Fellows wins in rainy Montreal

Published 12:31 am Sunday, August 3, 2008

MONTREAL – Carl Edwards used a squeegee to clean his windshield while he drove under caution. Jacques Villeneuve and Joey Logano wrecked with the yellow flag flying. And rooster tails flew off the grooved — yes, grooved — back tires.

It certainly was a history-making day at rainy Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — right down to the winner, Canadian road-racer Ron Fellows.

In the first NASCAR points race run on grooved rain tires, Fellows splashed his way to victory — his fourth road-race win in 13 Nationwide Series starts — in the event that ended 26 laps early because of heavy rain and poor visibility.

“Visibility was the big, big problem,” said Fellows, the first Canadian winner in a major NASCAR race in Canada. “At over 70 mph, there was just so much spray.”

The 48-year-old Ontario driver took advantage of Marcos Ambrose’s pit-road speeding penalty to take the lead, and had about a half-minute advantage over fellow Canadian Patrick Carpentier when the NAPA Auto Parts 200 was red-flagged.

“It’s very dangerous,” Fellows said minutes before the race was called.

After just eight laps on the 2.71-mile, 14-turn road course, rain and lightning forced an eight-minute delay. The cars returned to the track with the grooved Goodyear tires and many also had a single windshield wiper.

“This is ridiculous,” early leader Scott Pruett said over his radio.

Grooved tires also were used in 1999 during a Craftsman Truck Series practice on the road course at Watkins Glen. In 1997, rain tires were used in practice and qualifying for an exhibition race in Japan.

After averaging about 90 mph on the regular slick tires before the rain arrived, the leaders’ average speed dropped to about 75 mph on the grooved tires.

“That was different,” Fellows said. “This is incredible.”

Fellows, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports, led the final seven laps. Ambrose finished third after leading a race-high 27 laps.

Ron Hornaday was fourth, followed by Boris Said, Edwards, Jason Leffler, Greg Biffle, series leader Clint Bowyer and Scott Wimmer.

“All in all, I’m surprised how well everyone did and how few accidents there were,” Said said. “In the end, people were wrecking under caution because you just couldn’t see. The cars were hydroplaning.”

Villeneuve, the former Formula One and CART champion racing on the track named after his late father, had so much trouble seeing out of his Toyota that he ran into the back of another car during the final caution period.

Running sixth at the time of the accident, he ended up 16th.

“I couldn’t see a thing,” Villeneuve said.

Logano also wrecked during the final caution.

“I hit a lapped car with no brake lights. I have no idea who it was,” Logano said. “I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me down the straightaway, under caution. Somebody stopped. I locked up all four and boom! … It’s just not right.”

The teen star finished 17th.