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Sir Jack Brabham dies; Fitzpatrick wins, Hinch on Indy front row

Norris McDonald's weekend preview and late breaking news

  • Ron-Fellows

Sir Jack Brabham, three-time world driving champion and the man credited with starting the rear-engine revolution at Indianapolis, has died at age 88.
Sir Jack, the first auto racer to be knighted, died at his home on the Gold Coast of Australia following a lengthy illness.
Father of racing drivers David and Geoff, another son, Gary, and grandfather of Matthew, who is currently racing in the United States, Sir Jack – who won the first F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Mosport in 1967 with teammate Denny Hulme second and Dan Gurney third – won his championships in 1959 and ’60 and again in 1966
The last title was won in a car of his own design and construction. The Brabham team name was a force in Formula One for 30 years.
In 1961, he arrived at Indy in a rear-engine Cooper and the old guard laughed. Then he finished ninth. Four years later, the rear-engine revolution was truly under way and the tried-and-true Indy roadster that ruled the roost at the Brickyard for 20 years or so was soon no more.
I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him once, at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in 1996, and it was when the Canadian government was gearing up for the fight to put an end to tobacco advertising at sporting events.
I asked him what he thought and he motioned me closer – better to hear his answer. “It’s none of their damn business,” he said.
J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge won the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Sunday, holding off Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby and Robin Buck of Campbellford in a green-white-checkers finish.
It was a dramatic finish to the first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race of 2014, with Stefan Rzadzinski of Edmonton being spun out en-route to a top five finish – he eventually finished 13th – by D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas.
And Ray Courtemanche Jr., of Montreal and Canadian Touring Car Championship veteran Bob Attrell of Brampton got together to crash as they headed for the checkers on the start-finish straight.
Nobody was injured but undoubtedly feelings were hurt – particularly Rzadzinksi’s. He was doing a tremendous job in his first race in a car with a roof on it – he’s a veteran of open-cockpit racing – only to fall prey to a NASCAR veteran.
And why would Kennington have done that to a raw rookie? Well, Rzadinski was subbing for Canadian racer Alex Tagliani, who was busy qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Tagliani started a new NASCAR Canada team this season and Kennington’s company did much of the work to prepare the primary car for its debut last winter at the Canadian Motorsports Expo. Tagliani then contracted with three-time Canadian Tire champion Scott Steckly’s company to maintain the team’s cars during the season.  A little corporate payback, perhaps?
In any event, of the nine NASCAR Canada races held at Old Mosport, Fitzpatrick has won four of them and finished on the podium in three others. He drove an Equipment Express Chevrolet this time out, while Lapcevich’s Dodge is sponsored by Tim Hortons and Buck was in his familiar Quaker State Dodge.
Fitzpatrick told me in an interview after the race that he was sorry his great opponent Ranger hadn’t been around to race him. They would have started the “200” side-by-side on the front row.
But Ranger, who’d won the pole on Saturday, was sent to the back of the 28-car starting field for the start after it was discovered Sunday that illegal changes to his car’s suspension had been carried out.
“You have a handful of people that you know, before you know it, are going to be in your mirror,” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously, Andrew is a very good road racer. He surprised us when he ripped off that lap (to win the pole). I knew Jeff and Robin were going to be there, because they were very consistent in practice.
Sir Jack Brabham dies; Fitzpatrick wins, Hinch on Indy front row
“Ranger is a class act road racer. I still believe that if he hadn’t come into the series that most of us wouldn’t have been at the level we are. He set a bar and we all had to chase that bar.
“Not a lot of people know that Robin taught me how to road race back in ’04. He showed up at the shop one day and he took me out on the road and taught me how to be smooth. That was the key today, because the track was so slippery.”
Fitzpatrick said he and Ranger settled their differences several years ago and aren’t beating up on each other so often any more when they race each other.
“People liked to watch us because we were rivals. We had a lot of ups and downs – water bottles thrown, a lot of issues – for quite a few years but one good night with a lot of adult beverages, we sorted all that stuff out.
“Now, we just love having fun and putting pressure on each other. He’s a class act.”
Ranger, incidentally, finished 21st.
Fitzpatrick said he’d wrecked his car during a practice session several weeks ago and that it “worked better” after they’d fixed it.
“I’m not saying I want to wreck more but I’m glad we found all the issues because it worked really well.”
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville came that close Sunday to winning the pole for this year’s Indianapolis 500 but lost out to Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis. It was Carpenter’s second consecutive pole for the “500.”
Carpenter turned four laps at more than 230 mph for a four-lap average of 231.067 mph. Hinchclife’s average was 230.839 mph, good for the middle of the front row at Indy, where the race goes off with 11 rows of three cars.
Will Power will start outside on the front row and row two will be made up of Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.
Said Hinchcliffe, who started on the front row while driving for Newman-Haas Racing in 2012 and who was only cleared to drive on Thursday after suffering a slight concussion during last weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis:

