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Alex Guenette Live: A NASCAR driver’s online diary

Published September 1, 2013

Quebec teen racing sensation Alex Guenette is doing double duty this weekend, driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the Canadian Tire Series stock car race. Wheels writer Matthew Strader is keeping an online diary of Guenette’s weekend. As is always the case, go to the bottom and read up.

It was a difficult finish for 17-year-old rookie Alex Guenette, but for a kid who was out to show what he could do against the big boys, he did just fine.

His Canadian Tire series race, where he is a rookie this year, was as messy and inconsistent as the race itself. Stop and go action with a lot of early cautions made for a poor early performance. His crew decided on a different strategy for his pit stops, he said, and made a critical error waiting until late in the race for good rubber.

“It was a late tire strategy, have the good tires at the end,” Guenette said. “And it didn’t work. We got burned when they ended the race early.”

The Canadian Tire series race was called with 12 laps left due to time constraints, no doubt so the NASCAR show didn’t miss its TV commitments. Guenette’s crew looked to be right with their gamble when he restarted at 28th after a late pit, and had moved to 18th in just five laps before they called the race.

Guenette would finish 18th.

“It was disappointing. We were excited about a good show, and it was a bad strategy,” he said.

Just an hour after his Canadian Tire series race, Guenette jumped into his No. 39 truck for his debut in the NASCAR Camping World truck series Chevrolet Silverado 250. Everything was looking right. In qualifying, Guenette spoke about wanting top 10, and had it in his grasp until his engine blew on lap 44 of 64.

“Frustrating for sure, we were lined up for a big day. I was driving good, we had a top 10 truck for sure, we could have ended well, and it didn’t happen.”

Guenette had an early fuel, late tire strategy for the truck race that was working well until something in his engine blew and ended his day.

He’s discouraged, but he knows he was running well.

“Running ninth in my first truck race, maybe finishing it in the top 10, that would have been really good,” he said.

A disappointing day, but a sign of things to come perhaps as Guenette hasn’t even turned 18.

“I wanted better for sure,” he said. “It’s frustrating to end the day like this.”

Something has blown in Guenette’s engine in his Camping World truck series debut, or at least that is what the driver is communicating to crew members right now. His crew chief said he won’t know until the vehicle is towed back in, but it looks like his day will end on Lap 44 of 64.

Guenette got it in himself without a tow, and the crew is scrambling to find the issue.

Alex Guenette waits until after Lap 33 for his first tire change.

Guenette stops for fuel on Lap 12.


After 10 laps, Alex Guenette is running 8th in the field, and his crew is happy without a tire change yet, but the rubber is on the walls and crew members are perched like hawks. A tire change is coming.

Fuel added in a short pit after the 12th lap. Guenette now 20th.

Guenette finished 18th in his Canadian Tire Series race after a late tire change stratgey backfired on his team. The race ended on a red with 12 laps cut off the end, and Alex didn’t have time to capitalize on the new tires.

The stock car race is over and Alex officially finished 18th. It could have been better, but it could have been worse. The race was stopped early because of a bad accident and time constraints or else Alex might have been able to pick up a few more spots. But now, attention turns to the trucks race that will get the green flag before 2 p.m.

Guenette’s tire change went well.  The fuel stop not as well. The crew is happy with the tires and joking after the stop. We’ll find out what place Guenette is in after all the cars are out.

Guenette’s rookie of the year rival, Ryley Siebert, is out.

Guenette's team is cool, collected and prepared. They are expecting a very competitive race.

Fast track will be hard climb

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is a fast track. So climbing the ladder will mean 17-year-old rookie Alex Guenette will have to push a little bit harder to gain on the field after qualifying 16th on Saturday.

“It’s a track where some teams don’t have a lot of spotters, so you can get away with some surprise moves, surprise some people, but everyone’s going fast, so it’ll be tough,” Guenette said.

The 17-year old rookie is going to try to make a quick move out of the gates, with what he hopes is a faster car than during his qualifying run.

“A few flags will be nice, but I’m ready to race hard and it’s a long race.”

Crew chief Mike Knott (middle) and crew members doing some last minute work on Saturday afternoon, prior to qualifying.

Fluids and spindles

It’s half an hour to ignition for the Canadian Tire Series race and Alex Guenette is thinking about fluids, while his crew is happy with last-minute  repairs performed Saturday night to get the car back that practiced third, instead of the one that qualified 16th.

“We had the bearings run hot in one wheel, and had a crack in a spindle,” said crew chief Mike Knott. The No. 39 car ran third in practice in the morning, and the anticipation for Sunday’s race was palpable as Guenette’s team buzzed about the 17-year-old rookie’s speed. But the cracked spindle had to be replaced at the last second before qualifying and the crew didn’t have time to set it up perfectly, causing Guenette to qualify in a slower ride, and end up 16th.

