Evil Empire?

Bob Margolis writes in this Yahoo! Sports article, While Canadian race fans look forward to attending what may be their first NASCAR race in person next year, Champ Car fans and officials are pointing their collective fingers this weekend at NASCAR, which they blame for the open wheel series losing its Montreal race date.

Last year, when NASCAR first raised the possibility of racing in Canada, many people questioned where such an event could be held. Since there are no suitable oval tracks available, the focus turned to road courses, of which Canada has several.

Eventually all attention was focused on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which hosts the F1 Canadian Grand Prix and is Canada's most modern racing facility. Canadian race promoter Normand Legault, who promotes the F1 race and holds the sole rights to hold auto races at this track, had expressed a desire to bring a NASCAR race to Montreal.

Since local law permits only two races per year, one race had to be sacrificed – and it undoubtedly wasn't going to be the Formula One event.

The decision to drop the Champ Car race was an easy one for Legault, who despite having promoted three of Champ Car's four events in Montreal, found himself the target of negative press and outspoken comments from Champ Car team owners as well as fans after last year's event.

Legault was accused of removing much of the seating from last year's Champ Car race in an attempt, according to Champ Car officials, to lessen the value of the race and thus justify not renewing his contract with the series.

Following the race, a published remark by Champ Car team owner and actor Paul Newman suggested Legault be "put up against a wall and shot."

Legault then refused to cooperate with Champ Car officials for this year's event, forcing the series to find an alternate promoter for this the final race of its contract with the track.

On Friday afternoon, when Champ Car president and CEO Steve Johnson announced the series wouldn't be returning to the Montreal circuit named for the late Gilles Villeneuve, he blamed NASCAR for orchestrating the deal and painted Legault as its accomplice.

Johnson believes the decision to drop Champ Car from Montreal was another example of NASCAR manipulating the racing world in North America with what he describes as "an attempt to destroy all other forms of racing except for NASCAR."

"They want to control all of racing," Johnson said. "They want racing everywhere, as long as they control it."

He cites the ongoing battle Champ Car is waging to get a street race approved in Phoenix, where NASCAR's track arm – the France family-controlled International Speedway Corporation, which owns Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) – allegedly has had officials campaigning against a Champ Car street race, using the argument that such an event could lead to PIR losing one of its two NASCAR races.

Johnson also alleges that PIR track president Brian Sperber has described Champ Car to local business leaders as a lesser racing series that employs a poor business model despite Champ Car's proven record of staging successful festival-style street races. More at Yahoo! Sports

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