Tomas Tales, September 29, 2014

Paul Tracy CMHF PhotoNigel Mansell CMHF Photo
The Raceline Radio Network and The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Have Deep and Parallel History!
Miss Janice and I threw on some better bib and tuck to attend the latest induction ceremony for The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in Toronto, as six new people enter the hallowed hall to honour and recognize their monumental contributions to motorsport in Canada.
As we watched Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Scott Maxwell, Diana Carter, John Magill and Norris McDonald take the stage this year, it got me thinking about the indelible connection between The Raceline Radio Network and The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
The connection is deep, as Raceline and the Hall’s resurrection happened just about at the same time, in 1993.
Gary Magwood and Lee Abrahamson decided the Hall should come out of mothballs, and Raceline jumped on the story from moment-one, not just to cover it, but to get involved with the Hall of Fame itself.
Len Coates prepared the biographies after the selection committee’s labours to put Bill Brack, John Cannon, Billy Foster, Imperial Tobacco, Bob McLean, Chuck Rathgeb, Peter Ryan, fellow Niagaran Bill Sadler, Gilles Villeneuve and Eppie Wietzes into the Hall that year.
Yours truly had the honour of serving as Master of Ceremonies for those ’93 and the 1994 inductions.
My tuxedo and checkered sneakers combo is still talked about as the fashion misstep of the century!
Since the early 90’s, Raceline’s contributions have taken a more audio-visual approach, as I am deeply proud to provide the voice-over recording of each inductee’s biography at the induction Gala, words crafted by another good friend and Hall supporter, Tim Miller of The Hamilton Spectator.
From this point forward in this edition of “Tomas Tales, I will let a very good friend and celebrated motorsport and hockey writer, one of the best in the country, Dan Proudfoot, to give you his spin on the Hall of Fame process, and how and why making sure we never lose touch with our racing past is so important to us.
Dan’s article appeared in the Hall of Fame program, and he has kindly allowed me to include his words in “Tales”. Thanks Dan!
Behind the Scenes with Alan Sanders, CMHF Induction Gala Producer
On this occasion we all share emotions, those of us seated in the auditorium and those we’ve come to celebrate, the inductees on stage.
Here and now, you don’t need to be Nigel Mansell to wear your heart on your sleeve. Or Paul Tracy, to speak your mind exactly, or Scott Maxwell to analyze a challenge and make the most of it. We’re all part of this Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction. We all feel a collective rush.
Inductees themselves sometimes shiver or tear up while witnessing their greatest moments flashing by one after another on screen during their turn at centre stage. Gaining a place in the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame is powerful beyond horsepower.
And this show supercharges it with immediacy. Tony Stewart’s heartfelt tribute to inductee Jimmy Carr arrived via smart phone 72 hours before last year’s induction. “It contributed so much because Tony was so over-the-top over Jimmy being named to the hall,” says Alan Sanders, the induction show producer and a former CMHF board member. “We make changes even during the show if new information becomes available.”
Sanders begins each year in early summer reviewing each inductee’s nomination information, collecting images and testimony that will bring career highlights alive in tonight’s audio-visual presentation. In the case of Carr and Stewart, he drove to Ohsweken Speedway to get to know them at a World of Outlaws show.
“People will put their whole life into a shoebox and I’ll start by sifting through the print material, the video, all their photos for our audio-visual presentation. In the end, I always like to ask the most important question: what is the biggest moment in your career?”
Sanders is an unpaid volunteer. As is everyone else behind tonight’s program. “Logistics and storage is what I do for my day job, with a couple of main clients, nothing really glamorous,” says the president of Trillium Specialty Logistics. The hall’s 13 cars, three motorcycles, and archives are stored in a TSL warehouse pending establishment of a new home.
Eric Tomas contributes the audio for Sanders’ visual. His is a voice with a track vibe. Even in its lower register it bursts with the excitement of hundreds of races he’s worked, from the 1970’s as track announcer at Merritville, Ransomville and Cayuga speedways.
Tomas’s Raceline Radio, in its 22nd season, comprises 16 stations across the country. Tomas was co-announcer of the original Molson Indy from 1986-1993. In radio and television he’s worked Champcar, World of Outlaws, DIRT series, and been pit reporter on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. He’s been the face of television coverage of various Canadian series including CASCAR/NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and The Can-Am Midgets.
And with all this behind him Tomas’s voice introduces real feeling to his recitation of inductee’s accomplishments. He and script writer Tim Miller have known each other for decades and combined on this show for years.
“My role has been to provide the cold facts and figures and not write about them in a subjective manner,” explains Miller, longtime motorsports writer for The Hamilton Spectator and
author, who works with material provided by Sanders as well as his own research.
Take note that every volunteer fell prey to motorsport a long, long time ago. For Max Sanders, Alan’s dad, in charge of tonight’s ticket sales, the original Can-Am Challenge Series was the hook. He managed the team campaigning John Cannon, who went on to be inducted as a CMHF member, in a McLaren M1B that famously won in the rain at Laguna Seca, CA, in 1968.
Norris McDonald, known far and wide for championing motorsport in The Toronto Star’s Wheels section, raced himself at upstate New York’s Oswego Speedway. The only reason McDonald isn’t serving as master of ceremonies tonight, of course, is because he’s being inducted.
Ralph Luciw, the enduring CMHF board member and induction stalwart, ran Honda’s long-running Civic series years after racing Porsches in the era of airport circuits. Alan Sanders first met Luciw while crewing for a Civic team; later, Luciw was a prime mover in developing the induction ceremonies when Sanders began contributing to the hall as a volunteer during its time at Bay and College.
Alan Sanders got on track himself in kart racing at the age of 30, competing in Brian Stewart’s regional championship and going as far afield as Florida. “Now 1,000 per cent of my effort goes into my son’s racing,” he says of 11-year-old Gavin.
Racing against 15-year-olds, Gavin Sanders has finished as high as third at Goodwood in the Eastern Canadian junior championship and anticipates improving with experience. “He wants to make a career of it – but not as a driver, he knows dad hasn’t got the resources for that, but more on the engineering or team side of thing.”
The torch passes on. Sid Priddle is in his fourth year as interim general manager of the hall, following many years as a public relations specialist working with race organizations and sponsors. His son, Jerry Priddle, also a communications specialist with racing roots, is a member of the board.
The torch passes on, but tonight we pause to salute those who’ve carried it with spectacular ability.
ET… with contribution from Dan Proudfoot, CMHF.2014

