After a partial winter of some discontent (owners complaining of a lack of communication and information), the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series got two huge jolts of good news this week.
First, the 2014 schedule was issued and it shows 11 races on a calendar that will start in May and go through to late September. A mix of major road-course events and small speedways, the schedule includes four races in Ontario, four in Quebec and one each in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.
Off the list for the first time in years is Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, B.C. but there are two additions - the quarter-mile Autodrome Chaudiére in Quebec and the similarly small Edmonton International Raceway in Alberta.
The season-opener will take place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the May Victoria Day weekend and the grand finale will be held, as usual, at the Peterborough-area Kawartha Speedway in late September. The stock cars will also be part of the program on Labour Day weekend at Old Mosport that will feature the second visit of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Second, there was a major announcement this week that got ears perked up. Mopar, which is Chrysler Canada's service, parts and customer-care brand, announced that it will sponsor Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., in the Canadian Tire Series this summer.
The Quebec racer replaces Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor who had the Mopar sponsorship for many years but wasn't too successful. The word around the series is that the Beauchamp team won't compete in 2014.
Ranger, a veteran stock car star who had a brief but shining career in open-wheel racing (Formula Atlantic, the Champ Car World Series), will drive for owner-driver (and former series champion) D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas. In fact, Kennington pitched for the sponsorship and brought Ranger in as part of the deal.
He couldn't have made a better choice. After winning the NASCAR Canada championship two out of the first three years of its existence, Ranger branched out in 2010 to run races in several NASCAR series including the Sprint Cup and Nationwide. He has been in and out of the Canadian series since, but he wins just about every time he shows up. Last year he raced three times and finished first, second and third.
Finally, at this weekend's Canadian Motorsports Expo at The International Centre in Mississauga, Canadian racing veteran Alex Tagliani will announce that he will run a full season (or close to a full-season) in the Canadian Tire championship with a car sponsored by Pfizer Canada Inc., the Canadian distributor of The EpiPen Epinephrine Auto-Injector.
The new Team EpiPen sponsored by Dicom Express entry will be unveiled Friday afternoon to kick off the 8th annual Expo.
Tagliani is racing this season in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for Rocketsports Racing and is still trying to put an IndyCar ride together. While full-time employment in IndyCar is unlikely, Tag will probably land something for the Indianapolis 500 where he's a previous pole winner.
Tagliani has raced frequently in the Canadian stock car championship and, in fact, revived his flagging Indy car career a half-dozen years ago at Edmonton by showing the Champ Car owners of the day what he could do by winning the Canadian Tire support race on the Edmonton Indy weekend.
So it's good news all 'round for the series and the sponsor and - more importantly - the fans. "Name" drivers like Ranger and Tagliani joining champions like Scott Steckly and Kennington, and major Canadian corporations like Chrysler and Pfizer getting (and staying) involved, all signal that the future is bright for stock car racing in this country.
2014 NASCAR CANADIAN TIRE SERIES SCHEDULE
Date Track (Length) Location
Sun., May 18 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (2.459-mile road course) Bowmanville, Ont.
Sat., June 14 Autodrome Chaudiére (.25-mile) Vallée-Jonction, Que.
Sun., July 6 Circuit ICAR (2.113-mile road course) Mirabel, Que.
Fri., July 11 Edmonton International Raceway (.25-mile) Wetaskiwin, Alta.
Wed., July 16 Auto Clearing Motor Speedway (.333-mile) Saskatoon, Sask.
Sat., July 26 Autodrome St. Eustache (.4-mile) St. Eustache, Que.
Sun., Aug. 10 Circuit de Trois-Rivieres (1.53-mile road course) Trois-Rivieres, Que.
Sat., Aug, 16 Riverside International Speedway (.333-mile) Antigonish, N.S.
Sun., Aug. 31 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (2.459-mile road course) Bowmanville, Ont.
Sat., Sept 6 Barrie Speedway (.333-mile) Barrie, Ont.
Sat., Sept. 20 Kawartha Speedway (.375-mile) Peterborough, Ont.