The picture above is of the first two Canadians to race in the Daytona 500 – Jim Bray of Brantford (left) who was the second (in 1964) and Richard (Dick) Foley of Montreal who was the first in 1959.
The two pioneers got together at Montreal this weekend where Bray had a car entered in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on Saturday and Foley gave the field the green flag to start the race, which was won by former Champ Car and Formula Atlantic driver Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond., Que., who’s now trying to carve out a career in stock cars.
Ranger, who won this race a year ago, scored his second victory in four Canadian Tire Series starts this season. In all, Ranger has won 14 Canadian Tire races in his career and it was his third at Le Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert, Ont., was second and Jason Bowles of Ontario, Calif., finished third. Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby and Alex Tagliani of Montreal were fourth and fifth.
Scott Steckly of Milverton, Ont., continues to lead the points standings after finishing seventh.
WILL MOSPORT BE ON NASCAR 2012 SCHEDULE?
But it sure sounds like it – if the track north of Bowmanville can be spiffed up enough to satisfy NASCAR.
Steve O’Donnell, who’s senior vice–president of racing operations for NASCAR, told NASCAR.com this weekend that if the August event at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve doesn’t continue, there are other Canadian facilities the sanctioning body might consider.
"We've gotten inquiries from a number of different venues, all with the desire for a Nationwide event in 2012," O’Donnell said. "We're weighing a lot of those options. The Canadian market is important to us."
Canadian racing legend Ron Fellows (Le Mans, ALMS, Grand Am Rolex, NASCAR, etc.) purchased Mosport in June, with two partners, and has let it be known the facility is open for big-event business and that includes NASCAR.
Said O’Donnell: "Ron's been in the industry for a long time and there's been interest from facilities in Toronto and other places in the United States as well," O'Donnell said. "So we're kind of weighing all those and making sure that No. 1, it fits for the fans and (that) it's in an event we think that the fans would want to see.
"Obviously it has to fit for the garage area and to make sure we think it's a benefit for them, and our television partners – so there are a lot of factors that weigh into the decision."
O’Donnell said Canadian race fans won’t have to wait long to find out if Montreal will continue on the schedule or whether other venues might be in play.
He said the 2012 Nationwide schedule would begin coming into much sharper focus – including the possibility of additional Canadian events – in a matter of weeks.
"Typically, we look at that mid-September time frame (for the following year’s Nationwide schedule to be released)," O'Donnell said. "We've got a number of agreements in place so you should start hearing some news fairly soon but usually mid-September is when we like to get that [schedule] out."
BUT COULD THAT ALSO MEAN TORONTO?
Okay, that was the real news. Now, let’s you and me have some fun.
1. Andrett-Green Racing (now Savoree Green) had a three-year agreement to run an Indy car race through the streets of the CNE and along Lake Shore Blvd. West. That agreement ended when this year’s race was held. As of this moment, there is no formal agreement in place to hold an Indy car race at the Ex next year.
2. The Indy car race has never come close to being anything like it was when CART was the sanctioning body. This year’s event drew in the vicinity of 25,000 spectators on race day. This race is not creating the excitement it once did.
3. The Ontario government granted $3 million to this race – a million bucks a year in public subsidy. There is no reason why this subsidy for a car race would not continue. Sure, somebody would have to apply for it, but it would probably be there.
4. The Quebec government turned up its nose when the promoters of the Montreal event asked for public money to continue to put on the event there, which is why the race this weekend might be the last.
5. There have been rumours for some time that the promoters of the Montreal stock car race and the Formula One race there (one and the same, by the way) want to promote a race in Toronto and it’s been assumed it would be an Indy car race. But with the absence of an agreement for an Indy car race (see above), and their relationship with NASCAR, the possibility of another kind of race in Toronto is very real.
6. However, Savoree-Green, with the help of $750,000 in public money, replaced the aged walls and fencing for this year’s Indy car race that had been in use since the first Molson Indy in 1986. The walls are significantly higher and stronger now. The last time I recall a circuit improvement of this magnitude was in 1992 when the original walls and fences at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were replaced by higher walls and stronger fences. Shortly after that work was completed, it was announced that the Brickyard 400 for stock cars would be held in 1994.
7. So, add up all of the above, and maybe even do a little reading between the lines, and I suggest that one way or another, the NASCAR Nationwide race that is likely on its way out of downtown Montreal might very well land in downtown Toronto next year.
Yes, instead of August in Montreal it would have to be July in Toronto but the Sprint Cup Series always has a break in the second or third week of July and that would be perfect because – natch – all of the top Sprint Cup drivers would want to drive in the first Nationwide race in Toronto, wouldn’t they?
