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Champ Car or NASCAR in Montreal beyond 2006UPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for story on Champ Car out, NASCAR in for Montreal.
06/23/06 French Canadian media sources are reporting that Normand Legault has today been awarded the contract by the City of Montreal to stage a NASCAR Busch race in place of the Champ Car in Montreal. However, rumors suggest that Kevin Kalkhoven has flown to Montreal today, site of this weekend's Canadian GP. Is he there on F1 business or for Champ Car business?
06/20/06 A Toronto Sun report on the weekend had Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's managing director of events and operations, saying outside of quotation marks that he expects a Busch race will be confirmed for Montreal within the next 60 days.
"Still no decision has been made. There's still a ways to go," Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, said yesterday from Daytona Beach, Fla.
"We're still very much in the review process, and we owe this due diligence to our fans and our business."
Two sources close to the Montreal situation have reiterated in recent days that the plan to run the Busch Series next summer remains very much on track
Discussions have been ongoing between veteran Formula One racing promoter Normand Legault and the office of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, in an effort to finalize a renewal of the lease that gives Legault the right to organize races on the 4.361-km permanent road circuit in city-owned Jean Drapeau Park.
No announcement from Legault or his promotion company, GPF1 Inc., is expected before the end of Sunday's F1 race, though one could come sooner.
The Gazette first reported five weeks ago that Legault was merely a lease renewal away from bringing NASCAR to Montreal, contracts with the stock-car governing body already bearing a few signatures.
Should this renewal come to pass, and give Legault exclusive racing control of the Ile Notre Dame site, then the city's open-wheel Champ Car race, an annual event since 2002 whose organization is now contracted to promoter Alan Labrosse, might be looking for a new home in Montreal after its Aug. 27 event - or leaving town altogether. Legault aims to run F1 and NASCAR in the two racing weeks the city provides him. More at Montreal Gazette
06/19/06 AutoRacing1.com can now pretty much confirm that this August will be Champ Car's last race in Montreal on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Now it will be interesting to see whether NASCAR adds the IRL to their schedule. The Busch race will run on Saturday, which leaves Sunday open to an IRL event. We previously reported that the IRL is in discussions about this. It will also be interesting to see whether Montreal fans give a hoot about a 2nd-tier Busch series, especially since it has always been an open wheel town.
06/18/06 According to this Toronto Sun article, a NASCAR Busch Series race will definitely soon be announced in Montreal for 2007 and Champ Car will not be part of the program. If true, this May will be the last Champ Car race in Montreal.
06/05/06 Canadian sources say next year will be a NASCAR Busch and IRL doubleheader on the traditional August Champ Car weekend in Montreal. The only way Champ Car will return to Montreal this source tells us is if they merge with the IRL at some point in time, but for now Champ Car will lose Montreal to the IRL in 2007 because of their bad relationship with Normand Legault who the source says will win the tug-of-war with Alan Labrosse for the rights to hold the race after 2006 because of his political clout with the city.
Legault is said to be pushing Champ Car out because he wants a NASCAR and perhaps an IRL race (doubleheader). The source also says there will be pressure to steal Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger from Champ Car and move the French Canadian drivers to the IRL, who along with Patrick Carpentier in a Busch ride, will give the Canadian fans something to cheer about on '07.
Champ Car is trying to convince the city to add a 3rd race weekend to the island, but this source says that is unlikely to happen.
06/03/06 AutoRacing1.com is hearing that NASCAR wants to run its Busch race on Saturday in Montreal because they do not want it on Sunday on TV when the Nextel Cup race that weekend is on TV. Therefore, we hear that NASCAR is quite happy to have Champ Car or the IRL run as the feature race on Sunday in Montreal. We hear the IRL is talking to Normand Legault about being the Sunday feature. If so, it would make sense for Champ Car to also be talking to Legault or they could find themselves on the outside looking in at Montreal. What we want to know is why Champ Car cannot put Patrick Carpentier in a top car for the Montreal race?
06/03/06 "If the Busch Series comes here and we lost that race, it would be bad for us," said 20-year-old Andrew Ranger, one of the series' top young talents who is fourth in driver standings this season. "It's fun to race here."
Alex Tagliani said Champ Cars have produced a string of Canadian drivers, including former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve and Champ Car veteran Paul Tracy of Toronto, so the fans "have a reason to support us.
"I hope because of that we'll be able to race here for years to come."
Champ Car gave promotional rights to the Montreal race this year to Labrosse, the agent of Ranger and other drivers, when it became clear Legault, the former promoter, had lost interest in it.
When Legault brought the Champ Cars to Montreal in 2002, it drew more than 170,000 fans for the three days of racing, although part of that came from fans' curiosity on how the bigger but less sophisticated cars would do on an F1 track.
Attendance dwindled to only 93,000 last year. More than 300,000 watch the F1 race each year.
There were suspicions that Legault deliberately let the Champ Car race slide so that he could court NASCAR, which has become as trendy in Quebec as it has in the rest of North America in recent years despite its lack of Quebec drivers.
Kalkhoven said Labrosse was given a five-year contract to promote the race, but its contract with the city to use the track expires after this year's event.
Kalkhoven said he would not dismiss any alternatives, although holding a Busch Series and a Champ Car race together on the same weekend would be logistically difficult.
The race could also be moved to downtown streets, as it is done in Miami, Denver, and partly in Toronto. Or it could go to a smaller track like that in Mont-Tremblant, Que.
"Of course, we would consider racing on another track, but we've raced here for five years and we'd like to carry on doing that," said Kalkhoven. "Montreal has a special place in our hearts."
Labrosse said there was no animosity between himself and Legault and refused to speculate on the future of the race.
