The back bumper of Kenny Wallace's No. 28 had "Merci Fans!" emblazoned across it on Saturday and thousands of names in tiny black letters were all over the bright red Border Patrol Chevy.
That was a way to thank the more than 5,000 people who donated money so Wallace could race north of the border on Sunday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the Nationwide Series. The U.S. Border Patrol won't back the car in events outside the United States.
Wallace's fans learned of his sponsor predicament when he wrote about it on his Facebook page early this year. Fans who contributed $20 or more will have his or her name on the car for the race and after the event will receive a photo of the car with Wallace's autograph.
Among the contributors was Canadian driver Patrick Carpentier.
"He gave me 20 bucks," Wallace said with a smile.
Among the names on the car are two deceased drivers who were wildly popular in their day: Dale Earnhardt and Benny Parsons.
Despite the fanfare, Wallace said he was treating the weekend like any other.
"Every action we make and how I drive cannot be about the fan car," said Wallace, who qualified 38th in the rain. "Once you come in the gate, it's game on. It's business as usual. If the crew makes pit calls according to how much pride we feel with the fans, we won't operate normally.
"We'll see how we end up. We're not 12th in the points because we're bozos."
EARNHARDT THE ROADIE: The late Dale Earnhardt was no slouch at road racing _ he won at Sonoma in 1995 and captured three poles at Watkins Glen in his career.
Grandson Jeffrey Earnhardt seems a chip off the old block. The 20-year-old son of Kerry Earnhardt, trying to break into NASCAR's second-tier series, made his first career Nationwide start three weeks ago on the road course at Watkins Glen and finished a respectable 24th.
Jeffrey Earnhardt's second career Nationwide start will come on the street course in Montreal on Sunday, and he's apparently a fast learner. He clocked the eighth-fastest time before morning practice was cut short by rain.
"I don't know, it's just something I took to. I was real iffy about it at first," said Earnhardt, who has raced late model stock cars the past two years in the NASCAR Camping World Series East. "Then, after I ran a few laps and got the feel of everything it actually was a lot of fun. I was having a blast out there, going sideways."
Until he hit a wall and crumpled the right front fender of his No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevy.
"I just hit a puddle of water, hydroplaned, and drove straight into the wall," he said. "She wouldn't turn or nothing. It wasn't too bad. We've got it fixed now. We should be good to go. I think we'll be good to go."
He was. Earnhardt qualified 25th on the rainswept street course.
"Obviously, we were pretty good in the first part of practice," Earnhardt said. "I think we'll be pretty good. Hopefully, it's nicer. I don't really want to run in the rain after that."
DIEHARD FANS: The stands weren't entirely packed on Saturday, but the turnout for both Nationwide Series qualifying and the Grand-Am Rolex Series race was impressive nonetheless considering the inclement weather.
The 2.7-mile street circuit was damp from an early morning rain and cars were slipping and sliding in morning practice. The first session was in terrupted for 40 minutes by heavy rain and the second was canceled as teams waited in vain for the track to dry in order to work on dry tires.
A year ago, it rained even harder on race day when Canadian Ron Fellows splashed his way to victory in the first NASCAR points race run on grooved rain tires, and the crowd was undeterred then, too.
"There were not that many umbrellas," Boris Said recalled. "We were under caution and I was going, 'This is unbelievable.' They were just sitting there and it's coming down. They were even here for qualifying. Don't they have jobs? I mean, they're fanatical race fans. I didn't expect it for NASCAR."
Sunday marks the third straight Nationwide Series at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which has become an attractive venue for NASCAR.
SPARK PLUGS: Nationwide director Joe Balash said the second-tier series would debut the series' new car next July at Daytona. Instead of restrictor plates, the cars will use a tapered spacer at select races. The goal is to use the spacer at all events eventually. ... The official Montreal program has a $10 coupon inside for Rain-X windshield wipers, which would have come in handy on Saturday. It rained off and on in the morning, limiting track time, and all through qualifying. ... Max Papis had the quickest lap in morning practice, which was interrupted for 40 minutes by heavy rain. But he slid off course twice during qualifying and will start a disappointing 28th. ... Boris Said figures that both Volkswagen and Honda will join the Sprint Cup Series when the cars go to fuel injection.