This weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada for its first road course race in 13 years and its first race outside the US — Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Ron Fellows, who has become known to NASCAR fans as a road course specialist, is part-owner of the track. Earlier this week, he participated in a NASCAR teleconference to talk about the Truck Series’ first event at his track. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. Ron, you have a big race on Sunday. What has it been like to switch gears from being a driver to wearing the promoter hat?
RON FELLOWS: It was a lot easier just being a driver. No, it’s been a great opportunity. The Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is probably the most important international raceway. It’s a track I grew up not only learning how to race on, but a big part of my life was spent there as a kid watching races, and to be part of the ownership with Carlo Fidani has been a privilege, and it’s been a great learning experience, as well.
We’ve made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and yeah, hopefully the weather stays great. On the promotion side of it now, I find myself looking at the weather way more, especially this week.
Q. My question is you’ve been racing a long time in all three NASCAR series. When you first started, it was the road course ace Ron Fellows, but over the years, the criticism has always been that NASCAR, stock car drivers in general, can’t turn right and left. Could you tell me, now in 2013, is that still true, or do these guys know how to race on a road course?
RON FELLOWS: No, if you look at how things have changed, in the first Cup race I did in I believe it was ’98 in the Caterpillar car for Buzz McCall, you could count on one hand pretty much who you were going to have to race against. Now you look at certainly in the Cup grid, I’ve been in that two-dozen group, and in Cup it’s easily 26, 28 guys capable. There’s just a lot more emphasis put on the racing in general, whether it’s a road course, a short track, superspeedway, or mile-and-a-half. It just doesn’t seem to matter. If you’re good, you’re going to be good at everything.
I think that showed up a lot at the Nationwide race, as well, at mid-Ohio. Yeah, we had a lot of practice; yes, the regulars got an opportunity to really do their thing; but it was painfully obvious that those guys are really good racers. And that’s the way it is now. There’s no weekends off, and a great racer is a great racer.
Q. Just a follow-up question: Now, NASCAR seems to recognize this; they added another road course race to the Nationwide Series. There’s always talk of putting a road course race in the Chase, and now we have a Camping World Truck Series race going back to the roads for the first time in 13 years. The young guys, I know you’ve talked to a couple of them, I don’t know whether any of them have been out to your school in Nevada or not, but from what you
RON FELLOWS: Yeah. Not only that, certainly being a Chevy guy, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on training, education, and hopefully that’ll help. We had about a half a dozen of the Chevy Truck Series drivers come out to my Corvette school in Spring Mountain west of Las Vegas back in May, and they did tremendously well. It takes a good day to kind of get a feel for it, but I was there both days and just came away super impressed.
And also we’ve had a few of the Nationwide drivers, as well, but certainly these guys are also provided opportunities to get better and don’t shy away from it.
Q. For the new drivers that are just going to be showing up this weekend for the first time, how would you characterize the track in terms of a comparison with either like a fast course at Watkins Glen or a technical place like Sonoma, and any prediction on what sort of race it would produce?
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, like most Grand Prix courses, long, fast corners, more elevation than Watkins Glen, probably just a little bit faster at cornering, but very, very similar. Two tracks that were built in a similar era, and that’s probably the closest comparison for sure would be Watkins Glen.
I think that it’ll make for a great race. There are opportunities to pass because with these long, sweeping corners, you can capitalize on small mistakes, and that’s what you want to have. I think the long Andretti straight up the hill into Turn 8 will be a great place to watch in terms of passing opportunities. Turn 3 — I can’t think of a bad one.
Q. And I know you guys have put a lot of upgrades and improvements into the track and just the facilities around, as well. What sort of sense of accomplishment is it just to be hosting this race in your backyard and just seeing this whole thing take off?
RON FELLOWS: Well, I guess we’re not going to — yeah, every once in a while I guess you’ve got to stop and smell the coffee. But yes, we’ve made a lot of improvements, but I think we’ll all rest a lot easier when we get to Sunday night and hopefully it’s a great weekend, we get great attendance, and I think that’s when we’ll relax. Yes, we’ve come a long way when you look at the facility, but we want to continue to grow and move forward.
When you’re sort of in it on a day-to-day basis, I don’t go up to the track day-to-day but certainly on the phone and actively working relative to the track every day. You literally don’t see it because you’re constantly looking forward and trying to make things better, but at some point we’ll likely look back and say, yeah, that’s pretty cool. For sure we look at the new events center, it’s close to 30,000 square feet. It has transformed the place, as has the entranceway, as has the new tunnel, a lot of the grooming of the hills. My partner Carlo Fidani and his vision has just been a tremendous asset.
Q. I’m also noticing you’re not on the entry list. As a racer is it going to be hard to watch without competing? It sounds like you’ve got plenty of other things to keep you busy.
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, I thought about entering — there were a few opportunities to race, but I just didn’t feel like it’s the right thing to do. I’ve got more races behind me than in front of me, and it seemed like that inside the weekend I’d probably be thinking more about things relative to the promoter side of it rather than the racer side of it, so that was a relatively easy decision to make.
And let’s see what some of these young guns can do.
Q. This question has to do with future plans for the track. Like I said earlier, NASCAR has added a number of road courses in all three series. You have to have a wish list, and I suspect that a Nationwide would be the next step. Is that a goal right now? Is that something that you see as doable?
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, it’s really not our call. To be honest with you, absolutely, we want to continue to grow. We’re really fortunate to have this opportunity with NASCAR, working with the NASCAR folks has been fantastic, and they have been incredibly helpful to Myles Brandt and our staff. I can’t say enough good things about what it’s been like dealing with the NASCAR team.
You know, we just want to do the best job possible this year, and who knows what the future can hold, and that’s really our focus right now.