His father, Ron Fellows, is a champion Canadian racing driver who got a lot of ink.
His brother, Patrick Fellows, is a talented Canadian hockey player who spent his major Junior career passing the puck to Connor McDavid and got a lot of ink.
Now it’s Sam Fellows’ turn. No. 1 son – he’s 27 — is following in his father’s footsteps and before he’s finished he’ll get a lot of ink too. This column is just the beginning.
While Sam took some time to get going, he’s racing this season in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, whose winner becomes the year’s Canadian national driving champion. He’s got a way to go, though, because his legendary car owner, Jim Bray of Brantford, was late landing sponsorship for Sam’s rookie year. As a result, the season finale tomorrow at Delaware Speedway outside London, Ont., will only be his fourth start in the series.
But that doesn’t mean he’s running right out of the box. He’s been dabbling in the sport since his early teens, when he and his dad went go-karting together. Over the years, he’s done some endurance racing in Ontario. More recently, Sam drove a sportscar in a Canadian Touring Car Championship double-header in which he won one race and finished second in the other.
And while he’d like to follow in his father’s footsteps and carve out a career in sportscar racing, he’s found that sportscars (not just in Canada, but all over the world) have gotten out of hand, in terms of the costs involved. Said Sam: “As a result, my ambition has shifted. Once I thought about racing for Corvette, like my dad, or racing at Le Mans – and I’d still like to take a crack at that – but right now, in Canada, the Pinty’s series is the best thing going.”
Some children grow up with their fathers eating breakfast and then going to work in a factory or an office. Sam and his brother grew up at racetracks, where their dad drove racing cars for a living. Whether it was Trans-Am, or World Challenge, or IMSA or NASCAR, Ron Fellows would collect his winnings and then do what men the world over have been doing forever: he’d give his cheque to his wife.
“My mother has always been the brains of the operation,” laughed Sam, who’s not married himself but lives with a girl and is “off the market.”
His first memory of his dad’s work came when he was about four years old and he was at a race, “and I couldn’t figure out how daddy won the race and yet he wasn’t in the car.” It turned out it was a sportscar race, so he had a co-driver. “It took awhile, but I figured out that in Trans-Am he was the only driver but in sportscars he had help.”
Sam loved his childhood. His dad’s teammates and their wives were almost like his aunts and uncles. He spent time with his dad’s sponsors and travelled all over to races, such as Le Mans in France. His interest in the sport was piqued when he snuck into the driver’s meeting before the races and started to learn about things like “aero” and “camber.”
Because his dad was able to race until he was in his fifties, and the family spent the summers on the road, Sam’s driving career was put on hold. Then, when he wanted to start, his parents insisted he attend Carleton University where he studied journalism (“I can write all my own press releases and do my own video”). He got back from Ottawa out of shape and it took time before he was ready to race. But he finally got the hammer down.
Sam calls the drivers in the Pinty’s series “world class,” and says that the top four or five drivers, given the proper equipment, could more than hold their own in the NASCAR Cup championship.
“And it’s going to get better (the Pinty’s series). So the more experience I can get there, the better. My parents gave me the greatest gift they could: my name. My name can open doors and if I do well in the Pinty’s series that might get me into a trucks race or even the Xfinity Series.”
But he has to focus on the present and his time in Canadian stock cars.
“If I look too much into the future,” he said, “I might be getting ahead of myself. But if I have a good race at Delaware tomorrow . . . “
“Meantime,” he said, “I don’t want people to think I’m the rich kid. Everybody thinks I’m rich because my dad owns a racetrack but that’s not the case. I’m not naïve, though; I know I’m here because Jim Bray told Mike Curb (Sam’s sponsor) that he had a driver named Fellows.
“I know there was once a pretty good race driver named Fellows. Ron Fellows. My goal now is to be the best ‘Sam Fellows’ out there.”
Norris McDonald, a past Wheels editor in chief, covers the Canadian automotive and global racing scene for the Star. He is a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @NorrisMcDonald2.