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NASCAR eyes Canadian race to replace Montreal

October 05, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com



NASCAR eyes Canadian race to replace Montreal

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR's Nationwide Series won't return to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal next season, but the sanctioning body won't rule out the possibility of another national-level event in Canada for 2013.

Francois Dumontier, promoter of the NASCAR event on the city-owned road course in Montreal, announced Friday that the popular Nationwide race held there since 2007 would not be back next season. He cited financial reasons for the decision. Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president for racing operations, said the league is hoping to fill that gap with another national-series race in Canada next year, most likely a Camping World Truck Series event.

Montreal

Nationwide race history
YearWinnerAttendance
2008Ron Fellows60,000
2009Carl Edwards68,000
2010Boris Said70,000
2011Marcos Ambrose70,000
2012Justin Allgaier60,000

"Certainly we want to be in Canada in some capacity, either Trucks or Nationwide next year," O'Donnell said by telephone Friday. "That's a hugely important market to us. We've got some work to do certainly to make that happen. But we've got no complaints certainly about the fan base that turns out for the event."

O'Donnell called a potential Truck Series event in Canada "fairly realistic" for next season, although he declined to name the potential venue. "We've got a good shot at that," he added. "Nationwide, a much longer shot. You may be looking at 2014 for that. But I feel fairly good about our ability to bring a Truck event up to Canada in 2013."

Justin Allgaier won the Nationwide event in Montreal this past August, and O'Donnell said NASCAR officials came out of that race feeling good about plans for 2013. A conference call with the promotion group, Dumontier's Octane Management, the Monday after the race did nothing to deter that belief. O'Donnell said NASCAR later received an email from Octane asking that the sanctioning fee be altered, and that the race -- which is on the same weekend as the Sprint Cup event in Michigan -- be run at 9 a.m. ET on a Sunday rather than its usual Saturday afternoon slot.

"We kind of said, look, this doesn't make sense," O'Donnell said. "We're very comfortable when the race is on a Saturday. We understand Sunday is the preferred day for an event in Canada, but we're not able to get there with the Cup event in Michigan, and 9 a.m. certainly didn't work for us."

Dumontier's response was that he had no interest in hosting the event. "It was a very difficult decision to make," he said in a statement. "Year after year, with great enthusiasm, our team has invested itself, body and soul, in order to make a success of this NASCAR weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. But under the previous management and our own in 2012, the event remained non-profitable, therefore we had to be realistic and conclude that the NASCAR main event on our weekend program doesn't have the kind of appeal that could generate the requested revenues."

O'Donnell praised the enthusiasm Canadian fans have shown for NASCAR, a large reason the sanctioning body wants to keep a national event in the country. "There have certainly been challenges with the promoter in Montreal, but nothing that we haven't gotten through, all along knowing it was important for us to be in Canada in some capacity," he said. "We're late in the game. We've certainly talked to some other promoters knowing this had the possibility of coming down when it did. And we're exploring every avenue up in Canada to try and get a national-series event up there."

O'Donnell added that he expects the same amount of races on the 2013 Nationwide slate as there are this year, given the interest shown in Montreal's date. And he wouldn't rule out the possibility of NASCAR returning to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the future.

"I would never say never," he said. "I think the fans are great. I think the unique aspect of that venue is, it's not owned by the promoter. It's a lease agreement, so you never know who's promoting the event and what interest might be there. The fans certainly turned out, we love the event, and we'd certainly never rule it out in the future."