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LIVE BLOG: Blaney wins trucks by 0.049 seconds; Fitzpatrick wins NASCAR Canadian Tire race

Published August 31, 2014

For the second consecutive year, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park sent thousands of race fans home happy because once again the finish had everybody talking.

A year ago, Chase Elliott won by crashing into race leader Ty Dillon in the last corner of the last lap, causing him to lose control. This time around, winner Ryan Blaney didn’t crash his opponent; he did fight right back, however, after being passed by German Quiroga going into that last corner and he then beat him to the start/finish line by 0.049 seconds.

Erik Jones and Gray Gaulding finished third and fourth. Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., was top Canadian in the race, finishing fifth.

Other Canadians in the 29-car field, made up of one Mexican – Quiroda – and 24 Americans: Cameron Hayley of Calgary finished 11th, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, who had started on the pole, was 16th and Ray Courtemanche, Jr., also of Montreal, came to the checkers 20th, a lap down.

Following a late-race restart – the second of two caution periods was caused by Tagliani, who lost control of his truck and stalled after spinning - Blaney and Quiroga pulled away from the rest of the field. The estimated 50,000 in attendance anticipated witnessing a repeat of the “tradin’ paint” episode of a year ago.

But it was not to be. Although both drivers stressed afterward that they had wanted to run a clean race, Quiroga let it slip that NASCAR had contacted both drivers on Saturday and warned them against rough racing.

It turned out that there was a bit of a history between them.

“Fate would have us racing against each other,” Blaney, of Concord, N.C., told a packed post-race news conference. “But that’s (non-contact) the way racing should be. Fans have seen great racing two years in a row up here and hopefully we can keep doing that.”

Quiroga said he tried to force Blaney into making a mistake during the last few laps of extremely close racing between the two of them.

“I passed him at the end of the long straight (turn eight) and then he got a really good run coming off turn nine. He beat us to the line by half a truck length.

“We’ve had some things going on between Blaney and me in the last few races so we don’t need that to happen any more. We talked before the race (after the call from NASCAR). I told him that maybe one day we could just battle for the win and it turned out that way today. Unfortunately for me, we came second.”

The 64-lap race around the 2.49-mile circuit took one hour and 42 minutes to complete, for an average speed of 92.514 miles an hour (NASCAR does everything in Imperial). There were just two caution periods for six laps and there were eight llead changes among seven drivers.

 NASCAR has already announced that the trucks will return to CTMP next Labour Day weekend. Although it is expected that the Honda Indy Toronto will be moved to “Old Mosport” in 2015, the IndyCar sanctioning organization has yet to confirm that an announcement will be made or when the race will take place.

Earlier Sunday, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Ayr. Ont., won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock car race, with Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby second and Marc-Antoine Camirand of Saint-Leonard-d’Aston, Que., third.

Fitzpatrick has now won five NASCAR Canada races at CTMP, exactly half of the total number he’s recorded (10) in Canadian Tire Series competition.

EARLIER

Ryan Blaney just nipped German Quiroga to win Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 NASCAR Camping World Series truck race.

The margin of victory was 0.049 seconds.

Erik Jones finished third, Gray Gaulding was fourth and Canadian Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., arrived home fifth.

 Other Canadians: Cameron Hayley of Calgary finished 11th, Alex Tagliani of Montreal was 11th and  Ray Courtemanche Jr. of Quebec was 20th, one lap down.

EARLIER

Blaney and Quiroga fight for the lead. The rest of the field is jockeying for position as the race winds down.

EARLIER

There has been another yellow. Tagliani lost control trying to stay in front of  Gaulding and spun. Did his throttle stick? He had complained about that earlier?

EASTER

On the restart, Tagliani bumped Custer out of the way to move up to fourth. Blaney still leads.

EARLIER

With 18 laps to go, there has finally been a yellow caution flag thrown in the Chevrolet Silverado 250. John H. Nemechek lost power and although he tried to make it back to the pits, he stopped on the backstretch, bringing out the caution.

