NASCAR race in Canada moves closer

UPDATE #3 NASCAR officials continue to play coy about their north-of-the-border intentions, but the fact the biggest name on the circuit this year would take a rare day off (Johnson just raced at the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday) and spend it schmoozing with media types speaks volumes about the importance they place on Canada.

"Well, let's just say we'd love to have discussions," said Adam Ashton, vice-president of marketing for TSN, a managing partner with NASCAR.

Ashton said studies have shown one in four Canadians call themselves NASCAR fans. Ratings for the circuit are up by more than one-third over last year and, according to recently released figures, NASCAR is far and away the most popular form of auto racing on Canadian TV.

Lilydale Foods recently signed on as the first Canadian company to become a NASCAR official partner, Ashton said yesterday. As well, NASCAR paraphernalia is now being made in Canada to make products more competitive with NHL caps and other souvenirs. And there's a NASCAR SpeedPark at the Vaughan Mills Mall outside Toronto, a place where fans can race on tracks and learn more about the NASCAR experience.

Ashton also said about 40 per cent of NASCAR fans are women, thanks in part to a sport that actively markets itself as one that reflects "family values" despite connections with companies such as Jack Daniel's whiskey and website advertisements for one-liter "macho mugs" with driver logos on them.

NASCAR has grown from a U.S. backwoods circuit into an American phenomenon. And officials are slowly pulling out of smaller markets and aiming for the big cities. NASCAR management has said they'd love to race in Toronto or Montreal, perhaps as soon as 2007.

"My own thoughts, I think it's a no-brainer for us to be up here," Johnson said after spending his morning at a suburban Toronto store to promote Levi Strauss clothing. "I can say I meet Canadian fans at every single race we go to, even as far south as Talladega, Alabama. So I know there is a huge race market up here and a lot of fans." More at Toronto Star

07/26/05 In this National Post article Jimmie Johnson talks about NASCAR coming to Canada as if it's a certainty. He was at Wayne Gretzky's in Toronto though. It was an informal gathering with reporters. Since NASCAR people have visited Toronto (or the surrounding area) so much, we suspect Toronto may get a NASCAR race before Montreal. We still wonder where they will race. Mosport has almost no hotels and the track Champ Car races on is too narrow and the race will be a crashfest. 07/20/05 Replicating NASCAR’s south-of-the-border success in Canada is high on the sanctioning body’s priority list, with the Busch Series tipped to repeat its pioneering move at Mexico City in Montreal in a couple of years’ time, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

"Canada is a great market, and we've got a strategic alliance with CASCAR [Canadian Association for Stock Car Racing] and a partnership with TSN, and we need to have an event up there if that's a market we want to grow in," said NASCAR CEO George Pyne.

07/03/05 NASCAR’s 2006 Nextel Cup schedule should be released around its normal Labor Day announcement date. Expect no major changes of dates or venues in any of NASCAR’s top-three series for next year, sources said. Normand Legault, who is Canada’s leading automobile racing promoter, was a guest of NASCAR at the Pepsi 400. Look for a Canadian NASCAR Busch Series race in 2007, sources said. Speed Channel

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