NASCAR: Ron Fellows a no-go for both Sonoma and JR Motorsports Nationwide

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Sports car racing legend and one of Canada’s most recognizable drivers, Ron Fellows, has long been regarded as one of the best – if not the best – of the NASCAR “road race ringers.”

But unfortunately, barring any last-minute adjustments, we won’t be seeing the 54-year-old Fellows at either Sonoma Raceway (NASCAR Sprint Cup) or Road America (NASCAR Nationwide Series) this weekend.

On the Cup side, Fellows’ place in the No. 33 Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet that he had last year will be taken by Alex Kennedy. Meanwhile, his JR Motorsports Nationwide deal is a no-go for 2014 because of a sponsor conflict.

“I’m heavily involved with Canadian Tire, and JRM has NAPA this year (for Chase Elliott, who, incidentally, won the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year), so it doesn’t work,” Fellows told MotorSportsTalk at Le Mans this week. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.”

He has three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 25 career Cup starts; he also has four Nationwide Series wins in 25 starts. He didn’t start a Cup race in 2012 but started at least one every year from 1998 through 2011; he’s also raced in the Nationwide Series at least once per year every year since 2005.

Fellows still remains heavily involved with Corvette Racing as a brand ambassador, having been an integral part of the team’s success at Le Mans and in North American sports car racing for a decade.

He’s also part of the ownership group at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, outside Toronto. Fellows, Carlo Fidani and Al Boughton took over the track a couple years ago.

Preparations are well underway for CTMP’s IMSA (July 10-13) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (August 29-31) race weekends.

Fellows now has shifted from the driver side to the promoter side rather well.

“A lot of it is working with sponsors, and trying to enhance their experience,” Fellows explained. “As a race fan and as a kid, you’re always searching for where you want to watch and what’s important to be able to see. There are some things we’ve done have been done to improve viewing areas. Now having the outfield side of Turn 1 for corporate hosting available too has enhanced the overall experience.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.