The order is Ryan Blaney, German Quiroga, Erik Jones, Cody Custer and Darrell Wallace Jr. Canadians: Alex Tagliani is seventh, Cameron Hayley is ninth and Andrew Ranger is 12th.

Another round of pit stops is now expected to follow.

EARLIER

There have been a flurry of pits stops and lead changes. The pit window for the final pit stops has opened so we will see more lead changes.

Right now, Quiroga is back in front, Jones is second and Gaulding is in third place. Tagliani is fourth with defending series champion Matt Crafton fifth.

EARLIER

Blaney has gone to the pits, handing the lead to German Quiroga in the Chevrolet Silverado 250. Cole Custer is second and Erik Jones is third. Canadians: Alex Tagliani is sixth, Cameron Hayley is eighth and Andrew Ranger is ninth.

EARLIER

Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney, is now leading the Chevrolet Silverado 250 with German Quiroga second and Cole Custer third. Tagliani is seventh; Ranger is 12th. Cameron Hayley of Calgary is running 11th.

EARLIER

Andrew Ranger is now the second Canadian to lead the Chevrolet Silverado 250, inheriting the lead when Gray Gaulding went to the pits. The trucks are all cycling through their pit stops.

EARLIER

Gray Gaulding is the new leader as early leader Alex Tagliani made a pit stop for tires on Lap 8. Erik Jones is now second and Canadian Andrew Ranger  third. Others are expected to start making their first pit stops.

EARLIER

Alex Tagliani has led the first lap of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Gray Gaulding is running second, with Erik Jones third. Andrew Ranger, another Canadian, is up to fifth.

Twenty-eight trucks started the road-course round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

EARLIER

The three Canadian Touring Car Championship class winners were decided today – confirmed, actually - with Roger Ledoux of Riguad, Que., driving a Subaru to the Super Class title, Michel Salllenbach of Roxton Pond, Que., taking the Touring Class title in a Mini and Normand Boyer of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., capturing the B-Spec Class in a Mazda.

Boyer said he’d had fun racing this season but that the class needed more cars.

Sallenbach said the reason for his success was patience. He’d started the season with “no expections” and that he’d gone for the points rather than wins. “It was a good recipe,” he said.

Ledoux said he was thrilled to win the championship but that it had been a bit of a down year for CTCC. “We were a few cars short (of a full field) but I expect that will be rectified for next year. I’m looking forward to it already.”

In the final CTCC races, Remy Audette was the winner in Super Touring, Damon Sharpe in Touring and Boyer in B-Spec. 

Sunday’s racing action also saw the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin complete their weekend doubleheader. Scott Hargrove took the win in Platinum Cup over Spencer Pigot. Jerimy Daniel was first in Gold Cup and Chuck Harris took the victory in Silver Cup.

EARLIER

J.R, Fitzpatrick of Ayr, Ont., has won the Pinty’s Presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was second, with Marc-Antoine Camirand of Saint-Leonard-d’Aston, Que., third, L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres fourth and Scott Steckly of Milverton, Ont., fifth.

EARLIER

There will be a restart with seven laps to go. Ranger spun at Moss Corner to bring out the yellow. Fitzpatrick and Lapcevich are at the front. Fitzpatrick takes the lead.

EARLIER

With 30 laps to go in the stock car race, Andrew Ranger is leading, with J.F. Dumoulin second, Marc-Antoine Camerand third, Scott Steckly fourth and Robin Buck fifth.

EARLIER

It’s very overcast here at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, but it doesn’t feel like rain. Another record crowd is expected as carload after carload of fans arrives.

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock cars are on the circuit and a front row of Andrew Ranger and J.R. Fizpatrick will soon lead them off for the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will go at 1:30 this afternoon.

By the way, if necessary, both series will race in the rain.

Before this race gets going, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season ended at Auto Club Speedway in California last night with Tony Kanaan winning the 500-mile race and Will Power winning his first championship.

