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Why Canada Will Never Have a NEXTEL Cup Race

A Nextel Cup race will never come to Canada. Why you ask? Because. Alright, let me be more specific.

The market is too small. Canada’s population is about 36 million - that is roughly the same population as the state of California, which hosts two Cup races each year. Mexico City has a better chance getting a Cup race than Canada. Mexico City has about 30 million people living there alone and they’ve sold out the last few Bucsh races that have been there. The population is too spread out in Canada for ticket sales to be significant.

We don’t have the high caliber race facility in existence to attract NASCAR as Mexico City does (even though it’s a road course). We could use Mosport but it is in serious need of an upgrade in its facilities for both fans and race teams, and it is also a road course, which from a spectator point of view isn’t exactly the best because there are portions of the track that you can’t see no matter where you sit. We could have an event at the Circuit de Villianuve (is that spelt right?) near Montreal, but again it is a road course - not too attractive to NASCAR and the only major city near there is Montreal and nothing else. Therefore we must build a state of the art facility, but where? The only place to build a track with some significance to attract the likes of NASCAR is in Ontario along Highway 401 just west of London and east of Toronto near a place called Guelph. This is the ideal location, as Southern Ontario is the heaviest populated area in Canada and Guelph is roughly 1.5 hours away from Toronto, 2-3 hours north of Buffalo, and 3-4 hours east of Detroit so American fans will be attracted to the race as well.

Building a facility would be expensive, and it would have to be large enough to host other motorsports (i.e. Trans Am, IRL, Rolex, etc.) in order to turn a profit. Where are the investors going to come from? Not from Canada. The Canadian beer companies already have their money tied up in Professional Hockey and I don’t think Canadian Tire (a cross between Wal Mart and Home Depot, but on a smaller scale) has enough money to spare to do it. That leaves companies in the United States, but why would they spend their money here when they can spend it in more populated areas in the States and get more advertising bang for their dollar? Also, the Canadian dollar has been selling at about 90 cents U.S., which would discourage foreign investment from the U.S. Plus, the philosophy of "build it and they will come" will not work, just ask Kentucky.

Furthermore, why would Michigan International Speedway (MIS), Walkens Glen, Pocono and even Chicago and Indy want a new track within driving distance of theirs so it can attract fans away from them. I would think that those tracks would not want to loose their Canadian fan base that go to their tracks each year (me included). This new track would attract people away from those existing tracks, so why would NASCAR bring a race to Canada at the potential of loosing revenue from elsewhere, not to mention upsetting some significant track owners in the process (i.e. Roger Penske who owns MIS).

In addition, CART might threaten to pull its street race out of Toronto if the race is on the same date as theirs, or worse yet for Toronto, CART might move its race to the new track with its road circuit. The city of Toronto would loose millions of dollars spent by race fans if that were to happen, so the city may have influence over the approval of the building of this new track since they are the Provincial Capital.

Also, where would the race date come from? The schedule is pretty much filled up, and the new track wouldn’t be able to take a date from an existing track. Unless they did what Bruton Smith did when he built his new track and bought North Wilkesboro using its race dates elsewhere. That isn’t going to happen, especially if they are having troubles raising the capital to fund the new track. They won’t even have enough money to by another track, or even it they did they would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to sell their track that already has a Cup date.

Finally, we lack a significant race driver to attract the fans to the track to cheer for. Sure there is Ron Fellows (a heck of a race car driver in his own right, but mostly on road courses), Paul Tracy (the CART driver doing a few Busch race this year) and maybe Jacques Villianuve (former CART driver now F1 driver), but none of these drivers has the fan base as say a Wayne Gretzky. These drivers are not a household name as Gretzky is. Even people who don’t follow hockey in Canada (there are a few) know who Wayne Gretzky is, but unless you are an avid fan of racing you don’t know who these guys are and therefore the non-fan might not be willing to pay to see them race as they would be to see Wayne Gretzky play hockey.

The best a new track in Canada can hope for is a Busch or Truck race, or maybe even both, but not a Cup race. End of the story, period. Wake up and smell the back bacon!