The highly-anticipated NASCAR Camping World Truck Series weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has begun with a pair of practice sessions on the 10-turn road course outside Toronto.
Seemingly going along with the international flavor of this particular event, a Mexican, an American, and a Canadian took the Top 3 spots in the first practice session.
Mexico’s German Quiroga used a late run to post the fastest lap of the session at 81.239 seconds. Following him was the USA’s Brennan Newberry in P2 (81.595 seconds) and Canada’s Alex Tagliani in third (81.660 seconds).
Rounding out the Top 5 were Gray Gaulding (fourth, 81.852 seconds) and Jeb Burton (fifth, 81.852 seconds).
Speeds went up in the second practice, which was led by another Canadian driver. Quebec native Andrew Ranger went to the top with his lap of 80.760 seconds, pushing Quiroga’s 80.772-second lap to P2.
Cole Custer posted the third-fastest time (80.825 seconds). Then came Ryan Blaney in fourth (80.832 seconds) and Gaulding again cracking the Top 5 speeds, this time in fifth (80.886 seconds).
Points leader Johnny Sauter was 13th in the first practice, but improved to 10th in the second practice. Sauter leads the Truck Series standings by eight points over ThorSport Racing teammate and defending series champion Matt Crafton (11th in first practice, seventh in second practice).
As for the beleaguered Turner Scott Motorsports, Ben Kennedy (ninth in first practice, 14th in second practice) and Cameron Hayley (14th in first practice, 11th in second practice) posted times good enough for mid-pack.
Qualifying will take place later today at 5:40 p.m. ET ahead of Sunday’s main event, the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1:30 p.m. ET, check local listings).
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at CTMP – First Practice Times
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at CTMP – Second (Final) Practice Times
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.
Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
- 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish
Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.
Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.
Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.
Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.
For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.
MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.
Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
- 2014: GP2
- 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish
Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.
The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.
Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.
It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.
Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.