Tomas Tales: Stewart Not Charged in Ward Death.

Stewart Won’t be Charged in Ward Sprint Car Tragedy.

It might be almost over legally, but the emotional wounds will take a long time to heal, if ever.

After viewing videos and listening to testimony, some of it from other Empire Super Sprint Series drivers who were also on the track at the time of the tragedy, it took at New York State Grand jury less than an hour to officially rule what most clear-headed fans, media and fellow drivers knew all along.

He did nothing wrong, and there won’t be any criminal charges laid against Tony Stewart in the August 9th tragedy at Canandaigua Speedway.

Kevin Ward Junior was accidently struck and killed by Stewart’s sprint car, as Ward moved to confront Stewart during a caution for an earlier incident where Kevin believed Tony had squeezed him into the wall.

And in a totally unexpected development, Ontario County New York District Attorney Michael Tantillo dropped the bombshell that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the mishap, enough to impair judgment.

That startling revelation means it will be close to impossible for the Ward family to bring civil action against Stewart, something many so-called legal experts put on the air on radio and television speculated might happen, as the Ward family sought “revenge” for the loss.

While the case was being reviewed, Stewart spent three weeks in seclusion and skipped three NASCAR Sprint Cup events following what he always called, and what has now proven to be, a tragic racing accident before quietly returning to the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, visibly shaken by the drama.

The Stewart-Ward accident drew a wide range of emotion, outbursts and opinion. And some of the media treatment of the story went beyond the bounds of professionalism.

There was an insidious swell of anti-Stewart diatribe, most of it on social media, that because Stewart has a reputation of being somewhat of a “hot-head”, he had definitely gone off the rails again, and had intentionally run Ward down that night at Canandaigua Speedway.

I spent close to 24 hours on the air with media outlets, with some asking me repeatedly if I thought Tony had run the young man down on purpose.

