DAYTONA BEACH, FL (May 20, 2022)- Even before his dominant performance in the season opener at Sunset Speedway, Marc-Antoine Camirand (No. 96 GM Paillé Chevrolet) would have entered the eBay Motors 200 as one of the favorites to capture the checkered flag.
A quick look at Camirand’s history at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) shows why – a win and three runner-up finishes in the last six races there. His victory came in the most recent race at the historic track, last September’s Clarington 200. Camirand passed Alex Tagliani (No. 18 Viagra/St Hubert Chevrolet) with five laps to go to claim his first road course win.
“I’m really pumped to go there,” Camirand said. “I like (CTMP), it’s my kind of circuit – I’m more of a road course guy.”
Camirand’s preference for road courses goes back to the formative years of his career. He won the 1997 Formula 1600 championship at age 18, becoming the youngest champion in the series. But as he showed Saturday night in leading a career-high 203 laps, his oval track performance has come to equal his road course prowess.
What made that race even more impressive was the fact he was competing with a brand-new team in a brand-new car. In the off-season, Camirand moved from 22 Racing to newly created GM Paillé Racing with cars prepared from his own new Camirand Performance shop.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to be so dominant from the first race,” Camirand said. “We have an excellent team in place, we are proud to represent Paillé course//racing team and I am sure that this is only the beginning of the great things that we can achieve together.”
The secret to the early success could be crew chief Robin McCluskey who spent the past six seasons with L.P. Dumoulin (No. 47 Weathertech Bellamare Dodge), guiding him to two Pinty’s Series championships. McCluskey returns to a familiar role as crew chief for Camirand – the two spent 16 races together from 2013-15 compiling six top fives and 10 top 10s.
McCluskey also has success at CTMP with two career wins at the track. His most recent came with Dumoulin in last year’s Olymel Grand Prix of Ontario, just one day before Camirand’s win.
“We have to go shake down a new road course car and test it,” Camirand said about this week’s preparations. “We’ll be ready for the race.”
If Camirand’s road course car is anything like the rocket he had at Sunset, the field will be battling for second place.
Kevin Lacroix looks to return to CTMP dominance
If Camirand isn’t the clear CTMP favorite, it’s only because Kevin Lacroix (No. 74 Bumper to Bumper/Lacroix Tuning/Boulonnerie Dodge) has spent the majority of his career winning races at the track. Five of them, in fact – a feat only matched by series “Ironman” DJ Kennington (No. 17 Castrol Edge/Cathcart Trucking Dodge) who has five career wins at Delaware Speedway.
Three of Lacroix’s wins, in 2016-17, came consecutively, making him one of two drivers in series history to win three straight races at the same track – Andrew Ranger accomplished the feat twice (ICAR, 2012-14 and GP3R, 2008-10).
In 12 starts at CTMP, Lacroix has finished in the top five eight times. It seems the only way to stop him from a shot at the podium is car trouble. Lacroix’s four finishes outside the top five were all a result of crashes or mechanical issues, and all of them resulted in finishes of 23rd or worse. If you toss those four starts out – the first three for Lacroix at the track, and the first race of 2021 – he has an incredible average finish of 2.0.
Sam Fellows chasing his racing dream
It doesn’t get much better than this week for Sam Fellows.
After spending his weekdays promoting the Castrol Victoria Day Speedfest as CTMP’s Director of Marketing, Fellows will jump behind the wheel of his No. 98 CURB Records Chevrolet for Sunday’s eBay Motors 200.
This season is his second as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series after finishing second in rookie points in 2021.
“I felt really lucky to have the opportunity last year,” Fellows said. “Everything was so uncertain during covid I wondered where I was going to be able to go next with my racing, that opportunity with Jim Bray and Curb Records was a true blessing. To be on the grid with the best drivers in Canada, this field is so deep with talent. It’s incredible and I’m trying to learn and do the best I can.”
Competing at CTMP, a track he grew up on, makes the opportunity even more special. Fellows has success at the track, owned by his father, Canadian racing legend Ron Fellows. He won his debut Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) race in 2017.
While that moment was special indeed, a CTMP win at the highest level of Canadian motorsports would be the pinnacle for the Fellows family.
“It’s hard to put into words really what that would mean,” Fellows said. “My dad had some important and memorable wins here, but we never imagined we would be part of the ownership. It’s like our second home now. It would be emotional for me and my family to say the least. There would be a lot of hugs and tears I think.”
Race eBay Motors 200
Date / Start Time Sunday, May 22, 2022 / 1:30 p.m. ET
Track / Location Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) (Bowmanville, ON)
TV TSN (Saturday, May 28 / 4 p.m. ET – following the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte)
RDS2 (Sunday, June 12 / 10 a.m. ET)
Live Stream Canada: TSN.ca / TSN app
Fans can stay connected to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series – and all things NASCAR in Canada – at www.nascar.ca, on Twitter, Facebookand Instagram.
From: Josh Hamilton/ NASCAR Communications