Ron Fellows, driver of the No. 5 Canadian Tire Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was one of the guests in the weekly media teleconference call. Below is a transcript of what he talked about with reporters.
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference in advance of this weekend’s races at Watkins Glen International. We are going to open with Ron Fellows, driver of the No. 5 Canadian Tire Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.
Ron Fellows will drive Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race for JR Motorsports. Fellows holds three career NASCAR Nationwide Series victories at Watkins Glen International along with eight top 10s and two poles.
Ron, this is the second of three scheduled races this season with JR Motorsports. You finished third at Road America in June. With your strong record at Watkins Glen International, what are the team’s expectations heading into Saturday’s race?
RON FELLOWS: Win, simple as that (laughter). Especially with this online contest we have going on at JRRacing.com, I think the expectations are high.
I feel very good about it. We had a strong car at Road America. We played catch-up the day following a flat tire, then we had an issue in the pits just trying to fix some radios.
But, you know, Watkins Glen, we’ve had great success at the Glen. It’s a track that suits my driving style. Yeah, it’s like a second home. Really enjoy racing there. Really looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll now go to the media for questions for Ron Fellows.
Q. Ron, is this the same chassis that you had at Road America? Secondly, after the transmission failure Junior had at Pocono, is there any concern about the transmission? They’ll come out of the same shop, I’ll suspect.
RON FELLOWS: Yes, this is the same chassis. It’s the same chassis we used last year, as well.
The transmission, from what I understand, it was an isolated incident with Junior’s. I’m not sure if he uses the same box that I do. In the stable of transmissions that Hendrick Motorsports has and JRM, I use a Mid Valley, which is a transmission I’ve used in both the Truck Series and Nationwide in the past, as well as Cup. It’s a little bit more suited to my road-racing style.
Q. The Canadian Tire sponsorship, second year in a row you’ve had that in Watkins Glen. Unusual for Canadian Tire to go south of the border. Talk a little bit about how that came about.
RON FELLOWS: Primarily because Canadian Tire, all NASCAR races have a strong viewership in Canada, it’s close to the border. Watkins Glen historically has gotten as many as, I’ve read, 20,000 to 25,000 Canadians for this particular weekend. That’s a pretty strong crowd to be in front of. That’s the reason for it.
It’s a nice piece of momentum for both Canadian Tire and myself with back-to-back road-race weekends.
Q. Ron, having made only select or cameo starts in NASCAR for so many years, is there anything you do to get yourself mentally prepared to compete?
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, there’s a number of things. One, I’ll review tapes of previous races, kind of get that mindset of the stockcar and the feel. Also, you know, the nuances of the various racetracks. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about it.
Having done it for years, there’s a certain amount of muscle memory. It all seems to come back in terms of the driving. Where I feel like it takes a little bit longer is in terms of the really precise feedback when you’re getting down to fine tuning. That takes a little bit longer, especially with these cars, where they are so finally tuned, as equal as they generally are.
When I started doing just a few NASCAR road races, not doing any sports car racing, my concern was the race craft. That seems to come back fairly quickly. It’s primarily being able to, in the short amount of practice time, get the JRM crew, in particular Tony Sr. and H.R., our engineer, the quality details they need to get the car to do what I need it to do for me.
Q. Ron, I’m wondering, you’re going into Watkins Glen, then Montréal. Can you talk about racing this weekend and then sort of not looking forward to the weekend after, but also having to prepare for it, how you’re going to go about that.
RON FELLOWS: Well, yeah, the tracks are so different. It’s kind of like comparing a mile-and-a-half speedway to Martinsville.
Watkins Glen is long, fast corners. I think the minimum corner speed in turn one is probably 90 miles an hour, is upwards of one of the fastest corners in Montréal. Just very different.
Montréal is heavy, heavy braking from high speed for 45 mile-an-hour chicanes, and a 35 mile-an-hour hairpin. Up through the S’s at Watkins Glen, you’re 150 miles an hour through the corner. Just very different.
It also is a very different setup. You need to have, for Watkins Glen, a very stable platform. Aero is critical. Montréal, low speed to aero is not much of a factor, it’s more about mechanical grip, and that means getting as much load into the tire. That generally requires a much softer spring package, softer roll bars, getting a lot more compliance from the shocks.
It’s a night-and-day difference one week apart.
Q. Now that you’re sort of a track owner, when you go to these events you’re concentrating on the driving, but do you have your peripheral vision on what’s going on with the track, how they’re doing things, tips to make your events better, and how to attract a NASCAR event to your track?
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, whether I like it or not, I’m there to race, but it’s hard not to go drive through the gates at Watkins Glen, for instance, and look around at the way things are presented. Yeah, we can do that. Yeah, we need to do that. Usually get a quick reminder from my wife, You’re here to race (laughter).
Q. In Montréal you’re going to have a pretty strong Canadian field. Can you talk about the competition from the hometown drivers that you’re going to see.
RON FELLOWS: Yeah, I think typically in Montréal you got the strong French-Canadian contingent, the successful open-wheel guys, as well as Andrew Ranger, Jacques, Alex Tagliani, Carpentier. I’m sort of the lone wolf from Ontario. I’ll do my best to I guess maybe interrupt the celebrations there a little bit.
Q. Ron, can you share the most important elements of road racing where your experience stands out and helps you the most.
RON FELLOWS: You know, particularly in NASCAR with the cars being very, very powerful, but not having a lot of downforce compared to a more sophisticated road race specific car, they’re heavy, the approach speeds are high. The biggest adjustment for me and the area that I focus on the most is corner approach and the footwork, you know, braking and downshifting. It’s so, so critical.
The cars are also very sensitive to the input when you’re downshifting. You see over the years cars entering corners, and suddenly you can see a little bit of vertical motion with the rear tires. That’s usually error in downshifting, maybe not having the brake bias right.
Corner approach and the footwork is really, really critical, particularly with NASCAR vehicles.
Q. What would be your best advice for a young person starting out either in a sports car or in a NASCAR car to be able to handle a road course?
RON FELLOWS: You never go wrong going to a driving school. When I was in my youth, I went to a couple of different schools. You always pick up a few items, some techniques that are going to help. If nothing else, you get into understanding the various steps to corner approach, the importance of how to apex, what are the most important corners on a road course to focus on. Those are all things you learn at a road racing-oriented racing school.
THE MODERATOR: Ron, I had another question for you. In your intro, you mentioned the Fellows Five Challenge. Can you talk more about that, the fan contest, how that relates to JR Motorsports, what you’re doing.
RON FELLOWS: JRM has done a sweepstakes, contest on an annual basis. They were looking for something different to do. Go to JRMRacing.com. It’s five multiple choice questions about Watkins Glen and Montréal. You have up until one hour before qualifying to enter.
The questions are: What is my starting position? What lap might I pit? What is my finishing position? There’s a bunch of prizes. Our grand prize is a three-day, expenses-paid trip to my Corvette driving school out near Las Vegas.
It’s a cool deal. Besides the driving school, we have gloves, shoes, die casts to give away. It’s going to be kind of fun.
THE MODERATOR: I guess that wraps up our questions. Thank you very much for joining us today, Ron. We wish you all the best this weekend in Watkins Glen.
RON FELLOWS: Thank you.