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A Canadian Legend

Ron Fellows Shifts Gears

His name resonates like those of other Canadian Motorsports legends, in much the same way as Villeneuve (Jacques and Gilles), Earl Ross and Paul Tracy do. Mississauga, Ontario’s Ron Fellows has done just about everything in a racing career that began in the early 1980s. That long, nearly-DOL18245_optcompleted career has seen trips to victory lane in Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans along the way, as well as a Canadian karting development championship bearing his name. For the first time since he helped pioneer the Corvette Racing team in the late 1990s, Fellows won’t find himself behind the wheel of those legendary racers in 2009. “The decision for me to get out of the car this year was mutual. I received an opportunity to have a role with the team this year in more of a PR capacity, as an ambassador of the GM racing program. I felt that the role looked like it might have a lot more longevity to it than continuing to drive,” he said.

There were rumors throughout the years that Fellows would strap into a CASCAR racer, but there was only smoke and no fire. Fellows admitted, he did have a few conversations with Tony Novotny about getting in a car but was never able to put a deal together.

As far as continuing his racing career on his native soil is concerned, that’s an option that Fellows has been exploring. Along with legendary motorcar owner Peter Klutt, he has been searching for funding to compete in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio. “This time of year will be very difficult to put something together for 2009, but I think we have a shot at a program in 2010. In 2009, I’d say we’re at about 20%RD1_9517_opt for a full time schedule, and probably 50/50 on a part time schedule. As with anything, the program will be dictated by money, but we’d like to have two teams – you can be more efficient with a pair of cars,” he said.

“We would like to start a driver development program like we had in the karting development program. The Canadian Tire Series program itself is pretty strong. They have developed a nice blend of road courses and ovals, and that’s what racing in Canada is all about. They have a solid television deal with TSN and a tremendous deal with an iconic Canadian company in Canadian Tire. I think it has been a success already, and the future is very bright for the series,” he continued. Despite, the current economic downturn, Fellows remains optimistic. “Obviously the economy doesn’t help right now, but it’s a different situation in Canada. South of the border, it’s a feeding frenzy. In Canada there is less competition for the dollars, but the list of companies is smaller, but if NASCAR can continue to create a blend of cost, value, and marketing potential, the more the series will grow corporately.”

Fellows was part of one of the last major national touring series in Canada, the Player’s/GM Series in the 1980s, and spoke about the obstacles of a national touring series, “Obviously with the way our country is laid out, geography is a major factor and you have to deal with large travel costs. Almost all of the teams are in Ontario, but that is the same way it was in the Players/GM Series, or the Porsche Series as well. That being said, it’s also not much different from all the NASCAR teams in the U.S. being located right around Charlotte.”

IMG_2779_optWhile Fellows was able to get his break south of the border because of his road course background in formula racers and sports cars, he believes that the Canadian Tire Series has already started to act as that different springboard to the racing in the U.S.

“Look at what some of those guys have done already! J.R. Fitzpatrick has done very well. The Racers Group (TRG) is experienced at sports car racing but really new to the stock car racing game. They’ve been able to help him get up front already this year by improving their program, and he’s done very well,” Fellows enthused.

“D.J. Kennington has also done very well considering what’s he’s up against. He’s shone in the restrictor plate races, which couldn’t be any further removed from racing on a short track. You also have Andrew Ranger - he did well enough in Montreal to get a ride in Bristol. I think it will be interesting to see what happens in the next three years. Those guys in the Canadian Tire Series just have to keep doing what they are doing. The more guys that get a chance to show what they have will help the number of Canadians grow down there,” he said.

Triumph in Montreal

Fellows has been able to put up some impressive totals throughout his career, including 19 IMSA wins, 27 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) victories, including triumphs in all three of the holy trinity of Sports car events, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring, as well as a trio of ALMS GT1 championships. When he’s competed in NASCAR, the success has continued, as Fellows scored a pair of Truck wins, and three victories in Nationwide cars heading into the series’ Montreal stop last August.

latmiller080802QC2998A_optWhen the Nationwide Series first went to Mexico, Fellows recalled a conversation that he had with NASCAR executives Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton. “They were asking me about racing in Canada, and where NASCAR should hold a race. I told them that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would be perfect - it’s such a great track. When they announced it was going to happen, I wanted to do it.”

Last year, rain started to fall in Montreal during the feature event of the weekend, marking the first trip to pit road for rain tires in the history of NASCAR’s top three series.

“The track just got too wet to race on, and while you can race in the rain, there was too much standing water and no control. The track is flat, and doesn’t drain well which didn’t help, and they called the race, with us leading. It was a tremendous opportunity to race for Dale Jr., and Mr. Hendricks, with JR Motorsports, and to win on Canadian soil was pretty cool.”

When asked about the win Fellows put it this way: “Le Mans and Montreal are just different. The Montreal win was a much bigger win in North America. It got me a lot of notoriety, and we got a tremendous amount of media attention heading to Watkins Glen the following week. As far as where it stacks up overall, let’s just say the trophy is prominently displayed.”

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