rather than the racer side of it, so that was a relatively easy decision to make, and let's see what some of these young guns can do.”