One big roller coaster

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

It is shaping up to be a pivotal weekend for Canadian motor racing, starting with this country's most prestigious sports car event -- the Mobil 1 Mosport Grand Prix.

The American Le Mans Series headlines the three-day event at Mosport International Raceway, but there are several other key races that deserve mention also going on at the four-kilometre road course in Bowmanville, Ont.

The F2000 championship series will feature some of Canada's most promising young open-wheel drivers, including 19-year-old Caitlin Johnston, who made her debut on the national scene two years ago in Edmonton at the Canadian Karting finals.

But the big guns -- the LMP1 and LMP2 classes -- in the ALMS series are the stars of the show. To a man, drivers of these 300 km/h cars just love Mosport's alluring layout.

Marino Franchitti -- brother of Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti -- is eager to get on the track in his Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder LMP2.

"It's like the world's fastest roller coaster except you're in control," he said yesterday. "I just love it. I can't wait to get there; I wish we would go there 12 times a year. It's just tremendous.

"The fans are fantastic. It's going to be fun to be able to entertain them and I think we will put on a good show."

TRACY CLOSE TO DEAL

Talk in Indy Racing League circles has Toronto's Paul Tracy close to a contract that could see him back in a Vision Racing Dallara at the Detroit Grand Prix of Belle Isle on Labour Day weekend.

According to sources, Derrick Walker is working hard to turn Tracy's fourth-place finish at the Rexall Edmonton Indy last month into another start in the Tony George-owned outfit.

There also are rumours linking Tracy to the third car at Chip Ganassi Racing should Darren Manning not re-sign. Another option would be a full-season in 2009 with Vision.

RANGER GOES BIG TIME

Quebec's Andrew Ranger hadn't even got the smell of champagne off his driver's suit after his win in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres when he was offered a ride for the rest of the Nationwide Series season in the Fitz Motorsports No. 22 Dodge -- the same car Patrick Carpentier drove to second place at the inaugural NAPA 200 at Montreal in 2007.

He will attempt to make the grid in the Food City 250 tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The 20-year-old Ranger is the defending NASCAR Canadian champion and was close to tears when he was told that a deal had been struck to move him up to the No. 2 stock car series in the world.

The Roxton Pond, Que., native joins another Canuck -- D.J. Kennington, who drives the No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge -- in the Nationwide loop.

Ranger said that watching his father race in dirt-track late models as a youngster made him a fan of NASCAR racing and it's a dream come true for him to jump up to the national touring series.

"To run in the Nationwide Series is a new challenge for me and also an excellent path for my career as a NASCAR driver," Ranger said. "I am more than ready to take this on and I will give it everything I've got to position myself as a contender in this series."

Aside from Bristol, Ranger also will compete in Nationwide events at Richmond, Charlotte, Memphis, Texas, Phoenix and will close out the season in Homestead Nov. 15.

He will finish the season in the Canadian Tire Series. He is currently fourth in the points standings.


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