I saw, heard and read far too many reports on this accident from some media outlets that obviously didn’t have clue-one about the sport, and without a firm grasp of the facts, went public with baseless and outrageous statements, simply to get a reaction.

The very notion of a NASCAR champion throwing away his career and life by committing such a crime was almost too ridiculous to discuss, and the local Sherriff, District Attorney, and now a Grand Jury have completely shot down that argument based on evidence.

Those who know Stewart, know Ward, and who understand sprint car racing, came to the conclusion almost immediately that Ward made a terrible mistake trying to confront Stewart on foot in the middle of a hot race track at night, and being close enough to try and touch Stewart’s car, Stewart couldn’t avoid striking and killing Ward.

Ward was so close to the moving cars that Chuck Hebing, the driver of the car directly ahead of Stewart had to swerve to the left to avoid hitting Ward himself!

Chuck’s testimony and that of others before The Grand Jury brought the cause of the tragedy into sharp focus. If anyone was to blame for the tragedy, it was Ward himself. He put himself in grave danger by standing in the middle of a hot race track.

Plain and simple.

The shocking revelation that Ward had enough marijuana in his system during the race to impair judgment underlines his momentary lapse of reason that sadly resulted in his loss of life.

It’s extremely unfortunate this case had to be drawn out so long for something that most had already decided was simply a bazaar racing accident weeks ago.

The emotional toll on Stewart and the Ward family is immeasurable.

Ward’s impairment discovery however, does open up another delicate issue, drug testing in motorsport.

The major racing sanctions, NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula One all have very strict substance abuse rules and severe penalties for violators. The fact Ward was racing at a local/regional race track in a regional racing series impaired, should sound major alarms that substance abuse also needs to be addressed at this level of the sport.

If that means random drug testing of drivers to catch those trying to race “high”, so be it. If more stringent testing by local/regional racing sanctions stops a similar Stewart/Ward tragedy in the future, then those sanctions need to get busy and right now!

The real tragedy in all this?
Kevin Ward, a young and very talented race car driver was racing impaired and he made a very bad decision that cost him his life.

And Tony Stewart, in the wrong place at the wrong time, sadly, will never be the same again.


Tomas Tales: Formula E Would be a Perfect Fit at CMS!

Formula E CarFormula-E and Canadian Motor Speedway? Huge Potential!
September 14, 2014

“And the field whooshes into turn one….?.”
In a few short years, don’t be surprised if the track announcer at Canadian Motor Speedway utters those somewhat confusing words as he describes the action of the fully electric FIA Formula-E Championship Series, should it come to Canada and eventually makes its way onto the CMS schedule.

If indeed electric race cars and their odd, almost silent presentation are the race cars of the not-too-distant future, there’s a very good chance they would run at CMS, because they would certainly fall within the parameters of North America’s first “Carbon Neutral” Speedway!

No carbon! No exhaust emissions! No noise! It’s a perfect corporate fit!
But what will the fans think?

The FIA Formula-E Championship premiered this weekend at Beijing, China, with almost instant exposure as the race was telecast on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports GO.

Further credibility comes from telecast colour commentator Dario Franchitti, a multi-time IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion, NASCAR and sports car pilot. Dario is also very much aware of the CMS development in Fort Erie.

“We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” stated Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula-E Holdings.

Alejandro can add research and development of electric cars for racing purposes at Canadian Motor Speedway, that already boasts R&D platform partnerships with McMaster University and Niagara College.

It extends even further with the possibility of an electric street car manufacturer as a tenant in the commercial sector of the CMS property.

The inaugural FIA Formula-E Championship season will see 10 teams, each with two drivers, all using the Spark-Renault SRT-01E Formula E race car, two per driver, with the cars/teams based at a purpose built central workshop at Donington Park England during the off-season.

The Spark-Renault SRT-01 E uses the very latest technology in zero emission automobiles. They believe this car will go well beyond what is currently achievable in electric motorsport, while ensuring cost-effectiveness and durability.

They get a rigorous test in season-one, as all of the races will be staged on street circuits which are notoriously bumpy, rough, and hard on equipment.