“It’s tough to be upset. We knew Ed (Carpenter) was going to be tough to beat anyway, and it wasn’t until the first three laps that I’d run that I thought, ‘Well, maybe we do have a shot at this!’ The car was a huge handful, but it needed to be-it was fast. That’s not a criticism of the car at all. Going into Turn 3 on that last lap, I was working on the tools like crazy and the thing stepped out a bit on entry. I had to take some wheel out of it, creating understeer on exit and I had to crack the throttle. I don’t think anybody’s ever been on pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cracking the throttle over four laps, so I kind of knew right then and there. I was screaming in my helmet. At the same time, if the worst we’re going to start is second, then that’s awesome. Huge credit to Andretti Autosport and United Fiber & Data.  I’m so happy to be on the front row again, just so disappointed we missed it again, but it is what it is. Congrats again to Ed.”


 J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge held the late-race lead in Sunday’s Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was running second and  Robin Buck of Campbellville was in third.
Andrew Ranger, who won pole Saturday but was penalized Sunday morning, started 25th in the 28-car field and was up to 11th by Lap 8.
But his charge was for naught as he had to pit and shut off his motor. He eventually refired and went back into the race but was several laps behind.
Three-time series champion Scott Steckly of Milverton went off course at turn three and his car was taken to the pits on a flatbed truck. Steckly wasn’t injured.
The race was red-flagged on Lap 45 of the 51-lap event because of oil dropped on the track, particularly in turn three. The finger was pointed at several cars, but particularly one driven by Noel Dowler of Sherwood Park, Alta.
Pole-sitter Andrew Ranger has been penalized by NASCA Canada for an unapproved adjustment to the suspension of his Mopar/Exide Dodge and will now have to start the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 from the back of the 28-car field.
Ranger, of Roxton Pond., Que., has won two NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championships and has high hopes to win a third. But he will have his work cut out for him.
Three other drivers will also have to drop to the back because of penalties assessed when their spotters missed the mandatory spotters meeting. They are Anthony Simone of Holland Landing, Ont., Hugo Vannini of Repentigny, Que., and Bob Attrell of Brampton.
It’s Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and the sun is out and the crowds, already big, continue to pour in to the Bowmanville-area race track. Let’s get caught up on the some of the racing news that’s taken place since Andrew Ranger won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s Canadian Tire NASCAR Canada race.
Saturday night at Charlotte, Jamie McMurray – who? – won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the $1 million that went with it. Team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates will be very happy, as will Jamie, who’s a star but then again not a star. He has a habit of winning the big races but then lurking in the weeds the rest of the time.
At Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania, Daryn Pittman swept the the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car weekend by winning the feature Saturday night.
At Old Mosport Saturday, Remy Audette won the first of two Canadian Touring Car Championship races, with Scott Nicol second and Matthieu Audette third. . . Louey Jabouri was first in the first Canadian SuperCar Championship race. . . . Tristan DeGrand won the F1600 Super Series race, with Zacharie Robichon second and Max Hanratty third. . . .

At Old Mosport Sunday, Scott Hargrove of Vancouver won his second Porsche GTE3 race of the weekend. Michael DiMeo of Toronto won his third (of three races this weekend) in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships.  DiMeo is driving the No. 71 LiUNA Honda Civic Si for Karl Thompson’s Toronto-based Compass360 racing team. At the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben in Germany, in front of 65,000 spectators (through the gates over the whole weekend), Mercedes-Benze driver Christian Vietoris won his first race in the German Touring Car Series (DTM). Canadian Robert Wickens was running in the top ten when he was bunted off track and forced to retire.

