|The proposed Canadian Motor Speedway, planned by NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, is in the final regulatory stages before the Ontario Municipal Board and construction could begin in 2011. (Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, Mich. — When O Canada plays on Sunday afternoon at the opening ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Carfax 400 at Michigan Internaional Speedway, it will have special meaning for four-time series champion Jeff Gordon.
Gordon is hoping that in the not-too-distant future he will hear it more and more. In fact he wants to hear it regularly during events at a Canadian race track in Fort Erie that he helping to design.
The proposed Canadian Motor Speedway is in the final regulatory stages before the Ontario Municipal Board and construction could begin in 2011.
What has Gordon so excited is that the planned one-mile tri-oval on 823 acres of land between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls will be only the second race track in North America designed with specific input from a current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver.
The first was Iowa Speedway, designed by Rusty Wallace and opened two seasons ago. It now hosts a NASCAR Nationwide series, NASCAR Camping World Truck and an IZOD IndyCar series race.
Gordon, in an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, said he envisions that kind of track action at CMS — a facility designed to seat 65,000 with the potential to expand to 100,000 — within two years of its opening.
“I have always thought, as I raced on all of these tracks for as many years as I have that drivers need to have input as these tracks are being built,” he said.
“Only drivers know what it is like to be out there experiencing the transitions in the surface that make a track a good track or a not-so-good track.”
So when Gordon first got word that famed race track builder Paxton Waters — who built California Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway — was in talks with Canadian promoters to build a track in Southern Ontario, he wanted to be involved.
“Rusty worked with Paxton Waters out in Iowa so when this opportunity came up for me to work with him it was an easy thing to do,” he said. “I really respect him and his ideas of what a race track should be. I have had a lot of fun. It’s exciting. I think every track should have multiple drivers involved in design and construction.”
Gordon warns, however, that Canadian NASCAR fans shouldn’t be thinking that NASCAR will plop a Sprint Cup race north of the border the minute the track opens. But he does think that eventuality is not out of the question somewhere down the road, especially with the kind of support for all forms of auto racing there is in Canada.
“It fantastic what they do in Montreal supporting the Nationwide series the way they do,” Gordon said. “But that is not a surprise to me. In the many, many appearances I have made in Canada for (sponsor) DuPont I see first hand the kind of fan support there is for NASCAR.”
He said that the construction of an oval track would be the perfect first step to get NASCAR’s attention.
“I think there has to be an oval track for a Cup race to be enticed across the border,” Gordon said.
“That’s one of the reasons I got involved with the Canadian Motor Speedway.
“Certainly our immediate goal is to have a facility that can operate without a Cup race because we haven’t even got to the discussion stage with anybody in NASCAR about a date.”
All of this talk, however, must be matched by action and there are plenty of sceptics out there, including the writer of this column, who won’t actually believe it will get done until the bulldozers are on the property carving out that one-mile oval.
Gordon is convinced it’s going to happen and like the baseball movie once hyped, “if you build they will come.”
“Hopefully we can build a track that this can happen,” he said.