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If it rains in Montreal, Goodyear is ready. But are these teams and drivers? | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net


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If it rains in Montreal, Goodyear is ready. But are these teams and drivers?

    NASCAR drivers are hoping for a blue sky weekend in Montreal (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern

    Let it rain?
    Well, Goodyear's new rain tires -- which probably should have been used at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago -- are mounted and ready to go if NASCAR officials call for them this weekend in the Nationwide tour's stop at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
    And this new generation of stock car racing rain tire is much better than the previous generation, which was designed some 10 years ago, when NASCAR had to make a go of it in Japan, at Suzuka and Motegi.
   Actually, of course, these aren't 'rain' tires, they are 'wet' tires.
   Because as everyone learned last summer at Montreal, racing in heavy rain isn't really the way to go, because big puddles are difficult to negotiate.
   Last August's race had to be cut short by rain, which flooded the road course. And NASCAR moved the event to later in the month this season. However, instead of a Saturday event -- with a Sunday rain date -- NASCAR opted instead for a Sunday event. No wiggle room here, for some strange reason.
    But if the track is just 'wet,' then Goodyear's new D-4215s, with carbon-fiber belting technology in the sidewalls, should work. At least Juan Pablo Montoya, who has a few races in the rain under his belt, tested them for Goodyear at Goodyear's Texas proving grounds.

  Ron Fellows, on a Bateaux-Mouche, down the St. Lawrence (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Ron Fellows, appropriately Canadian (and a world-class road racer, and NASCAR veteran), won last summer's rain-shortened Montreal event.
    So what fireworks might this weekend's Montreal even have in store? Well, it would take something to top the first run in 2007, when Robby Gordon insisted he won, and did a victory burnout along with NASCAR's declared winner Kevin Harvick...and Montreal's Patrick Carpentier also did a post-race burnout, after his second-place run.
   Last year, well, the rain made for a very interesting day....with Edwards providing a humorous touch by trying to wipe clean his foggy windshield while still racing.

Now even with rain tires, this is too much water for racing (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   This time around the favorite could well be Marcos Ambrose, the Aussie newcomer to NASCAR, who won the Nationwide race at Watkins Glen earlier this month and who ran surprisingly well at Bristol last weekend in the Sprint Cup event, finishing third, to show he's no fluke.
   In fact Ambrose and Ford's Carl Edwards will be teaming in Saturday's Montreal warm-up Grand-Am event...that's the Jim France-inspired sports car series that is rival to Don Panoz' American Le Mans series (which not so ironically is running this weekend just a few miles down the road near Toronto). Ambrose and Edwards -- who both favor the no-holds-barred style of racing -- tested together at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) two weeks ago.
  The sponsor listing for the Ambrose-Edwards entry is worth considering: Aflac, iRacing.com (the sim-racing project by Boston Red Sox' John Henry), and Subway -- all Jack Roush-associated ventures.
   An interesting twist to this Grand-Am race is that Ambrose and Edwards will have to swap out the ride: "I'm not sure how our driver change will go," Ambrose concedes.
   Ambrose nearly won the Montreal Nationwide race last summer, holding a huge lead when rain came. Then he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty. And then the race was called short.
   While they're teammates Saturday, Sunday they'll be rivals -- Edwards in a Roush Ford, Ambrose in a Toyota.

  Has Kyle Busch ever met a track he couldn't conquer? Well, Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve could be a toughie for him this first time (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   But the man to beat in Sunday's feature could be Toyota's Kyle Busch, who leads the Nationwide tour standings and has six wins this year.
   But then again, maybe not -- Busch has never raced Montreal: "I watched the race closely the last couple of years and know there are some long straightaways and some tight, hairpin-type corners.
   "It's going to be a tricky place for me to get used to and understand.
   "Hopefully I can go to guys like Ron Fellows, Patrick Carpentier and Jacques Villeneuve and get some help about how to get around the place."
   Uh, probably not, Kyle.
   So this could be a chance for Edwards to make up some ground on Busch in their battle for the Nationwide championship (determined straight-up by total points, no playoff chase). Busch leads by a fairly comfortable 248; but there are still 11 races to go in the 35-race series.
   Busch won Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Bristol; that was the 16th of his career, most ever for a NASCAR driver under 25. And it keeps him on track for one of Busch's career goals in NASCAR -- to win 200 NASCAR events altogether, in Cup, Nationwide and Truck. He's also won 27 Nationwide races and 12 Truck tour events. (Make that 13 Truck tour wins, with Friday night's win at Chicagoland; after that win he flew straight to Montreal.)
   Hanging over Busch, however, is his struggling bid to make the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship playoffs. With only Atlanta and Richmond left before the points cut, Busch is 13th and needing to crack the top-12.
   "It's not like we're just fighting Matt Kenseth (12th) and Greg Biffle (8th) to get in," Busch says. "There's a gaggle of nine guys trying to get in.
   "So it's not a group of guys you're chasing; you're almost chasing a point total -- that's a point total of 3160."
   According to Busch's arithmetic.
   "And there might be three guys (of those nine) running strong one week, and then a different three guys the next," Busch says.
   One of the men also on the outside but coming on strong in a bid to make the Cup playoffs is Brian Vickers, the Michigan winner: "I think our chances are great.
   "But the tide can turn in a matter of seconds."

  NASCAR's haulers lining up at sunset for the run back to North Carolina, 1,000 miles to the south (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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