Around Ontario, Peterborough Speedway was packed to the rafters Saturday night (there was no admission – a brilliant move by the track owner) and Ryan Kimball won the late-model feature. . . . At Merrittville Speedway down Thorold way, Mat Williamson won the opening night modified feature in front of a capacity crowd.
Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock car race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Ranger, driving the No. 27 Mopar/Exide Dodge prepared and entered by racer D.J. Kennington, turned a lap of one minute, 22.9 seconds, which beat the track record for the big stockers.
Ranger’s great rival, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge, will start second in his No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet while Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby will go off third in the No. 76 Tim Hortons Dodge. They also broke the track record.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park co-owner Ron Fellows, who also happens to be a champion international racing driver who won the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series race on Saturday, ‘fessed up about how old he really is during a post-race media conference.
“I am 56,” he said, in response to a question about his age.
Veteran motorsport journalists gasped. For years, they have all reported him being born in September, 1959, which would have made him 54 when he won the Trans-Am race on Saturday.
They rushed to check everything from Wikipedia to his official biography to the NASCAR record book, all of which report his birth to have taken place on Sept. 28, 1959.
So what gives, Ron, he was asked?
“It goes back to the GM-Player’s Challenge Series in the 1980s,” he said. “It was 1986 and I’d won a race and Dan Proudfoot (retired Toronto Sun journalist) asked the organizers how old I was,” he said.
“They told him I was 28, when in fact I was 30. I saw that in the paper and I thought, ‘Why change it? That looks pretty good.’ So I didn’t – until today.”
So that’s it, then. Ron Fellows’ official birthday is Sept. 28, 1957. He’ll turn 57 four months from now. But as he proved at Old Mosport Saturday, he’s still perfectly capable of leaving younger racers in his dust.
The first day of qualifying is over and Ed Carpenter was fastest with Carlos Munoz second and Helio Castroneves third. James Hinchcliffe was top Canadian, finishing fourth of the 33 drivers who took time. Alex Tagliani went 31st fastest and Jacques Villeneuve was 27th. NASCAR driver Kurth Busch was tenth. Busch couldn’t hang around to try to improve his team, having to fly off to Charlotte for Saturday’s night’s NASCAR all-star race.
By the way, the qualifying is so confusing at Indy that even the drivers aren’t sure how it’s supposed to work. One way or another, the tun for the pole will take place Sunday afternoon, so that’s when people will get serious. Up till then, qualifying at Indy is a glorified practice session.
Having said that, they’re going like rockets. The fastest to the slowest is about half a second difference. Carpenter went a tick above 230 mph; Budddy Lazier in 33rd and last place went a bit more than 226 mph.
It was a clean sweep for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park co-owner Ron Fellows on Saturday as he led the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series race from start to finish to win his 100th career Trans-Am start.
Fellows, 56, of Mississauga won the pole for the Trans-Am race Friday, which was the first feature race of the six-race Castrol presents the Victoria Day Speedfest at the storied motorsports facility north of Bowmanville.
The headline event for the weekend will go to the post early Sunday afternoon. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 will be joined by other races Sunday in the Formula 1600 Super Series, the Porsche GTE Cup Challenge, the Canadian Touring Car Series, the Canadian Supercar Series and the Pirelli World Challenge.
Fellows was delighted with his win, but relieved that the 100-mile race was over. “It was a little more work than I remember,” he joked after a series official reminded the assembled reporters that the victory was the driver’s 20th in the series and his 66th top ten finish in 100 races.
“I got (win) No. 1 here in 1989,” Fellows said.
The veteran of the Corvette Racing team in Le Mans competition as well as NASCAR truck and stock car racing said he’d had to be careful the last couple of laps because he felt something was not right with his car.
“When I pulled up to the podium, the right-rear tire was flat,” he said.
At age 56, Canadian race driver Ron Fellows should be slowing down.
Try telling him that.
The Mississauga-based racing icon, who can lay claim to being the most successful international road racer Canada has ever produced, went out Friday to turn time for what will be his 100th career SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series start Saturday and wound up winning the pole.