James Hinchcliffe of Oakville finished fifth.

There could be some driver switching for next season. Some people think Kanaan, despite winning, will not be back at Chip Ganassi Racing in 2015. And Hinchcliffe, although likely to return for another season with Andretti Autosport, does not have a contract. Simon Pagenaud seems to be everybody’s favourite (and I have no idea why) and when he lands wherever for next year, that will set the dominos falling.

SATURDAY

Canadian racer Alex Tagliani, making his first start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 with a fast lap of one minute, 20.558 seconds around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

American drivers Gray Gaulding and Erik Jones will start second and third.

Meantime, in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series for late-model stock cars action, two-time champion Andrew Ranger of Quebec set the pace for the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 with a lap of 1:23:261. J.R. Fitzpatrick of Ayr, Ont., will go off second.

The NASCAR Canada race will take the green flag Sunday morning at 10 a.m. with the headliner Silverado 250 going to the post at 1:30 in the afternoon.

In support racing action, the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin held their first race of a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader and Canadian Scott Hargrove was the winner in Platinum Cup. Tim Sanderson finished first in Gold Cup and Chuck Harris was victorious in Silver Cup.

Hargrove pretty much has to fire up his car Sunday to win the championship. If he finishes 14th or better, he’ll take the crown, which makes it pretty much of a lock, seeing as there will only be 14 or 15 cars in the race.

In Canadian Touring Car Championship action, Gary Kwok took the checkered flag in Super Touring, Damon Sharpe was first in Touring and Normand Boyer won in B-Spec.

Labour Day weekend always brings great racing. As well as the Camping World Truck Series at CTMP and the Southern Ontario Sprints running on the dirt east of here at Brighton Speedway, the Oswego Classic for supermodifieds is taking place at Oswego Speedway in New York state.

New Jersey racer Joey (the Jersey Jet) Payne set a new track record at the fabled 5/8-mile paved oval Friday night when he turned a lap in 15:802 seconds, which is an average of about 140 mph. Two other drivers also got under 16 seconds. That’s without a wing.

D.J. Shullick from Ohio won the ISMA SuperNationals at Oswego Saturday night by about a half-car length over Mike Lichty of Kitchener, Ont.  The winged supers travel around Oswego about a second faster than the regular supers and Shullick won the ISMA pole and set a new track record for winged supers with a time of 14:938 seconds.

That is flying.

Congratulations to Jay Andrews (formerly J.J. Andrews) of Mexico, N.Y., for going wire-to-wire to win the small-block supermodified classic at Oswego Saturday night. And my thanks to chief announcer Roy Sova for all this Oswego info.

I ran into Garrett Grist of Grimsby today. He’s been running in the Pro Mazda Series with Andretti Autosport and won some races. He’ll go back for another year before deciding to either go into Indy Lights or take another direction.

And what direction might that be? How about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? Grist is going to test one this fall to find out what they’re like to drive and what opportunities the series might offer.

It would be a good time to make the move. Indy Lights is really not going anywhere. Nor is IndyCar. The truck series is a great training ground for future Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series stars.

For instance, last year when the trucks came to Old Mosport, Chase Elliott won the race and Ty Dillon was second. Both have since moved up.

Grist is being smart to check out that series. Like many open-wheelers, he adores IndyCar racing and really wants to wind up there. But NASCAR has opportunities too, so best to take a look.

EARLIER

As I reported on the sports pages of the Star today (and in this blog down below), the people who own the Honda Indy Toronto and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park have – as they phrased it in a release yesterday – discussed moving the race to Old Mosport next year.

I understand the deal is not done but “will happen.”

And here is the reason.

Because the Pan Am Games will force the race out of its traditional mid-July position at Exhibition Place, everybody has focussed on moving the race date back into June. They can’t push it forward into August because there wouldn’t be enough time to construct the track and tear it down for the opening of the CNE. Same thing with moving it back into June; they would have to build the track, hold the race and tear it down in time for the Pan Am Games setup.

