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Racing Roundup: All hail Zach Robichon, IMSA and NASCAR and how come I can’t buy Pinty’s at Loblaw’s?

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Because of the Civic Holiday long weekend, here is the Monday Morning Racing Roundup on Tuesday.

Headlines:

Ottawa’s Zach Robichon gets emergency call-up to race at Road America and wins everything in sight

Soon-to-be-90-year-old woman goes for  ride in racing car at CTMP and proclaims it to have been “wonderful”

Plus McLaren to IndyCar, NASCAR CEO arrested and Ohsweken, Merrittville results.

But first . . .

Although it seems to be a somewhat popular suggestion at the moment (as distinct from “movement,” which it most definitely is not), I have always been someone who’s tried to “buy Canadian.”
The reason? I like to reward companies for providing jobs for people here, rather than for people there. I have never been particularly political in this approach (politics in countries other than mine are their business, not mine), although sometimes it might look that way.
For instance, awhile back, I got involved in the French’s ketchup debate. I saw a Tweet on the Canadian Blog House Twitter account, in which someone pointed out that Heinz no longer employed Canadians to make any of their products while French’s bought tomatoes from farmers in Leamington and were planning to go into ketchup production. The real news was that Loblaw had decided to stop carrying French’s ketchup. I retweeted that Tweet (or those Tweets), and I like to think I did my bit to get French’s ketchup back on the shelves at Loblaw.
So today, I have an even bigger bone to pick with Loblaw. But first . . .
I have always shopped at Loblaw’s. Every couple of weeks, I go to the store at Erin Mills and Eglinton in Mississauga and do a big shopping. Almost every day, I will pop into the Great Canadian Superstore at Mavis and Dundas in Mississauga to get a baguette, or some milk. Or a lettuce. In a pinch, there is a No Frills at Burnamthorpe and Creditview, which is not far from my house, and I will dash over there if I discover we are out of pickles. Or Haagen Dazs vanilla to put on the apple pie.
I even worked on the night crew for a year at a Loblaw’s in Toronto. That was years ago but I did it. So I know a little bit about how the grocery business works
Loblaw, and Metro, and all the other grocery stores in Canada, whether they are independently owned or part of a chain, are paid by producers to sell their products. The more they pay, the better display space they get. If you are selling instant coffee, and want it at “eye level,” you will pay more than you will if it is on the bottom shelf.
Now that I have the stage set, I would like to know why I can’t buy Pinty’s chicken wings at Loblaw’s? I used to be able to stock up on Pinty’s wings when I would go to any of the three Loblaw-owned-or-affiliated stores I frequent but a year or so ago, they disappeared. I asked at all three stories and was simply told that Pinty’s had been “de-listed.”
Now, I am going to tell you why I am writing about this. Pinty’s is a Canadian food company with headquarters in Burlington. It employees Canadians in its offices and in its manufacturing facilities and it buys its supplies – chicken and beef, mostly – from Canadian farmers. It is a sponsor of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Canadian Football League, and Canadian professional curling.
And this is where I come in: it is the title sponsor of Canada’s one and only national auto racing series, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, which will be holding a race this weekend at Trois-Rivieres, Que.  I like to support Canadian companies that support my favourite sport.
So here you have a great Canadian food company – one that employs Canadians and buys from Canadian suppliers and which puts its money where its mouth is by writing sponsorship cheques in Canada – and I can’t buy (I can’t even find) any of its products at one of the country’s biggest grocery store chains?
I know I can buy chicken wings at Loblaw’s. Loblaw sells their own, under their President’s Choice label. And there are other companies – Canadian companies, too – that sell chicken wings and other “Pub-style” offerings at those stories. But that’s not the point. I like Pinty’s and am loyal for the reasons outlined in the previous paragraphs.
There are suggestions (which is where this column started) that because of the current rocky trade relationship between Canada and the United States that Canadians send a message by boycotting American-made products.
I don’t want to boycott anything or anybody. What I want to do is be able to buy Pinty’s products when I go to Loblaw’s. Is that too much for me – or any other Canadian who likes to “buy Canadian” – to ask?