That won’t be an issue on Sunday, Knott said.

“We’re back to the way we were,” he said. “The car’s faster now than what it was in qualifying. I think we’ll be able to get inside the top 10, and if everything goes right, top five.”

Knott said the Canadian Tire series is a race that forces drivers to push hard the entire time. His car is ready for it.

“In these cars, if you’re on a green flag run for a long time, you’ve got to be ready to push hard the whole race. These are good drivers, and you’ve got to keep up.”

Guenette's Canadian Tire series No. 39 car waiting in queue on Sunday morning for inspection.

It’s Sunday morning.

Alex Guenette’s engine has already started.

He’ll race twice today – first in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock cars and later in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

His walk is laced with childlike enthusiasm, his smile infectious. He’s excited. It’s the moment every driver craves. The anticipation has every nerve strung wire tight, ready to explode upon ignition.

Guenette doesn’t have any pre-race rituals, just a good old Canadian tradition.

“This morning it was an egg sandwich,” he said. “It’s usually just whatever I can get from Tim Hortons.”

Superstitions or rituals, he hasn’t built any into his core routine yet. But fans may notice him constantly drumming his steering wheel pre-practice, and pre-race.

“Yeah, it’s not any particular song in my head. I like to drum beats while I’m waiting, just any beats. It gets me going.”

Physically, he will stretch a lot. Still 17, his shoulders are lithe, and not very strong.

“I have weak shoulders,” he said. “With the shifting and movement, I can get sore easy, so I like a good strong stretch before the race.”

Drumming out a good beat will at least help keep those shoulder warm.

 This is from Saturday

Something was up with the car, and a few nerves stole some tenths in the truck, but Alex Guenette is still pumped for race day Sunday.

“There was something with the car, I don’t know what, but we were slower than we were in the morning.”

Guenette qualified 16th for the Canadian Tire series stock car race and 14th for the Camping World truck series race.

It was a long day, he said, with a lot of track time and very little down time.

“The races are long, but we don’t have near as much track time tomorrow, so it should be better,” Guenette said.

The 17-year-old rookie said a mistake on a key turn screwed up his time in the truck qualifying, but he had a laugh after, because hey, he agreed, get the nerves out during practice and steel them for the big show.

“That’s true, it’s going to be better now that I’ve been out there.”

Whispers of steering issues came out of his Canadian Tire series paddock, but the crew was tight lipped as they went to work putting car and tires away under the close watch of NASCAR officials.

Guenette is confident things will be fine.

“They’ll get it fixed, we’ll be fast again.”

Overall, it was a hectic day, but the Quebec kid wouldn’t make excuses.

“We should have been faster today, it should have been a faster day. Tomorrow will be better.”

On to tomorrow, then.

A moment to reflect on what's gone before and what is about to come.

Alex pulls into line before qualifying for the trucks race.

.The Canadian Tire Series qualifying is over and Alex has qualified 16th in the 36-car field. Not bad, but perhaps not as good as had been hoped for – and anticipated.

Alex Guenette goes out on the circuit to qualify for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock car race.

The yellow caution flag for an accident in Turn One (Joey McCollm went into the tires) puts qualifying on pause and gives Guenette a break.

.

A last-second strategy session before qualifying.

After truck practice and after a nap, Guenette's car is prepared for qualifying by Dave Jacombs's crew.

This could have been big trouble.

The risk of the sport on display

The right front spindle on Guenette’s car was cracked. Thanks to an intrepid crew doing a bearing check, the crack was found before the qualifying laps. This guy breaks, and Guenette loses his right front tire out on the track.

A big, phew!, moment in the pits.

Grandpa Jacques Guenette (right) talks with team PR rep Marc Cantin.

Grandpa’s impressed and that’s a good day

Guenette is parked now, catching some needed z’s before qualifying for the Canadian Tire Series 4 p.m.

But the mood around his paddock’s is filled with adrenaline and excitement.

There have been some drop offs in his practicing times, but the 17-year-old rookie continues to put on a show, even for those who know him best.

“When the stage gets bigger, he steps up to the moment,” said Grandpa Jacques Guenette. “Alex is always full of surprises. When you think the step is a bit high, he impresses you.”

Grandpa Jacques said the Saturday practices have gone way beyond anyone’s expectations. A rookie in the Canadian Tire Series, and a first timer in the Camping World truck series, the double up on this Labor Day weekend was supposed to be an overwhelming moment for Alex. And it simply hasn’t been.

“On good rubber, he posted third times in this (truck) and he’s posted third in the car already too. He’s running really good.”

Jacques said the family didn’t know what to expect, but is learning quickly just to expect their young racer to meet anyone on the track and equal them.

“I remember Dubai, when he was karting. There were guys there who had been practicing on the track for a month and a half. Alex gets there, does his day and a half, and he was one of the best.”

