Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series News & Notes - Montreal

NAPA AutoPro 100 Notebook // Edmonton Canadian Tire Series 100 Post-Race Notebook // Whissell Adjusting To Stock Car Racing

* Ashley Taws Overcomes On And Off The Track

Beating the odds is nothing new to Ashley Taws, both as a female racer and as a victim of a terrible passenger car accident in late 2002.

Taws (No. 72 Barbie at Wal-Mart Chevrolet), racing out of Newmarket, Ont., will become the first female driver in, the albeit short, history of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio when she makes her debut at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend. At the same time, she will add her name to the likes of Janet Guthrie, Shawna Robinson, Erin Crocker and Sarah Fisher as females competing in NASCAR events.

No stranger to being the first female to race in several events and series, Taws, 24, prefers not to focus on that, but rather on the task at hand — racing.

"I expect to have to earn the respect of the guys out there and, once I do, I am just another driver and that is the way I want it," said Taws.

At the end of the day, however, Taws is lucky to be walking let alone racing. Following a successful 2002 season in the open-wheel Canadian Formula Ford series, she was involved in a horrible traffic accident as a passenger in which she suffered serious back injuries. The damage was so severe that doctors were not sure that she would ever walk again. She spent six months in a hospital bed and underwent countless surgeries knowing that she would not only walk, but also race again.

Just after getting on her feet after the accident, Taws went right back to racing, but her physical stamina was not where it needed to be and the lingering pain from the injuries was just too much to bear.

"I just couldn't sit in the car without it hurting," she said. "Plus, my conditioning and stamina was next to nothing."
Seemingly, her racing career was over even before it really started. Taws did not climb behind the wheel of a racecar for four years. During the hiatus, she was in and out of the hospital for various problems and procedures. The final corrective surgeries were performed in the summer of 2006.

Her first foray into stock car racing came just last season in the Ontario Sportsman Series. The cars used in that series are of similar size to those of the Canadian Tire Series, but are lighter and not as powerful.

"I've adjusted pretty well to stock car racing, but I'm going to have another 200 horsepower to get used to in the (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series)."

She has little seat time in her Canadian Tire Series ride and, for that reason, has no grandiose expectations for the Montreal race.

"I have raced on the track before, so only the car will be new to me," Taws said. "I just want to take this as a learning process and not push everything to the limit. I don't expect to win the race. I want to do well, but this will be a learning event for me and my crew, who are new to stock cars, as well."

Neither the high profile of Canada's best stock-car racers on hand for the NAPA 100 nor the presence of the NASCAR Nationwide Series has Taws swimming in a nervous sweat.

"I've watched all the (NCATS) races on television this year and there are a lot of high-profile drivers. I've seen how hard they race and how tight the competition is," she said. "I am a little nervous, but probably more excited than anything. I just want to learn the car and begin to earn respect among the drivers as a solid racer."

Taws also plans to race with the Canadian Tire Series in two weeks at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. The long-range plan is to do more road-course races in 2009 before tackling an oval track in the Canadian Tire Series.

The Race: NAPA 100
The Place: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Quebec
The Date: Saturday, Aug. 2
The Time: 10:20 a.m. ET
TV Schedule: TSN, Noon ET, Aug. 16 (delayed)
Track Layout: 2.710-mile temporary road course
Race Purse: $68,292 CAD
2007 Winner: Kerry Micks
2007 Pole: J.R. Fitzpatrick
Schedule: Friday: Practice 8-9:40  a.m., Time Trials 12:30 p.m.
Track Contact: Paul Wilson, (514) 982-0833 or (514) 397-8333

* Whissell Taking Adjustment To NASCAR One Step At A Time

As the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series grows in popularity, many drivers from the dozens and dozens of sports car road-racing series all over the country are looking at stock-car racing as a viable option. Jarrad Whissell, of Calgary, Alberta, has moved beyond looking and jumped into the fray.

He will make the third of his four NASCAR Canadian Tire Series appearances this weekend at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Whissell, who had never been in a stock car before this year, plans to continue racing the road-course events, but does not rule out trying his hand on an oval track.

