NASCAR makes history, thrills fans by using rain tires at Montreal
Over the years, having watched many great Formula 1 races run in the wet, I never thought I would actually see it with stock cars in a points race. But Saturday, it actually happened … more than a decade after the first use of rain tires during an exhibition race in Japan.
Watching these stock cars make their way around the wet track was quite a sight to see. The images of the cars emerging from the spray were just awesome, and the racing was great on top of that. It truly was a historic day for the sport, and now I’m almost hoping for rain at the Glen next weekend so I can see it again.
It was a welcome bit of good news for Goodyear, whose rain tires (though apparently many years old) did very well on the Nationwide cars. Only a few people went off track, so this is a great bit of positive PR for them after last week’s Indy debacle.
One thing I noticed is that as soon as the rain hit, at least a half-dozen of the backmarkers headed straight to the garage. I don’t blame them though, as they probably don’t have too many backup cars and didn’t want to risk tearing their cars up.
Though it wasn’t the Canadian most of the fans in attendance were hoping would win (that would be Jacques Villeneuve), Canadians should be proud that Ron Fellows, one of their own, took the checkered flag -- via what turned out to be a brilliant pit strategy.
It was refreshing to see a truly emotional victory lane, as Fellows was overwhelmed after winning at the track named for one of his heroes, Gilles Villeneuve (father of Jacques), who died in a Formula 1 qualifying accident in Belgium in 1982. After hearing the rehearsed sponsor lists week after week from the usual winners, it was nice to see someone so excited about winning. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember Fellows reciting his sponsors.
Marcos Ambrose was by far the best car out there, and showed his experience driving in the rain, but his speeding on pit road cost him the win. Last year, Robby Gordon knocks him out and this year it’s a penalty … guess he‘s got bad luck. He’s your favorite heading into next year. (Note to NASCAR: Don’t get rid of this race like you did Mexico City … it‘s pretty good)
Of the non-road course vets, I have to give a tip of the hat to Ron Hornaday, who did very well all day and ended up 4th. I was also impressed with Joey Logano. The kid does his first big-time road course race and is in the top 5 when he wrecks. His future Cup competitors should pencil in some battles with him up front next season. Also, Steven Wallace put on a great show, passing dozens of cars on his way toward the front of the field.
The only bad thing Saturday was that NASCAR waited too long to throw the final red flag. As a result, Villeneuve and Logano had great runs ruined when they had crashes under caution. They couldn’t see because it was raining so hard, apparently, a sign that it’s time to stop the cars. With Villeneuve being to Quebec what Dale Jr. is to much of America, it was clear the fans were disgusted after he crashed and most got up and left.
This race was just what NASCAR needed after last week’s mess, and let’s hope for a tolerable race at Pocono so we can keep this happy train rolling.