Jolly Good Fellows

Ron Fellows is recognized widely as one of the foremost road racers in the business. When he competes, competitors and fans alike take notice, and his record at the Glen speaks volumes about his ability to succeed.

In 18 NASCAR races, the likable Canadian has won five times, plus he has earned three runner-up finishes and a third place.

These accomplishments took place in the Cup Series, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series action.

Two of his second-place finishes came in Cup Series races, trailing Jeff Gordon in 1999 and Tony Stewart two years ago. He admits that second place is noteworthy, but he strives to be the first road racer to win a NEXTEL Cup Series race since Mark Donohue won at Riverside International Raceway in 1973.

“I want to be in a position to win, and I believe my PPI team is going to provide me with a shot at victory,” Fellows said.

For Sunday’s NEXTEL Cup Series race, Fellows will drive the Tide/Downy Chevrolet owned by PPI Racing and Cal Wells III, and he will wheel Kevin Harvick’s Outdoor Channel Chevrolet in the Zippo 200 on Saturday.

Fellows, Boris Said, Scott Pruett and other road racers are known as “hired guns,” as they mainly compete in sports car divisions. While their mere presence is intimidating to the NEXTEL Cup Series regulars, these drivers have learned a lot from the crafty road racers.

“I am more than happy to help any of them, but a lot of them don’t need my help any more,” Fellows said. “Ten years ago, I might have had a better chance of winning a couple of Cup Series races. At the time, there were maybe four or five guys that were really good on road courses. Today, many more of the teams have become competitive, and the personnel of the whole field has gotten much better.”

Assessing the field, Fellows said, “Tony Stewart will be very strong, as will Jeff Gordon and all of the Roush Racing cars. As a result of Jeff Gordon’s success, the Hendrick team has accumulated a lot of useful information for its drivers, who, in their own right, are no slouches. Jack Roush knows what he is doing on the road courses, so there are easily 20 guys that are good enough to win on a road course.”

When not racing with NASCAR, Fellows drives a Chevrolet Corvette in the American LeMans Series and a Cadillac CTS.V in the SPEED World Challenge Series. His credits include an overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and multiple class wins in the 24 Hours of LeMans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. In SCCA Trans-Am competition, he scored 19 victories in 95 races, including two victories, a second and a third at The Glen.

His ties with General Motors and Pratt & Miller, the chassis builder, are well known and he will have a newly designed Pratt & Miller chassis for each race this weekend. Shortly after last year’s race, Fellows convinced Wells to acquire the chassis and, for months, Fellows, PPI and Chevrolet have been working together to develop the new design.

Fellows also bought one for the Zippo 200 Busch Series race and he hopes that Kevin Harvick will pick up the tab for it.

“During the weekend, we will have about four hours of practice between the two series, and having the same chassis will help us as we go back and forth between the two cars. I feel this chassis has the potential to be a contender for the victory.”

Richard Childress Racing will provide engines for the two cars.

In June at Infineon Raceway, Fellows drove the Tide/Downy Chevrolet but noted there are significant differences between the two tracks.

“At Infineon, the highest speed may be 130 mph, while we will reach speeds of 180 mph at The Glen,” he said.

“There are two corners at The Glen where you are going 20 mph faster than your highest speed in California. The Glen’s higher speeds must be taken into consideration. You enter Turn 1 at 170 mph and get up to 180 going into the Inner Loop and Turn 9. In these areas, the length of the brake zone becomes very important along with the quality of your car. Also, you depend on other drivers to make little mistakes in the brake zones.”

While some drivers say it is hard to pass here, Fellows disagrees.

“There are at least three places where you can pass — Turn 1, the Inner Loop and Turn 9. Turn 9 is the most difficult place, as it is a fast corner with a narrow approach.”

To prepare for The Glen, Fellows has been viewing videotapes of prior races.

“I always learn something from watching these races,” he said. “I also watch Cup Series events on television to get a feel for the personalities of the drivers. Their traits aren’t any different on a road course than they are on an oval.”

Fellows appreciates the importance of race planning and car preparation, but another element must be present for them to succeed, he said —

“The stars must be aligned correctly.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006

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