February 23, 2012
Canuck racer needs to start winning
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
DAYTONA, FLA. - J.R. Fitzpatrick knows that consistent Top 10 finishes are the only things that matter in the upper echelons of NASCAR stock car racing.
It's fine to finish in the Top 20 in lesser series and keep your job. But if the 23-year-old from Cambridge, Ont., wants to make it to Sprint Cup or even the Nationwide Series on a full-time basis, he must win -- or at the very least challenge for a win every week this season in the Camping World Truck Series.
He will get the best chance of his four-year odyssey to do just that this year in the No. 60 Turn One Racing Chevrolet Silverado.
Last season Cole Whitt managed 11 top 10 finishes driving the No. 60 machine that translated into ninth place in the season championship.
What that got Whitt was a job driving the top-rated No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet this season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at JR Motorsports.
"I know this is my best chance so far in my career," Fitzpatrick said Wednesday, as he helped push the No. 60 truck through the NASCAR inspection process at Daytona International Speedway.
Fitzpatrick does know what it takes to be a winner, becoming the youngest Canadian national stock car racing champion in 2006 when he won the CASCAR Super Series as an 18-year-old.
He has since had on-again, off-again opportunities in the Truck and Nationwide series while racing full-time in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
He was never, however, able to put more than a part-time deal together until this season.
Not that he didn't taste some success in those efforts.
Fitzpatrick had a career-best fourth-place finish in 2010 at Daytona, driving the No. 4 Chevrolet truck for Kevin Harvick Incorporated, and a fifth-place finish last season in the NAPA 200 Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal driving the No. 67 GC International Racing Ford.
This season, however, he has a full 22-race contract in the truck series with Turn One.
"I gives me a new level of confidence to know that I have that kind of security," he said. "I have a chance to really get to know the team and everybody on it over the course of a season."
The deal also gives him a first-class racing operation in his corner, providing him with solid equipment every time he goes out on the track.
"It means so much to have good equipment," he said. "If I can bring the truck home with a good finish and in good shape on a regular basis, then I am doing my job."
Fitzpatrick will also run a full 12-race season in the Canadian Tire Series driving the No. 84 Chevrolet.
As the truck series almost always runs on Fridays, he can make it to Canadian Tire races that, for the most part, run on Saturdays.
Fitzpatrick gets his first seat time in the No. 60 truck Thursday for practice.
The NextEra Energy Resources 250 goes Friday at 7:30 p.m. It will be broadcast live on Speed TV.