TALLADEGA, ALA. - The NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is dead in the wake of failed negotiations by Octane Group, the promoter of the race, for a possible Sprint Cup race at the same venue.
It also comes on the heels of one of Octane’s subsidiaries filing for bankruptcy protection late last month, leaving dozens of creditors across Canada on the hook for more than $5 million.
The first shoe to drop was the IZOD IndyCar Series Edmonton Indy, when Octane told the City of Edmonton it could no longer continue as the race promoter, citing huge losses in its two-year run.
And on Friday NASCAR announced it would not be back at Montreal after Octane said it was withdrawing as the promoter of the Nationwide event that annually drew about 60,000 to the Ile de Notre Dame road course.
“NASCAR appreciates the support and enthusiasm the great fans of Montreal have shown during our six years of exciting racing at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve,” spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “It’s been a great run for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at this historic venue.
“NASCAR was preparing to return for 2013, however we were unable to come to an agreement to renew the sanction.”
No mention was made by NASCAR of the financial woes of Octane or its CEO Francois Dumontier.
In fact, Dumontier, in his own release Friday, blamed NASCAR for the race’s demise, saying that his company had lost money on the NNS race in the past two seasons and could only continue with the promise of a Cup race down the road.
“It was a very difficult decision to make,” Dumontier said. “Year after year, with great enthusiasm, our team has invested itself, body and soul, in order to make a success of this NASCAR weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“But under the previous management and our own in 2012, the event remained non profitable.”
Dumontier said it was NASCAR’s decision not to award Montreal a Cup race that led to his move to cancel the Nationwide event.
“I must admit that NASCAR’s final answer is extremely disappointing,” he said. “We can understand how difficult it could be to modify the Sprint Cup schedule, but we still believe that we deserved higher consideration.”
With Montreal now out of the picture, NASCAR will be looking to keep its Canadian fans happy and that is good news for Toronto’s Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, formerly known as Mosport.
NASCAR’s Tharp said that the series was very much hopeful it could find another venue for the Nationwide event, not for this season, but for 2014.
“I don’t think it will be long before we are back in Canada,” he said.
CTMP is now owned by four-time Nationwide Series winning driver Ron Fellows and Toronto developer Carlos Fidani.
There was talk that the track’s 4-km road course could be granted a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race next season, if more upgrades are completed — including making the pit road longer and building a new garage area.
Fellows said Friday he and Fidani have been actively lobbying NASCAR for either a Truck or Nationwide race at the track for that past 18 months.
“I first spoke to NASCAR officials back in 2011 about our wish to host a race,” Fellows said.
He did admit, however, as a former winner — and still the only Canadian to win the NNS race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — he was disappointed at the race’s demise.
“I am way more disappointed as a driver that we are not going back to Montreal,” he said. “It was always a great atmosphere.”
Fellows said that it will be hard for NASCAR, now, to ignore Toronto and its huge market — the fifth largest in the U.S. and Canada.
“I would be happy to talk to NASCAR about our track and the Toronto market,” he said. “We have a great facility and the market to go with it.”
There has been plenty of talk that a Truck race could come as soon as next season, as it is expected NASCAR will add a pair of road courses to its Truck calendar, one of them being Road America and the other, possibly, at CTMP.
Fellows backs up his pitch for a NNS or Truck race by citing a hugely successful NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at CTMP this past May that drew about 35,000 fans.
As Fellows said Friday, “Stay tuned.”