Tuning into the radio show the last few weeks, you may have heard a somewhat heated debate with a few listeners concerning the revised track lengths at the new Canadian Motor Speedway (CMS) that has finally broken ground in Fort Erie.
Initially described as Canada’s first one-mile oval and 2.6 mile road course complex that will attract major sanctioning bodies, the protracted and extremely expensive approval process and continued consultation with designer Jeff Gordon, revised the dimensions down to a 0.7-mile banked oval, and a two-mile road course.
But a few listeners sent me complaints, declaring these smaller tracks now make the CMS complex substandard, unable to attract any major events.
Not only is that notion inaccurate, I saw red, and ranted loudly over it!
Why? Because after years of complaining that Canada didn’t have a major league oval, and we had to drive hundreds of miles to get to one in the States, we now have investors ready to pay for one in our own back yard, yet the bellyaching and bleating continues because of track size.
That makes no sense to me at all.
Richmond International Raceway Virginia is also a three-quarter mile banked oval that hosts major stock car and has staged major open wheel events, yet I don’t think too many fans brand Richmond substandard.
Another listener felt the reduced size of the road course would rate CMS as second-rate without realizing the road course is not contained inside the oval arena, but is outside the bowl. The road course connects to use a portion of the oval through a unique tunnel system.
The artist’s rendering of the complex on the CMS website shows you that.
Therefore, it’s logical to believe that the new dimensions won’t have a negative effect on the attraction of big league sanctions, the racing for the drivers, or the experience for the fans.
So then, why are the tracks slightly smaller than first proposed?
In a recent Raceline Radio interview, CMS chief developer and executive director Azhar Mohammad had the explanation, saying to consider two things.
The first was financial. Let us never forget this is a business and not a hobby. CMS backers expect a return on their investment. The long and expensive seven-year process they had to go through, meant a re-think of the product on the ground in terms of final expenditure.
A 0.7-mile oval and a two-mile road course isn’t as expensive to build as a one-mile oval and 2.6-mile road course. The investors have to be able to pay for this thing, and that’s the bottom line.
Secondly, CMS did an examination of existing speedways. and their research showed that the so-called smaller tracks had an easier time filling the seats.
The bump-and-grind, close-quarter racing we enjoy at Richmond, Bristol and Martinsville, and the fan experience on the other side of those fences is working at present.
Not taking anything away from the larger tracks, but empty pews sound alarms.
Even Daytona International Speedway is taking seats out to ease sales pressure.
CMS designer Gordon believes the future of the sport will direct away from the big ovals, and I would lay odds the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion knows just a little bit more about this track size business than we do.
CMS management also realizes the guys already here need to be part of the show too.
There are existing racing sanctions in Canada, and within the CMS marketing footprint that can handle a three-quarter mile oval, but would be wheezin’ pretty good trying to get around a full mile.
When all of this is considered, the claim that a smaller oval and smaller road course at Canadian Motor Speedway won’t attract big-time events and racing series is ridiculous.