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Friday, August 27, 2010

Race Preview: Nationwide Series from Montreal

We don't have Cup racing this week but do have Nationwide Series racing from Canada. A road course in Montreal, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a 2.71 mile round trip that includes 15 turns along the way. The race in Montreal has been part of the Nationwide Schedule since 2007. The NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge will include 74 laps around the road course on Sunday.

So-called road course ringer Marcos Ambrose hopes to run well over the weekend, as Montreal has been particularly tough for Ambrose. In his three starts he was driving the fastest car, led the most laps, but did not come home a winner from any appearance. In 2007 Marcos led 37 laps before getting into trouble with Robby Gordon and finishing seventh on lap 75 after a green-white-checker finish. 2008 found Ambrose leading 25 of a rain-shortened 48 lap event but lost the lead after speeding on pit road and serving a penalty.

2009 found Ambrose the closest to a win, but after leading 60 laps, he made a mistake in the Chicane which gave Carl Edwards the opening he needed to take the lead away from Marcos. Edwards ultimately won the 2009 race, whereas Ambrose finished in the runner-up spot. Other than Carl, previous winners of the Napa Auto Parts 200 have been Ron Fellows in 2008 and Kevin Harvick in 2007. Out of the three former winners, Edwards and Fellows are both included on the Napa Auto Parts 200 Entry List for this weekend, Harvick is not.

Jacques Villeneuve and Brad Keselowski are another pair to watch this weekend for strong performances. The pair finished fourth and fifth, respectively in 2009. Villeneuve has much experience in road course racing in multiple racing series. Keselowski is coming into the weekend as Points Leaders, 313 ahead of who else but Carl Edwards. After a win two weeks ago at Michigan and getting dumped by Kyle Busch in last week's Nationwide race at Bristol, Brad would love to come out and post another win to increase his points lead.

Max Papis will be in the number 33 for this week's race and hopes to finish better than his 2009 finish of 20th. Papis has also been referred to as a road course ringer but has largely failed to live up to that term in NASCAR racing. This is the first Nationwide race that Papis has taken part in this year. In his six NASCAR Cup Series Road Course starts, Max has posted just one top ten finish. This weekend at Montreal could be a chance for Papis to regain his road course glory.

Another driver who posted strong finishes in road course racing at Watkins Glen earlier in the Nationwide Series is Joey Logano. Joey took home a second place finish a few weeks ago at The Glen but has not posted good finishes previously at Montreal. Logano did not race in last year's Napa Auto Parts 200, was taken out of competition in 2008 by an accident, and did not participate in the 2007 running at Montreal. With little experience at this track, that could hurt Logano's chances to move up from his 11th place spot in the Nationwide Points Standings.

What it comes down to is that this could be anyones race, and it should be a good one among competitors. Edwards and Keselowski are both contenders, but with both still on probation for their run-ins earlier in the season it is unlikely that the two will be the cause of any fireworks on Sunday afternoon. I expect a clean race from both drivers.

Ambrose is driven to get a win in Montreal as it would be his first Canadian win. He may race a little too hard and find himself spinning in a turn late in the race, however. Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard are in the top five in the Points but neither made it inside the top ten at this track last year. I pick Carl Edwards for the win, Joey Logano for the runner-up spot, and Brad Keselowski to come in third. Villeneuve and Papis round out my top five.

Although racing in the rain is allowed at Montreal, there is little chance of rain in the area forecast for the weekend. With a 20% chance of rain Saturday and Sunday and temperatures expected to be in the mid-80s weather should not play a factor in the weekend event. Catch Nationwide practice Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Qualifications at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the race on Sunday at 2 p.m. All coverage of this weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series Napa Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal will be aired on ESPN2. There will also be an untelevised Practice Session Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. that can be followed on NASCAR.com


Photo Credits
Photo 1: http://nationwide.nascar.com
Photo 2: Kent Holloway www.kentholloway.net
Photo 3: www.nascar.com
Photo 4: http://sports.espn.go.com

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