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Fitzpatrick Finishes 20th in Royal Purple 300

J.R. Fitzpatrick claimed a 20th place finish in Saturday’s ‘Royal Purple 300’, Round 5 of the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series, at California’s Auto Club Speedway. The 22-year-old Canadian combated a lively No.27 Schick Hydro/Energizer Baker Curb Racing Ford Mustang but went the distance to see his first checkered flag of the season having been forced to retire 10 laps into his debut at Daytona last month.

Fitzpatrick, the 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Runner-Up, had earlier qualified 25th with Carl Edwards, also racing a Ford, claiming the pole to lead the 43-car field to the green in the afternoon.

With just one previous race start under his belt at the 2-mile D-shaped oval, a Truck Series event back in 2009, J.R.’s hopes of a smooth outing in California were quickly dashed as handling issues presented themselves almost immediately. The Canadian dropped a lap down on the leaders under green on lap 51, pitting 10 tours later to make adjustments to car to stop it from pushing. He dropped two laps down exiting the pits courtesy of a caution but received the ‘wave-around’ to claw one back.

J.R. Fitzpatrick is NASCAR Nationwide Series action at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

From there Fitzpatrick raced on the edges of the top-20, enjoying battles with Kevin Conway and Tim Andrews, keeping themselves in the mix for position while waiting for the ‘lucky dog’ to get back on the lead lap. The Ontario racer survived a late-race brush with the wall 20 laps from the end before a final trip to the pits for fuel and some additional adjustments.

He then raced to the checkered flag on lap 150, finishing 20th and collecting his first points of the season but more importantly continuing to build his experiences behind the wheel in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Kyle Busch won the ‘Royal Purple 300’ over Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick in second and third respectively.

"I enjoyed working with crew chief Newt Moore this weekend, he really helped me a lot as I try to figure out how to drive on these big tracks,” stated Fitzpatrick post-race. “This is the first time I’ve raced a Nationwide car on an oval to the finish and California is a pretty tough place to figure out so I’m happy with how the weekend went. I learned a lot! I can't wait until I'm given another chance to continue my development."

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