(Allow me to suggest that if NASCAR came to the CNE and the promoters convinced Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick to join Danica Patrick - yep, she'll be running full-time in the Nationwide next year - and the rest of the Nationwide regulars, plus the usual Canadians like Ranger and Fitzpatrick, the 70,000 that used to show up on race day for the Molson Indy would look miniscule in comparison . . .)
Oh, and what would happen to the Honda Indy? Well, as I’ve been suggesting for the last while, it would (and should) go to Mosport where it would draw a huge crowd and everybody would be happy.
This has been whimsy, but if it happens, just remember that you read it here first.
CANADA’S 'NEXT F1 DRIVER' WICKENS WINS BIG
(and other weekend results and comments)
– Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto swept the World Series by Renault races at Silverstone in England this weekend. There was no admission for the Renault F3.5 headliner event, so 120,000 people watched the young Canadian win both poles and both races to regain the lead in the series.
– As everybody knows (or should know), Marcos Ambrose won the Nationwide Series race in Montreal at the weekend, with Alex Tagliani second and Michael McDowell third. Young Canadian J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was fifth.
Other Canadians: Ron Fellows finished 11th; Jacques Villeneuve was 27th, Louis-Philippe Dumoulin was 28th, Maryeve Dufault was 30th, Patrick Carpentier was 32nd, D.J. Kennington was 40th and Andrew Ranger was 41st.
Okay, two observations about Ambrose’s victory.
First, I wonder about the calibre of drivers in that series. Ambrose was T-boned by Jacques Villeneuve (who’s resembled a battering ram every time he’s gone racing this year, it seems) and knocked around. Parts of his car were knocked askew. Yet he had time to deliver payback to Villeneuve (he spun him out) and get back to the front of the field before the race ended.
He’s either awfully good or else just about everybody else in that race was not so good.
Second, a part from his car – a spring – was seized by NASCAR afterward and the implication was that it was an illegal part. Which meant his team cheated. NASCAR’s policy is that the winner remains the winner and the team gets fined and loses points, if guilty.
But is that right? Is it fair? Cheating’s been going on forever but those questions must still be asked.
– Kyle Busch won the Sprint Cup race at Michigan, with Jimmie Johnson second and Brad Keselowski third. It was nothing special. With three races left before the Chase, Clint Bowyer, Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle are on the outside looking in. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart are hanging on by their fingernails.
- Kevin Harvick won the Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan. It had more excitement than the Cup race.
– The American Le Mans Series must think it’s the IndyCar Series.
Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing had one of its best days in racing, if not the best, at Road America on Saturday, taking its third victory in a row in a four-hour endurance race that was more of a sprint to the checkered flag that resulted in the closest finish in ALMS history.
Asked to do the impossible of "push hard and save fuel," Klaus Graf drove an amazing race to hold off a charging Guy Smith in the Dyson Racing Lola in the final 30 minutes of the race and capture the win by 0.112 seconds.
Canadians: Tony Burgess of Toronto finished third in the Prototype 1 class and seventh overall; Kyle Marcelli of Barrie was 16th overall and sixth in the Prototype Challenge class; Kenny Wilden of Oakville was 35th overall and 16th in GT.
In Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Racing, Jon Fogerty and Alex Gurney won the race at Montreal, with Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor second and David Donohue and Darren Law third – all driving Daytona Prototypes.
Canadians: Mark Wilkins finished eighth in the AIM Autosport Riley-BMW GAMMA 88-sponsored No. 61. Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto was fourth in GT and 14th overall.
– One of the most exciting races at Circuit Gille-Villeneuve this weekend was the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series race that saw motor problems and other mechanical woes sideline a lot of the heavy favourites. In the end, Brampton auto dealer Bob Attrell won the Super Touring class.
No less than seven race leaders dropped out because of blown engines or other mechanical difficulties, handing Attrell the victory. Jocelyn Hebert of Trois-Rivieres won the Touring Class race.
- Brett McCormick of Saskatoon, who won the Canadian Superbike Championship on Saturday at Mosport, had his bid for a perfect season in the series sponsored by Parts Canada fall short in the wet final round on Sunday.
According to an email from John Hopkins, one of the wildest Superbike races in many years saw Brantford's Jordan Szoke score his first victory when McCormick crashed on the final lap.
Matt McBride of Mississauga scored a career high second place finish Sunday behind Szoke and Sherbrooke, Que.’s Francis Martin.
Szoke, who saw his five-year reign nas national champion end on Saturday, was elated after the Sunday race. “This is one of the greatest wins of my career,” he said. “It’s tough seeing your number one plate taken away, especially after having it for so long but this will make the winter a little easier.”