ROBICHON HAS WEEKEND TO REMEMBER

Zach Robichon of Ottawa, one of more than 40 volunteer drivers at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Monday for the “Celebration of Speed” fundraiser in support of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, was a few hours late getting there after being called away on urgent business.
That “urgent business” was to drive a Porsche 911 at Road America

Zach Robichon of Ottawa cleaned up at
Road America in Wisconsin.

outside Elkhart Lake, Wisc., at the weekend in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series for American-based Moorespeed Racing, whose regular team driver, Will Hardeman, was unavailable because of a family emergency.
Robichon, a former open-wheel driver who is currently leading the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series standings, had never been to Road American before but that didn’t stop him from not only winning the pole and the first race on Saturday but the pole and the second race on Sunday – a weekend clean sweep.
“I can’t say enough about the guys from Moorespeed,” said Robichon. “The car, as we saw this weekend, has been just unbelievable. For me to be able to jump in with a new team and a car I’ve never driven, their setup was super easy to drive from the get-go. I think from the second practice session, we had the fastest lap times. Since then, we’ve been refining it a little bit and getting better and better. I actually think the car was better today than yesterday. I can’t say enough about the job they did. All I had to do was turn the wheel and push the gas pedal. They did all the rest.”
While it is almost obligatory for race drivers to thank their team, in the end it’s pretty much a solitary sport and Robichon was the one who had to drive the car. That he was so fast out of the box, pole winner twice and race winner twice, suggests that this guy has got a ton of talent and is one to watch as his career evolves.
We interrupt this column to bring you this important message: The Celebration of Speed that Robichon almost missed was a major success.

Media covering the day included Brad Diamond’s Motoring program (TSN)

Scott Goodyear drove up from Indianapolis to take people for rides at the Celebration of Speed Monday. (Norris McDonald photos)

and CBC and CTV (CFTO)  television. Volunteer race drivers included Canadian legend Scott Goodyear, who drove up from Indianapolis for the event.
The star of the day Monday was Maire Hollo of Toronto, who is in her 90th year and busy crossing items off her bucket list. (That’s her in the photo at the  top of this column, being interviewed by Scott Lightfoot of CTV.)

She has parachuted out of a plane, done the CN Tower outside “edgewalk,” plans to ride behind sled dogs next winter and Sunday went for a ride in a racing car around Old Mosport, which has been something she’s wanted to do for years.

Lineups formed as early as 9 a.m. as people descended on Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Celebration of Speed.


“It was wonderful,” she gushed after being taken around the circuit at speed with Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee Peter Lockhart behind the wheel.
Maire, who says she’s given up driving because she doesn’t want to be one of those “old lady drivers” people talk about, had a heavy right foot when she was younger. “I used to drive quite quickly when I knew the police weren’t around,” she said.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled column.
In other news from Elkhart Lake:
– No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca LMP2 co-drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun picked up their second consecutive WeatherTech Championship Prototype race victory Sunday. Full details can be found here.
– Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook gave Ford its fourth consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win Sunday in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, putting the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT back atop the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class standings in the process. Full details here.
– Christian Fittipaldi, who raced in IndyCar and sports cars, announced this weekend that he will retire following next January’s 24 Hours of Daytona, a.k.a. the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
– You know, the more professional and high profile IMSA gets, the more it feels like small-time club racing. There was a flurry of media releases sent out this past week about a return to four classes of cars during races and that two of them have to be Pro-Am classes and they have to feature bronze- and silver-rated drivers and I have two things to say about all that: 1, who cares? and 2, these are just more reasons why auto racing will always stay a niche sport rather than become mainstream. You can explain hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball and even pro football in seconds – or maybe minutes. Try explaining auto racing to anybody in under an hour. Seriously.
– IMSA, meantime, turns 50 next year. All sorts of things are being planned to celebrate. Sure hope there aren’t two celebrations to choose from – bronze or silver.
– At Watkins Glen Sunday, Chase Elliott, son of Bill Elliott (Awesome Bill from, etc.) won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race. It was an exciting race, with Elliott at or near the front the entire time.
He showed his maturity in the last 10 laps or so when Martin Truex Jr., who’d won the other two road course races that NASCAR ran this year, started breathing down his neck. He did run wide on the first turn of the last lap but was able to recover in time to keep Truex behind him and then the defending Cup champion ran out of gas while approaching the final corner before the pit straight and Elliott was home-free.

