Date Posted: March 21, 2011
Lost in the backwood suburbia's of Cambridge, we catch up with the youngest CASCAR Champion in Canadian motorsport history, JR Fitzpatrick. En route to picking up more parts for more race cars in the Fitzpatrick fleet, one of Canada's best racing exports takes a couple minutes to chat about the upcoming Canada Day Race of Champions over his blue-tooth head set.
JR, you were the very first phone call we received after the press release went public.
Were you surprised?
Well, No. But what got your so excited about this event?
Well it's funny the way it
happened. I was speaking with a friend of mine, Sarah
Why was that?
I was thoroughly excited about it. I love the Thunder Car class, that's why I've built two cars. It's awesome racing, and to give this division a shot to race with these drivers is awesome. It's going to be a better event than a Late Model show because you're going to have a true field of grassroots cars. You'll have home built cars up against fabricated cars, and a mix of crate motors and setups. It's going to be a sweet event.
You've been a champion in Canada's national tour, a star with the Canadian Tire Series and Canadian entry in a number of NASCAR Nationwide events; plus, as you've said, you're a multi-car owner at the grassroots level. What's your focus this season?
Honestly, I can't say right now. I'll be juggling quite a bit. We're working on a few more Nationwide events to add to the schedule, and I'll definitely be in at as many Canadian Tire events as I can make. I love racing, and I'll be anywhere I can on race day. I'll race a little bit of everything this summer. I'm looking forward to getting into the specials where I can with the Thunder Car, running Delaware, Sunset, Autumn Colours and Flamboro.
Most people still consider you a Delaware Speedway driver.
Ya know it's funny. I only raced like one event their when I built my new Thunder Car, and we had a ton of problems with the car. It was new. I spent most every Tuesday night at Flamboro last summer testing. I love racing that track. We got it set right to run Oktoberfest and the Frost Fest events and found a great groove.
What is it about Hamilton's asphalt arena that keeps bringing you back?
Well that's where I started. As a kid I was there all the time when my Dad was racing Late Models, and my first race was run there at like 13. I won my first feature there at 14. And I think I'm the only Junior Cascar driver to ever roll a car from corner three through corner four and land on the wheels.
Do you remember the Jason Shaw incident at Oktoberfest?
Ya, both times. He did it twice. I was passing on the outside, and he got into me and put me in the wall head first just under the starter stand. I was young, and a bit of a mouthy kid. I had some words for him after. But you know you get past it and you move on. We've had a lot of great races since.
It gets a little rough sometimes?
Oh gets rough sometimes at Flamboro, but it's fun and it's expected now. It's a close track. It's got a great upper groove that if you can work you'll pass everybody. It's tough though. You've got to have good equipment and be confident. But if you can get off the corner right it's an incredible feeling when you get that jump onto the straightaway.
Is there a NASCAR track you would compare it to? A lot of guys say Martinsville.
Actually I would compare the racing to Bristol, just a lot flatter track. It's a lot like that bullring where you can hold it a long time on the straightaway and go deep in the corner. It gets a little rough, and you have got to be able to hold on. It's an exciting short track.
So as a vet of the Asphalt Arena, what advice could you pass down to the NASCAR Stars?
Move over when you see the number 14 coming... [laughs]
Think they'd take that well?
Honestly, it would be hard for me to tell them anything given all their experience. All three of those guys are legitimate stars and professionals and damn good at what they do. But if I was asked, I'd let them know that this track is very unique, and very deceiving. The trick is figuring out how deep you can run into the corner and drive out. The walls can you cheat you a bit, and it may take some time to find the right marks.
Have you got a favourite going into the event?
I think Jimmy Spencer has got the advantage. All three of the NASCAR Stars have good equipment and proven race winners to work with, but you teamed up Spencer with Chenoweth. That car is so strong, and those guys drive alike. I think on the day the #89 is the one to watch.
Other than the #14, right?
Oh of course the RTR #14. We've teamed up with Race Time Radio for the day, and I want to be in that post-race interview when it's over.
Catch JR Fitzpatrick with Jimmy Spencer on Race Time Radio Tuesday night, March 22nd