"Right now, my priority is to make this year's event a success," he said. "What lies in the future is not in my control."
Tagliani said a plus for Champ Car is that it appears to have stabilized since nearly going under three years ago, although it remains far from the profile it enjoyed a decade ago.
Open-wheel racing in general has been hit hard since the 1996 split between Champ Car, which run mostly road races, and the Indy Racing League, which runs mostly on ovals.
Kalkhoven met with IRL boss Tony George at the Indianapolis 500 last week and again on Tuesday in a bid to heal the rift. Both hope to unify the two series and win back fans and sponsors. More from CP article
[Editor's Note: Kalkhoven and George continue to meet and that is a good thing, but the fact they have not yet announced a merger is not helping their cause in Montreal. Today Legault can easily argue that NASCAR would be better for the city and win back the rights to the 2nd race, whereas if Champ Car and IRL had already announced their merger, the city would probably give the open wheel race a green light immediately. The lack of a merger is making NASCAR's attempt to nail open wheel racing's coffin shut easy.]
06/01/06 Champ Car's fifth year at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve could be a race for survival. Amid reports the Aug. 25-27 Champ Car Grand Prix of Montreal may be bumped off the track by a NASCAR Busch Series event next year, organizers are hoping for a big turnout to prove it deserves to stay in Montreal.
City Hall is to decide whether to grant exclusive rights to promote races at the municipally owned venue to Normand Legault, promoter of the hugely successful Canadian Grand Prix Formula One race.
Legault is reported to be close to a deal with NASCAR to bring one of its second-tier events, the Busch Series, to Montreal in 2007, with an eye to hosting a top-tier Nextel Cup event in the future.
Since only two race weekends per year can be held at the track near to downtown, that could leave the Champ Cars out in the cold.
Kevin Kalkhoven, one of three team owners who bought Champ Car out of bankruptcy in 2003, said yesterday he hopes the series' strong Canadian content will convince officials to keep the race.
"We would sincerely hope that the mayor would take that into account when he makes his decision," Kalkhoven said.
"With the long history we've had with Canada and French-Canadian drivers. We let our record stand." Toronto Sun [Editor's Note: See related rumor that we heard last weekend in Indy.]
05/23/06 Jeff Burton probably will be the driver chosen to test a 750-horsepower Chevy on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve June 19 or 20 . By then, Canadian Formula One Grand Prix race promoter Normand Legault hopes to have confirmed a summer 2007 race in the Busch Series, a circuit populated by many Nextel Cup stars and by drivers being groomed for the top league. Legault expects to renew an Ile Notre Dame race-site lease soon with the city of Montreal, his landlord. The ink might not even be dry on that document when he announces a NASCAR race. The timing of a mid-June stock-car test would be ideal - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a temporary road course, will be in full race trim for the June 23-25 Grand Prix weekend, and Burton will be a short flight away, having run a Nextel Cup race in Brooklyn, Mich., on June 18. Montreal Gazette zzzz
05/13/06 Start your engines: NASCAR on way to Montreal. More than a possibility, in fact. Contracts have been drawn up, some signed and some needing only a signature or two.
Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay fought in 2003 to keep the F1 race in the city when it was threatened by federal tobacco legislation. He's a man who values the millions of dollars that racing pours annually into Montreal's economy, and needs merely renew a lease between the city and Legault that's been largely unchanged since the late 1980s.
This year's F1 race, scheduled for the June 23-25 St. Jean Baptiste weekend, could promote the newcomer, with NASCAR drivers and show cars on site.
A veteran racer, probably Nextel Cup star Jeff Burton, would turn four or five hours of hard laps in a stock car early that week, on a fully race-configured track, to generate setup data and gain a driver's perspective of the circuit. This data would then be shared among all teams that would race here next summer.
"We all agree that this must be a success from the get-go," Legault said. "For NASCAR, their first ever race in Canada has to be perfect. They're willing to help us in any way to stage the event to make sure it's a roaring success, and likewise here."
O'Donnell said this week that NASCAR would move on the project within 60 to 90 days. The sooner the better for Legault, who's eager to begin preparing and marketing the event and securing sponsors. And he's clearly excited about the day when, not if, he stages a NASCAR race.
"We have fans who've been watching F1 for 28 years, connoisseurs of racing," he said. "They have the top product in open-wheel racing, and we feel we'll be offering them something that's totally different.
"If Mr. Tremblay were to say tomorrow that the lease was done, I could announce it next week. Unless city hall decides it doesn't want racing on Ile Notre Dame, then NASCAR is coming. "But it's the mayor's call. He's the boss." The Gazette
04/01/06 Rumors in Canada say that a Busch race in Montreal, assumed to be held on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, are reaching an advanced stage for a Spring, 2007 event. The track is only allowed to hold two races per year right now. If they can get approval for a third, then of course Champ Car can still race there. However, if NASCAR gets the 2nd date, Champ Car's days in Montreal could be numbered. With that said, last we heard Kevin Kalkhoven was still keen to keep the Montreal race if it can be economically feasible.
09/20/05 With regards to what was going on in Montreal the last couple weeks, the Champ Car event has confirmed they will be there in '06, but what sort of work is being done for '07, perhaps another area for Champ Car to continue the presence in Canada?
New Champ Car President, Steve Johnson: "That's a great question, but it's one that I don't have the answers for yet as being in day two. I haven't been fully debriefed on what's going on in Montreal. I do know that we're planning on being back in '06. It's a great market. If the question is, "Would we want to be there in '07?" Absolutely. It's a great market for us. I hope everything gets worked out and we'll give it our best efforts from the Champ Car side to make sure that we put our best foot forward and make that happen."
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