(You have to remember this about the Honda Indy: the Indy cars race on a temporary street course. Nothing is permanent. They have to put up the walls, the fencing, run in electricity and water – not just for the race track but for the corporate  suites and grandstands. It takes about a month-to-five-weeks from start to finish; from the start of construction to the end of teardown. It’s a huge operation.)

Now, the Honda Indy people initially floated the idea that June 5-7 would work for them but then Eddie Gossage said he had a deal with IndyCar to hold a race at Texas Motor Speedway that exact same weekend.

That’s when the penny should have dropped. If that weekend wasn’t going to work, no weekend in June would work because of the time period described above to put up the track and take it down.

And any earlier wouldn’t work either. May is all about Indianapolis and the week after Indianapolis now belongs to Roger Penske and Detroit. A week later would have been June 5-7 but we now know that weekend’s race will be held in Texas.

If Savoree-Green Promotions wants to hold onto its date on the IndyCar calendar in 2015, the only thing they can do is move the Honda Indy Toronto out to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

And CTMP says it is only too happy to help Kevin Savoree and Kim Green out in their time of need.

And that’s why it will happen.

Next July.

Moving right along, the NASCAR Canadian Tire stock cars were out on the track (Alex Tagliani blew the engine in his car on the very first lap) for a practice session and J.R. Fitzpatrick was fastest with LP Dumoulin second (he’s the subject of a great profile by Stephanie Wallcraft in this weekend’s Toronto Star Wheels) and Luc Lesage third. They are running about three miles an hour per lap slower than the trucks. German Quiroga and Brennan Newberry were the two fasts trucks in their first practice, with Tagliani third.

FRIDAY

Good afternoon from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, scene of this weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Series Chevrolet Silverado 250.

There has been a major development in the Honda Indy story.

After several weeks of obfuscation over the timing and location of the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto, the race’s owners, Savoree-Green Promotions, and representatives of the Bowmanville-area Canadian Tire Motorsport Park announced Friday that although no decision has been reached, they have discussed moving the race out of the city temporarily.

To make the somewhat muddy scenario even murkier, the Verizon IndyCar Series announced later Friday that a race held in Houston, Tex., this June would not be held in 2015, which some say could open up a slot for the Toronto race to be held once again at the CNE, as it has been every year but one since 1986.

The spanner in the works is the Pan-Am Games, which will open in Toronto next July 10. Since the inaugural Molson Indy, the race has been held in mid-July but the Games will prevent that from happening next year.

One solution appeared to be moving the Toronto race back to a weekend in June but it would then have to fit into the IndyCar schedule, which this year was made up of 19 races.

There had been suggestions previously that the race could be moved to CTMP, a permanent road-racing circuit about an hour east of Toronto that was previously known as Mosport Park and is the scene this weekend of the NASCAR-sanctioned Chevrolet Silverado 250, but queries were met either with denials or deflections.

In a statement that came out of the blue Friday, Charlie Johnstone, president of the Honda Indy Toronto, said that the Games “have forced us to consider alternative dates and venues for next year’s race” and that an announcement would be made shortly.

CTMP co-owner Ron Fellows confirmed that an IndyCar track inspector had visited and made some suggestions that would make the track safer for the swift Indy cars.

Then, without tipping his hand about what he knew could be coming next, Fellows said:

“It’s exciting. How could it not be? We weren’t surprised when they (Savoree-Green) approached us. I’d say ’flattered’ would better describe it. They are very good at what they do.  The motorsport community is very small and we’re all in the same business and if there’s anything we can do to help them, we will. It’s important to keep an IndyCar event in Canada.”

Canadian IndyCar veteran Alex Tagliani of Montreal, who’s at CTMP to race in not only the NASCAR Camping World Series truck race but also the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series for late-model stock cars, said he is all in favour of an Indy car race at the circuit, 18 kilometres north of Bowmanville.

