No matter how you slice it, Canadian racer Ron Fellows list of accomplishments behind the wheel remains impressive.
Fellows scored two class victories in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, a class win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona victory, and two more class triumphs in the 12 Hours of Sebring. He also has three class championships in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), along with victories in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series. Essentially, if you name a sports car series, Fellows has likely driven to victory in it at some time or another in his career.
This weekend, he can add one more honour to the list: he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame at a sold-out ceremony at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.
Along the way, his down-to-earth approachability and nice guy personality always made the 53-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., a fan favourite and he was voted most popular driver in ALMS several times.
But ask him about the thing in his career that he remembers most and, unlike most racers, it’s not a win, or a championship or even a particular race. For Fellows, it’s the people who helped pull him out of a job laying natural gas pipeline three decades ago and made sure he had a career.
“I was thinking about it the other day and if you go back though the decades, I think of [McKenzie Financial chief executive] Jim O’Donnell back in the Player’s GM days rewarding me for a job well done there and helping spring board me into the Trans-Am Series.”
“And meeting Bob McGraw, the chief executive of AER manufacturing, through [NASCAR owner] Jack Roush in 1990, who I was begging for a ride and he said he might have something for me and ’if they like, you they might stick with you.’ So, 23 years, and we counted them up, 61 wins later, AER has been a huge part of my career and a huge part of my family.”
McGraw and his wife Helen will make the trip from Texas, where AER is based, to be in Toronto to watch Fellows be inducted into the Hall.
There was also the former head of GM Racing, Herb Fishel, who played a key role in getting Fellows into a Camaro in 1995, which began his 20-year stint as a Chevrolet driver and led to his being the point man for Corvette Racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans program, which began in 1997.
“I went to Detroit and met with Herb and he basically told me that they wanted to take a Corvette to Le Mans and would I be interested in being the lead driver,” Fellows said.
“I thought about for a nano-second and said: ’I’m in. I’ve seen that movie Le Mans with Steve McQueen a million times.’”
The next year, Don Panoz founded the ALMS and Fellows and Corvette Racing found a home in its GT Class where Fellows went on to win three titles. Fellows also drove Chevys to his wins in NASCAR, most recently in the 2008 Nationwide Series race in Montreal.
Although many know Fellows for his on-track exploits, he will be also inducted in part because of his work away from racing cars, especially with young drivers. His Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship helped many of Canada’s current generation of drivers race in the series, including IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters racer Robert Wickens. It is still going under a different name.
Fellows’ relationship with Canadian Tire also played a key role in seeing the retail giant get involved with the Canadian Karting Championship and Team Canada Rotax World Finals. Two years ago, Fellows also became a co-owner of the old Mosport International Raceway and began a multi-million dollar facelift of the facility which is now renamed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“When I look at how difficult things were for me, even in karting, having a more defined system and access to some level of support is something that I wanted to do,” he said.
“To see the number of kids who have come through the karting program and are doing really well is really satisfying.”
Fellows will be honoured on Saturday along with four other Canadians: driver and track official Bob Armstrong, World of Outlaws racer Jimmy Carr, stock car racer Tom Walters, and track owners Jon and Sharon Fletcher. In addition, racing legend Mario Andretti will also go into the hall under the International Category.
“To be in the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame is indeed an honour and it’s a privilege to be on the list, Fellows said.”
Go Daddy and Hinchcliffe
It was reported earlier this week that Go Daddy would not be returning in 2014 as Canadian James Hinchcliffe’s primary sponsor on his No. 27 IndyCar.
The Oakville, Ont., driver has been backed by the Web hosting and business services company since the 2012 season, when he joined Andretti Autosport as the replacement for IndyCar’s former Go Daddy driver, Danica Patrick.
Although an Andretti official indicated Go Daddy’s decision had been made, the company said otherwise.
“The report published today about Go Daddy’s IndyCar plans is premature,” its vice-president of public relations Elizabeth Driscoll said on Wednesday.
“We have not yet given Andretti Autosport notice of any kind. We plan to make our decision in the coming weeks and announce it after the end of the season.”
Go Daddy chief executive Blake Irving told The Globe and Mail in July during the Honda Indy weekend in Toronto that the company was incredibly pleased with Hinchcliffe, especially the 26-year-old’s three wins so far in 2013.
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