Chase Elliott celebrates after winning the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at Watkins Glen on Sunday.


Of course, he then ran out of gas on his cooldown lap and finally came to a stop. In a scene reminiscent of Nigel Mansell giving Ayrton Senna a lift, Jimmie Johnson backed up his car and pulled in behind Elliott’s and gave him a push home. Great stuff.
Now, when Elliott won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park a few years ago (he knocked Ty Dillon out of the way at the last corner), Dad Bill was there with him. When Chase won on Sunday, there was Bill again and you would hope that, at some point, Father will let Son go to work without supervision.
For those still interested, here is a link to a complete story on the Cup race.
– Joey Logano, who is a Monster Energy Cup NASCAR driver (although he’s had better days than he did Sunday at Watkins Glen in the Cup race), dropped down a division and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Glen. This is like Will Power or James Hinchcliffe driving in Indy Lights on IndyCar weekends. Because of Right to Work legislation in the United States, there’s nothing stopping those guys from doing it. NASCAR tried a few years ago to force drivers like Logano to stay in the Big League by only allowing them to accumulate points in one division but those guys don’t appear to care about the points – they like the money they can win and the extra practice they get.
– I love the Twitter storm about McLaren joining the IndyCar Series – as, I’m sure, McLaren does too. They stink as an F1 team at the moment and anything to take everybody’s attention away from that is welcomed.
– Other than reporting it here, I will not comment on Brian France and his future. (Having said that, I can’t believe the vitriol being spewed about this man, not on social media but by wire services and U.S. daily newspapers who – frankly – should all know better.) The CEO and Chairman of NASCAR was arrested on Long Island Sunday night with more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system and some pretty addicting drugs in the car. Let’s hope he gets the help he needs.
– When Bernie was running F1, he looked around (it was just post-Mansell) and decided F1 needed a star and he moved heaven and earth to get Jacques Villeneuve. So now Chase Carey says he hopes Mick Schumacher makes it to F1. Not much has changed, has it?
– Niki Lauda is recovering from a lung transplant. It will take awhile.
– Jeff Gordon and his family are vacationing in Greece. Guess who they bumped into the other day? None other than Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, you will recall, showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Gordon’s “last ride.”

GTA-AREA RACING

– At Ohsweken Speedway last Friday night, 131 cars signed in across four divisions, including 25 Late Models, for Bradshaw Brothers Emergency Services night, which honoured all first responders and emergency services workers for their bravery in the community with free admission.
After the final checkered flag had waved, it was Jacob Dykstra who grabbed his second straight Action Sprint Tour win. For the stock cars, Rob Pietz claimed a thrilling win in the Open Late Model main event, while Christopher Hale won his first career Middleport Mechanical Thunder Stock Feature. Matt Nuell and Kyle Wert collected checkered flags in a pair of HRW Automotive Mini Stock Features.
– At Merrittville Speedway near Thorold, Steven Petty reports that Tim Hortons Night on Saturday saw two St. Catharines drivers RRRoll to their 7th wins of 2018 – Mat Williamson and Rob Murray in the S&W Service Centre 358 Modified and Hoosier Stock Divisions. Williamson’s win was his first career Jerry Winger Memorial – an annual race hosted by the Speedway’s Reunion Committee.
Two drivers would also take home their third wins of the season – James Friesen also of St. Catharines in the David Chevrolet Sportsman and John Couture from Niagara Falls in the Dave’s Auto & Speed Centre V6 Divisions respectively.
Jeffery May from Mt. Hope won his first Vansickle Pet Valu & Groomingsdale’s Mod Lite feature of the season.
The rain-delayed 67th Anniversary Celebration also included the Thunder on the Dirt Vintage Racing Series with Steve Billings of Merrickville  and Mark Shadwell of Hamilton winning the features for the Sportsman and Modified Divisions.
Prior to race time, long-time starters and racers Steve DeVos and Barry Davidson became the newest inductees into the CAA Niagara Merrittville Speedway Wall of Fame. The CAA Dedication to Racing Award went to Art Bicknell and Jim Irvine.

norrismcdonald@rogers.com