For Sunday, now, Grandpa Jacques is expecting anything.

“It’s not that he needs to hear it, but I keep telling him, these other guys put their pants on one leg at a time. They’re human too.”

And there’s already a few who know his name.

“He’s run with Chase Elliot,” Jacques said. “He ran 20 laps with him, side by side. Now, Chase sees him and says, Hi Alex. He respects him.”

After Sunday, a few more drivers might be saying hello to Alex Guenette.

Expecting top 10.

It’s his first time in the Camping World Truck Series trucks, and Alex Guenette is feeling top 10 confident.

“If everything goes right, I think we could end up there,” he said. In the trucks, he’s going to have two factors to deal with. The team has used up almost all of their new tires getting the vehicle ready. They’ll be running new rubber for qualifying later today but at race time Sunday they’ll have second cycles on the No. 39 truck, and Guenette thinks he may have an initial gap to make up, while his crew is confident he’ll be fine.

“It might mean a few thenths of a second in the first three or four laps, but a lot of guys here are doing it, and they (crew) say it’ll be fine, it won’t matter.”

The 17 year old rookie in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series also knows he’s going to have to deal with a lot of traffic tomorrow. There are 36 entries in the Canadian Tire Series stock car race. As for the trucks, and this being his first in the series, he expects to be middle of the pack in the Camping World series during some of the race.

“All the guys are good, and all the equipment is good. In Canadian Tire, the top five or six will separate, but in the trucks, I may be in a crowd. I’ve got to watch that.”

Familiarity with the track will be his key here though. He said he likes the Clarington track because of its speed, and he knows how to handle it’s blind corners, like Turn 2 and Turn 4.

“It’s a real track,” he said. “It’s not on streets or any flats, just a real race track. You can come into the blind turns really fast if you know it.”

Strategy for the car will be to run all out and hang on after the tires and brakes are gone. In the truck, there’ll be a pit stop to change tires, and timing will be key.

Guenette is headed out to the track for another Canadian Tire Series practice. More later.

Alex Guenette confers with a crew members before strapping himself into his track for second practice on Saturday.

In the war room with the trucks team manager and the crew chief. How to go faster? Stand on it!

The weekend is all about the switch for Alex Guenette.

He’s in between his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series #39 car and his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series #39 truck every few minutes. With little time to think – he’s even choking down food while running between paddocks – it may be his head that is tested more than his mettle.

“It’s going to be hard, especially in qualifying, because you have your two laps, you get out there and you have to go,” he said. “In practice it’s a little easier, because you can take your time, go out and try things, see what’s working, what’s not.”

Something’s been working on Saturday. With two different rides, two separate paddocks, two crew chiefs to report to, and even a Toronto Star reporter following him and poking him for answers, Guenette’s performing.

In the morning practice he posted the fourth fastest times in his truck, and followed that up with a third in his Canadian Tire Series car.

“I’m fully used to the track now,” he said. “I feel it out there.”

But some things are just itching to take their toll, like the two different types of tires he’s running on. The radials on his truck give him a lot more control, he said, and he’s riding them deeper into corners, where as the car he is used to is a little more loose.

“It’ll be challenging, because I have to know where to brake, where to hit my marks with each vehicle. We’re going to do what we call a qualifying mach though. I’ll be ready.”

And the differences aren’t taking any of that swagger away.

“I’ll be able to push both (vehicles) yeah.”

Post-practice briefing after finishing a fine fourth in Saturday morning practice. Later, Alex set third fastest time in the stock car practice.

Alex Guenette drives out of the paddock for first practice. He finished a fine fourth - an excellent result for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

Alex Guenette has a lot to think about but he’s full of the confident swagger a pure driver enjoys.

“Yeah, it felt fine,” he said after his first Saturday practice lap in his No. 39 truck.

The 17-year-old rookie in the NASCAR Canadian Tire stock car series is running between his No. 39 car and the truck he will drive for the first time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

It’s a difference of more than 200 horsepower and 500 pounds between the beasts. His team in the truck paddock is already starting to talk weight distribution, brake temperature and fuel loads. One ride will rest on cross-bias tires, the other on radials. It’s a lot to absorb. But for the kid from Quebec, it’s a ride and a track – and the circuit is one he’s run previously. He’s cool and confident, even while jogging between paddocks to make practice sessions in each vehicle.

“It’s a lot different but the added weight (of the truck) kind of takes away the extra horsepower. I feel good today. It hasn’t been too much stuff yet and I’ve run this track before. ”

Alex was fourth in the trucks practice. He said he was blocked on his fast lap, too.

Guenette is out in the stock car now.

Alex Guenette of Terrebonne, Que., poses proudly with his NASCAR Camping World Series truck before going out for first practice today at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Guenette's truck is being sponsored by SportChek.

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