Johnson wins first road course race

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:52 PM ET

It has been 37 years since a so-called ringer has won a NASCAR Sprint Cup series road course race and the reason why was there for all to see Sunday at the Toyota/SaveMart 350 in Sonoma, Calif.

A few have come close — Toronto’s Ron Fellows has a pair of second-place Cup finishes to go with his six wins in the Nationwide and Camping series — but only the late Mark Donohue, back in 1973 at Riverside Raceway, has collected the silverware when NASCAR turns left and right.

But when Tazmanian Marcos Ambrose forgot to read the paragraph of the NASCAR rule book that says a driver must maintain pace-car speed on caution laps in an effort to save fuel, he lost his chance to join Donohue in the record book with only nine laps to go. And that opened the door for four-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to collect the first road course win of his illustrious career.

Ambrose is generally referred to as a road course specialist — although he is technically a full time Cup driver for the first time this season — and it was a rookie mistake that stole away his chance at a first Cup win.

Other road course specialists in Sunday race fared even worse with Boris Said eighth, Jan Magnussen 12th, Mattias Ekstrom 21st, P.J. Jones 41st and Max Papis 43rd.

Canada’s Day

Let’s face it, nobody was going to catch Carl Edwards in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford at Road America on Saturday in the NASCAR Nationwide Bucyrus 200.

But if not for a busted alternator, Jacques Villeneuve in the No. 32 Toyota would have joined Fellows in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on the podium to make it a pretty impressive 2-3 Canadian finish on the 6.4-km track.

And lurking in seventh place in his first start for JRM was J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

Over on the left coast, Roxton Pond, Que., native Andrew Ranger drove his

No. 35 Waste Management Chevrolet to victory in the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 at Infineon Raceway on Saturday at Sonoma, Calif.

With his win, Ranger secured a spot in the prestigious post-season NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at California’s Iriwndale Speedway. It was the first win by a Canadian in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series since 1998.

Tracy at the Glen

It looks like Paul Tracy will get one more start in the IndyCar series before the Honda Indy Toronto. Tracy told the Indianapolis Star he has agreed in principle to drive the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara in the next Izod IndyCar Series race, taking place July 4 at Watkins Glen International.

Team co-owner Robbie Buhl said Tracy has reason to be optimistic.

“We’re talking in the ‘strong possibility’ mode,” he said.

Finish lines

Memo to IndyCar series racing boss Brain Barnhart: Grow a pair. His continued blind spot when it comes to the dangers of allowing the totally incompetent Milka Duno into IndyCar events is beyond embarrassing. If IndyCar is in such bad shape that it needs the Venezuelan oil money that she brings then it may be time to hang out the “closed” sign ... How much longer can Said continue to collect kudos as a NASCAR road course “expert”? Nice guy, but unless he wins something — anything — he’s just a another sports car driver with a bad hair cut who can’t win in a big, heavy sedan.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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