Will NASCAR or IRL race at New Jersey Motorsports Park? One particular question has been on most people's minds since plans for a racetrack in South Jersey were first being laid out: Is NASCAR coming?
Offering the most popular form of auto racing in the country and boasting the most recognizable names, cars and teams, a NASCAR event certainly would be a prized possession for any circuit. And the New Jersey Motorsports Park is no different.
"It is our intention to invite NASCAR to visit our facility," said Don Fauerbach, an official at the Millville park. "And it's our intention to invite them to see if they're interested in having any of their series visit our facilities."
NASCAR operates three national series -- the Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series -- in addition to four regional series and two international series. According to NASCAR, one of those regional series, the Camping World Series, appears to be the most likely fit for the park.
"I think its safe to say the Camping World Series would be the place to start for a track," said Jason Christley, manager of communications for the NASCAR touring and weekly series. "They did approach us last year about holding a Camping World Series event, but with the track just opening, we weren't able to put anything together for the 2008 calendar."
So what about 2009?
"We are just in the beginning stages of putting together our 2009 touring series schedule, and we're going to keep all or our options open," Christley said.
NASCAR's policy, according to Christley, is to not consider a venue as a possible series stop until it is fully operational. The New Jersey Motorsports Park wasn't there yet when this season's schedules were finalized.
"We certainly hope that NASCAR takes an interest in bringing one of their major series to the New Jersey Motorsports Park now that we're open and operating," Fauerbach said.
The park already has attracted major series, the most notable of which are Grand-Am and ARCA. That plays into the park's favor when trying to attract a NASCAR event.
"We have a great working relationship with Grand-Am," Christley said. "(The Millville park) is something we're aware of, the facilities and its hosting capabilities."
There are other series beyond NASCAR the track also would be interested in hosting for the 2009 season, or later.
The Indy Racing League, which is the pinnacle of open wheel racing, is another possible fit for the park.
"The IRL has had a major merger with (Championship Auto Racing Teams), and part of their merger is spending more time on road courses," Fauerbach said. "Again, we would hope that Indy Car would give us consideration for one of their road course events."
Having the IRL, which features the likes of Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick and Paul Tracy, would be unlikely for the immediate future. But like NASCAR, it has a developmental series, Indy Lights, that would be more suited for the park in the short term.
The groups that have visited the track already have expressed an overwhelmingly positive response. The Eastern Motor Racing Association confirmed it would be interested in returning next year, possibly twice. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association said it wants to return next year, and expects a larger turnout. ARCA has even expressed interest in a long-term relationship with the park despite not even driving the track yet.
"We'll be happy to come and run at that facility as long as they'll have us," said Joe Wells, ARCA's vice president of competition.
In addition to having all six of the major spectator events back on the 2009 schedule, Fauerbach said the park is working on adding a high-level road racing circuit and a high-level motorcycle racing circuit to the schedule, but couldn't give specifics because official agreements have not yet been reached. TheDailyJournal.com