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Spotlight: At WGI, Fellows tops the list of road ringers

August 11, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Road-course racing is supposed to be all about precision and balance, using the brakes, the accelerator and the steering wheel to wring the maximum performance out of the car. It's not supposed to be a contact sport, like hockey.

Tell that to Ron Fellows, a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, because most of the recent road races in the Nationwide Series have featured more rowdiness and roughness than a Stanley Cup final.

"I think one of the reasons we see this is partially because the cars are tougher than they've ever been," Fellows said. "You can see an awful lot of bumping and banging and they'll survive. I think that's probably the biggest factor -- you can get away with a lot more and not do anything serious damage to yourself."

"With the chassis setup, you try to focus on making the car work freely through the esses. If the car will work really well through the esses, it'll be fine everywhere else."


The race earlier this season at Road America was a perfect example, Fellows said.

"I think it was the second green-white attempt," he said. "I got hit on the other side of Turn 1, maybe twice or three times. There's not a lot of room between the grass and the concrete wall and I thought I was done.

"I got collected and managed to survive and I think I went from second to fifth. By the time we got to Turn 5, three guys went off in front of me and by the time we got to Turn 7, I was back the lead."

When it comes to road-course ringers -- those racing drivers who specialize in turning right as well as left -- Fellows is at the top. He's won three times in a Nationwide car at Watkins Glen, and even though he's retired from driving sports cars, he still enjoys getting to race stock cars a few times a year.

And one of his favorite tracks is Watkins Glen, because it fits his driving style.

"It's very similar to a track that I grew up racing on, which is Mosport," Fellows said. "Lots of fast corners, got some elevation change. It's a track [on] which I really enjoy driving.

"It's a road course with long, fast corners. It's a lot like some of the older tracks that were built in the '50s and early '60s, like Mosport, like Road America, they're awesome tracks."

Fellows, a native of Windsor, Ontario, started racing in go-karts, then in open-wheel Formula cars. But when the money ran out, he worked on gas pipelines for nine years. Given a second chance to make a first impression, Fellows did so in spectacular fashion, winning several SCCA titles and scoring 19 Trans-Am victories.

He made his Nationwide Series debut in 1997, and a year later, won at Watkins Glen while driving for Joe Nemechek. He followed that up with victories in 2000 and 2001. His secret? Trying not to get in trouble in the braking zones.

"Because the stock cars are so much about momentum, you've got to be careful in the braking zones because it's easy to get into axle hop and lose three or four tenths right there," Fellows said. "You've got to be careful to brake as late and as properly in the brake zone and make sure that you turn early, to carry as much speed as possible through the center of the corner and hit the wide-open throttle as quick as you can.

"With the chassis setup, you try to focus on making the car work freely through the esses. If the car will work really well through the esses, it'll be fine everywhere else."

This weekend, Fellows will try to "knock some of the rust off" when he climbs into Rick Hendrick's No. 5 Chevrolet.

"The first thing I have to tell myself when I step into a stock car is remember that these cars have awesome power and straight-line speed but they're on a 10-inch tire, don't have a lot of downforce and fairly limited braking, so passing is at a premium," Fellows said. "It's more about slowing down your mind to where if you're going faster than the car, you're not very productive. You've got to understand the car's limitations and maximize where to get speed from it."

Fellows thought he had a fifth Nationwide victory at Road America in June, when Justin Allgaier ran out of fuel on the final lap. But NASCAR officials ruled the caution had come out before Fellows passed Reed Sorenson, who slowed when he saw the yellow flag.

So in the final few laps at Watkins Glen, will we see a hockey game break out? Fellows doesn't think so, mainly because Watkins Glen is so much faster than some of the other road courses on which Fellows races.

"When you get a faster track, you get them more spread out," he said. "Going up the hill into Turn 1 at Infineon is slower than going through the esses at Watkins Glen."

When it comes to past performance at Watkins Glen, Ron Fellows is not just one of the guys.

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