“I think that in order to host an IndyCar race, with the demands on safety that would be required, it would be nothing but beneficial for Canadian motorsport generally,” he said.

“Then, after that happened, even if the IndyCar race wanted to go back to Toronto, there would be a track capable of holding any motorsport event in the world.”

Tagliani is one of the hardest working of all race drivers. This year he’s raced in the IndyCar series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and now the Camping World Truck Series.

“I was thinking of putting another driver in the stock car (for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race) but we had a cross-Canada competition to design my car and helmet for this race and I couldn’t see me not racing in it.”

But how hard will it be to got from the stock car to the truck, considering both qualifying sessions will be held Saturday and both races will be held
Sunday, with the stock cars going in the morning and the headlining trucks taking the green flag at 1:30 in the afternoon.

“”You can’t take it lightly,” he said. “After you finish your interview, I’m shutting off completely. I will just relax until I go to work tomow.

“The two vehicles are quite different. You don’t want to drive one like you do the other. The NASCAR Canada car is very light, with a fibreglass body; the truck is basically steel. It’s heavy. But the trucks have better brakes than the car. You don’t want to confuse the two. Not a good idea.”

Action will start early at the track Saturday with Canadian Touring Car Series qualifying. This series will race Saturday and again on Sunday, as will the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series.

The Canadian Tire Series stock cars will qualify late this afternoon, followed by the Camping World Series trucks. Race day, Sunday, sees the Pinty’s Presents the Clarington 200 for stock cars go to the post at 10 a.m. and the Chevrolet Silverado 250 start at 1:30 p.m.

 EARLIER

It is just after noon and the transporters carrying upwards of 30 racing trucks are rolling into the paddock to officially get the weekend under way.

As well as the main event, other races will feature the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 for late-model stock cars and featuring Canada’s top stock car stars, the Canadian Touring Car Series presented by Continental Tire and the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup  Challenge Canada by Michelin.

The day started out cloludy and cool but the sun has been out for the last hour or so and it’s now quite pleasant.

Unfortunately, this report has to start out with negative news. Ron Hornaday Jr., who was the subject of a front cover story in last weekend’s edition of Toronto Star Wheels, will not be racing at Old Mosport this weekend.

His employer, Turner-Scott Motorsports, has encountered choppy waters, with one partner suing the other over the spending of sponsorship dollars. As a result, although Turner-Scott had three trucks entered for the Silverado 250, only two are here (their drivers – one of whom is Canadian Cameron Hayley from Calgary – have paid for their rides). As the only driver on the team being paid to race, Hornaday is caught in the crossfire and has been forced to sit out.

Here are some other random thoughts and observations concerning motorsports activities here at CTMP and elsewhere:

- Many of the motorsport media who planned to come to Canada for this round of the Camping World Truck Series changed their airline tickets at the last minute and have gone instead of Atlanta for the Sprint Cup race there.

Why? Because Tony Stewart has announced he will resume racing in NASCAR this weekend, three weeks after the unfortunate death of Kevin Ward Jr. at a small dirt speedway in New York. Ward had a coming-together with Stewart during a race and got out of his car to confront Stewart who was still driving his. The car struck and killed the 20-year-old and Stewart hasn’t raced since.

NASCAR President Mike Helton has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon and Stewart will hold one afterward. It is unlikely either will say anything specific about the mishap because the police investigation is still ongoing.

Now, I wish Stewart wasn’t doing this. I wish he had decided to wait until the investigation is finished. Yes, these things take time (it took a year before investigators finally charged those two University of Ottawa hockey players with sexual assault) but a race driver died in a highly unusual set of circumstances and I think it would have been best to wait a little longer before it all became “business as usual” again.

- FLASH! Savoree-Greene and Ron Fellows-Carlo Fidani-Myles Bramdt are negotiating moving the Honda Indy from downtown Toronto to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. More on this later.

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