His lap time of 1:16.725 around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – which he happens to co-own with partner Carlo Fidani – was .717 seconds ahead of his Derhaag Motorsports teammate Simon Gregg.
More than 30 other drivers – including seven  Canadians – racing marques like Camaro, Corvette and Mustang (Fellows is in a Corvette, natch) will start the feature race Saturday of the annual Castrol presents the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend.
Headlining the racing weekend will be the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock cars, whose feature will go Sunday afternoon. Other races include the Pirelli World Challenge, the Porsche GTE3 Cup Challenge, the Canadian Supercar Series, the Canadian Touring Car Championship and a Formula 1600 race featuring drivers from Ontario and Quebec in the first of four unified Super Series races, the others being scheduled at the Grand Prix du Canada, Honda Indy Toronto and the Trois-Riveres Grand Prix.
Fellows, who was a terror in the Trans-Am in the 1990s with 19 victories in 95 starts, was surprised and delighted with his pole run.
“It was pretty slick out there, and I think a lot of it was the cold,” he said, in a release issued by CTMP. “It was still fun to get out there and go fast, but it was a bit of a handful, as I’m sure it was for everybody.”
Fellows, who has won races and championships in the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am (the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans) as well as NASCAR, said he wasn’t aware of the significance of Saturday’s race beforehand.
“I decided to run in Trans-Am this weekend to have some fun; I didn’t know that this was going to be my 100th start.  I raced Trans-Am during the Chevrolet factory era, then went off and did a little NASCAR.  I never thought we’d end up doing any more Trans-Am, but since then we’ve done three.
“It turns out number 99 was 10 years ago, and it was with Derhaag Motorsports as well.  It was fun to get back out there.  I love this track, obviously.  You can really get after it here, and it is still nice to put together a really good lap.
“Trans-Am always meant a lot to me; this is where I really got established in sports car racing, so being able to come back here and do another race has been a fun experience so far.”
Following Fellows and Gregg will be Amy Ruman, whose time of 1:17.521 was just shy of Gregg’s 1:17.442, but still strong enough for third position in tomorrow’s race.  Defending Trans-Am Champion Doug Peterson will start fourth while Andrew Romocki of Toronto will round out the top five.
The first race of Old Mosport’s first major spectator event of the season took place Friday, with Michael DiMeo of Toronto finished first in the Touring Class of the Pirelli World Challenge after starting from pole.  He was followed by Markham native Gary Kwok while Tom Kwok was third.  Ohio rookie racer Jason Wolfe was the winner in TCA class and Virginia’s Brian Price finished first in TCB-Spec.
Scott Hargrove of Vancouver, who won the US Formula 2000 championship last year and is leading the Pro Mazda Series so far in 2014, captured the pole in the Platinum class for the first Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin race (go ahead and say that fast three times). His time was 1:20.609.  Jerimy Daniel was first in Gold class with a quick lap of 1:23.375.
Other racing news: Canadian IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe returned to his Andretti Autosport car No. 27 Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turned several laps in the 228 mph range before rain brought an end to the day’s activities. “Hinch” suffered a mild concussion last Saturday during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Fastest car Friday was driven by Ed Carpenter, who was over 230 mph. Canadians Alex Tagliani and Jacques Villeneuve also managed to squeeze in a couple of laps but weren’t as fast as Hinchcliffe or Carpenter. . . Here’s a good omen (or I think it is). The draw for Indy qualifications that start today at 11 a.m. has Car No. 27 – Hinchcliffe’s – scheduled to go 27th. . . .  Click here for this week’s edition of the Penske Files . . . . Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve out near Brantford is having a heck of a time getting the 2014 season going. Heavy rains forced cancellation Thursday of a pre-season practice session and then the 2014 season-opener Friday night was washed out. . . . Five of the greats will be inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Thursday night as part of the runup to the Indy 500 on May 25. Chip Ganassi, Jimmy McElreath, Leo Mehl, Bobby Rahal and Bill Simpson will be honoured at the annual Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers dinner at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.
Sir Jack Brabham dies; Fitzpatrick wins, Hinch on Indy front row

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