"I am just so new to these machines that I want to stay on the road courses, for now, just for the comfort level," Whissell said. "Down the road, I wouldn't mind putting together an oval program. I think that would be fun once we're in a position to do it well."

Whissell, 33, has a pair of Western Canadian Motorsport Association championships under his belt and knows the ins and outs of turning left and right. Now, it is just a matter of getting familiar with the beast that is a Canadian Tire Series car.

"I'll admit we've struggled with the mechanics of the car, but every minute adds to our library of knowledge."

Those minutes are about to multiply rapidly. Having just completed the Edmonton event last weekend, the Montreal and Trois-Rivieres races come within the next three weeks.

"It sure is a flurry of activity, but it'll be fun and we're all looking forward to it," he said.

* News & Notes

The Race: This event is the seventh of 13 races on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio schedule. It is the series' second visit to the track.

The Procedure: The starting field is 34 cars, including provisionals. The first 29 cars will qualify through NASCAR Road Race (group) qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 23 laps covering 100 kilometers (62.137 miles).

The Track: The 2.710-mile, 14-turn temporary road course is located in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Notre-Dame, a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River. The track was originally named Île Notre-Dame Circuit, but was renamed in 1982 following the death of legendary Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve.

The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the Canadian Tire Series is 106.755 seconds (91.387 mph) set by J.R. Fitzpatrick on Aug. 3, 2007. The 23-lap race record is held by Kerry Micks at 1 hour, 2 minutes, 18 seconds set Aug. 4, 2007.

A Season Ago: Fitzpatrick started on the pole, but led just one lap before surrendering the lead to Micks most of the race until Andrew Ranger moved past on lap 21. Ranger and Micks stayed bumper-to-bumper for the rest of the race. Micks staged a dramatic last-lap pass of Ranger for the victory.

Also On Tap: The Canadian Tire Series joins the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend along with Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series DP and GT classes.

* Edmonton Canadian Tire Series 100 Post-Race Notebook

Crowded House: Edmonton track officials did not release attendance numbers. With the grandstands full and still plenty of spectators at other vantage points around the track, though, the crowd was easily in excess of 60,000. It was the fourth consecutive capacity crowd for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

First Timer: In Edmonton, Alex Tagliani (No. 7 Wal-Mart/Tide Ford) became the Canadian Tire Series' first first-time winner since Scott Steckly (No. 22 Tow Truck in a Box/Erb Group Dodge) collected his initial series win in last season's final race. Tagliani is the eighth different race winner in the series' short history.

Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award: As a reward for his NASCAR Canadian Tire Series victory in Edmonton, Tagliani collects $1,500 from Mobil 1 for his effort.

Mopar Fast Five: This program awards the top five finishing Dodges in the race. In the Edmonton 100, Steckly was the highest-finishing Dodge and thus earned a $2,000 bonus for the fifth time this year. D.J. Kennington (No. 17  Castrol/Haldex Dodge) finished fifth overall and was the second-highest finishing Dodge, which earned him $1,250. Picking up $1,000 for finishing as the third-highest Dodge was Jason Hathaway (No. 3 Snap-on Tools/Super 8 Dodge). Collecting $500 for placing fourth among the Dodge entrants was Mark Dilley (No. 9 Dodge/Leland Industries Dodge). Rounding out the top five Dodges was Dave Whitlock (No. 39 Dickies/NMT Dodge), which pays $250.

POWERade Power Move: Hathaway also earned the POWERade bonus of $1,000 for improving his position the most over the course of the race. He started 14th on the grid and finished seventh.

Tow Truck in a Box Free Pass Award: In a new program in 2008, the driver who receives a free pass during the event and has the highest finish earns $1,000. No driver was able to earn a free pass in Edmonton, so the award will roll over and be worth $2,000 in Montreal.

In Case You Missed It: TSN and TSN HD coverage of the Edmonton Canadian Tire Series 100 will premiere on Sunday, August 3 at noon ET. The one-hour program will also air on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 4 p.m. ET and on Sunday, Aug. 10 at midnight ET.

From Shon Sbarra, NASCAR

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