The oval speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park will close at the conclusion of racing July 27 to make way for a second road course at the fabled facility.
A spokesman for the facility north of Bowmanville, owned by Toronto developer Carlo Fidani and race driver Ron Fellows, said Wednesday evening that expansion of the Driver Development Track at the circuit that would require land currently occupied by the speedway had been moved ahead from the conclusion of the current stock car racing season to the end of July.
The spokesman said in order to have the new track ready for spring 2014, work would have to begin sooner than originally anticipated,
Four classes of cars race at the speedway on a weekly basis. Major series like the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series also appear there. In fact, the NCTS will compete there for the last time a week from this Saturday, June 22.
Here are the contents of a release sent out by CTMP management shortly after 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
"As Canadian Tire Motorsport Park continues with its extensive renovations and facility improvements, the next phase of the future will be an expansion to the Driver Development Centre.
"To accommodate the upgrades to the Driver Development Centre at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the half-mile Speedway will be closing as of July 27, 2013. The season-end point fund will remain intact and as a result of the closure, the weekly purse will increase for the remainder of the Saturday Night Stock Car Racing season.
" 'To accommodate the expansion of the Driver Development Track, the closure of the Speedway will be necessary,' said Myles Brandt, President and General Manager at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“ 'The Speedway has enjoyed an impressive 24-year run as Canada’s fastest half-mile paved oval. On behalf of all of us at the track, I would like to express our thanks to all of the drivers and teams, who have always put on a great show for the fans.
"Thank you to the staff for all of their hard work and dedication year in and year out. We would also like to thank all of our partners over the years and a special thank you to all of our dedicated fans.
“Canadian Tire Motorsport Park continues to evolve into one of the world’s great automotive performance centres. We look forward to seeing the next crop of top Canadian racers hone their skills here and represent Canada on the world stage.”
The speedway opened originally as a dirt track and the first racing, which was to feature the USAC midgets and sprints as well as the World of Outlaws sprint cars, had to be cancelled after stones were found in the clay.
The first cars to turn laps at what then-Mosport owner, the late Harvey Hudes, planned to promote as "Ascot North" after the famed California speedway, sent the stones flying as fast as missiles and drivers and organizers determined that it would be too dangerous to try to race.
Among the racers at the speedway that weekend was Jeff Gordon, driving in the USAC midget division. Ironically, Gordon is reportedly involved in the Canadian Motor Speedway project at Fort Erie that last week won approval from the Ontario Municipal Board to commence construction.
The dirt track was subsequently paved over and the sprints and midgets returned. Gene Lee Gibson of Ashland, Ohio, won the first race officially promoted at the speedway.
- NORRIS McDONALD