The cars themselves and their power systems come from the best open wheel pedigree.

Italian firm Dallara, builders of the current IndyCar and Indy Lights chassis with more than 40 years’ motorsport experience, have constructed the monocoque for the F-E cars, aerodynamically designed to promote passing.

Constructed from carbon fibre and aluminium, the chassis is both super light, yet incredibly strong so it complies with the latest FIA crash tests used to ensure Formula One safety.

Providing the electric power-train and electronics is McLaren Electronics Systems, the world leader in high-performance technology for motorsport.

Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Williams Group that includes The Williams F-1 Team, will supply the batteries producing 200kw, the equivalent of 270 bhp. This will be linked to a five-speed paddle shift sequential gearbox, supplied by Hewland, another top-rung racing equipment manufacturer.

Overseeing all the systems integration will be F-E’s Technical Partner Renault, a leader in electric vehicle development and an expert in motorsport thanks to its Renault Sport Technologies and Renault Sport F-1 experience.

Specially designed 18″ treaded tyres will be supplied by Official Tire supplier Michelin, capable of providing optimum performance in both wet and dry conditions.

The United States is represented by a pair of teams — Andretti Formula E, with driver Franck Montagny; and Dragon Racing, with drivers Mike Conway from the IndyCar Series and Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Other notables running the series: Nelson Piquet, Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, Sebastien Buemi, Bruno Senna, Yarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, and Jaime Alguersuari from the Formula One and IndyCar ranks.

Already locked in with race fans on social media, The Formula-E Championship is introducing inter-active “Fan-Boost”, where fans can give their favorite driver an extra power boost by voting for them prior to the race.

The three drivers with the most votes receive a five-second power boost, temporarily increasing their cars’ power for passing, akin to the IndyCars turbo-boost system.

The only unknown aspect of The FIA Formula-E Series is how race fans, North American fans will accept the almost silent ambience.

We are so used to the high-decibel roar, rumble and scream of the internal combustion gasoline, alcohol and nitro methane-burning engines of various sizes and power, the virtually silent whoosh of an entire field of electric race cars might be so unusual and so different, it might take several seasons for the racing fan base to get used to it.

But my guess is, as long as the cars are fast and fast looking, and there’s lots of passing, drama and skilled drivers, coupled with the initial novelty and curiosity, the all-electric Formula-E Championship just might be the sleeper hit of the season and seasons to come.

They may very well be firmly established in the sport by the time carbon-neutral Canadian Motor Speedway is ready for racing… even silent racing!

Gordon Talks CMS during Toronto Visit!

CN Tower

CN Tower

September 11, 2014.

In the past, we have had short comments from Canadian Motor Speedway oval track designer Jeff Gordon on his involvement with the project, both here on the website and on the air across The Raceline Radio Network.

But for the first time in front of the assembled motorsport media, during his visit to Toronto this week, Jeff greatly expanded his comments on his role with the Fort Erie development and where he is currently in the design process.

NASCAR brought the 4-time Sprint/Winston Cup champion to Canada to promote their “Chase for The Championship”, but easily more than half of the discussion topic was regarding CMS, Jeff’s involvement, and the status of the facility.

The following is a transcript of Gordon’s remarks at the media luncheon from the Horizons Room at the top of the 457 meter (1,499 foot ) CN Tower on the Toronto waterfront, including some questions from yours truly.

JG: Well this is without a doubt the highest media conference I’ve ever done in terms of elevation! It’s really great to be back in Canada. It’s been a long time since I’ve been up with Dupont back in the days where we coming came up here to some plants. That was the first introduction for me to just how avid and loyal NASCAR fans are in Canada. Of course over the years we always hear the Canadian national anthem happen in Michigan and Watkins Glen so you know that there’s a lot of Canadians present at those events.

Canada is playing a major role in all forms of motorsports so I’m thrilled NASCAR selected me to come here to Toronto, of course hoping that one day we get to break ground on the race track ( CMS ) in Fort Erie and bring NASCAR racing there. You do have another facilities with some great action on a smaller ovals in Canada, so we know that it’s going to do well.

ET: Jeff, Erik Tomas, The Raceline Radio Network and Canadian Motor Speedway. You touched on the Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie, and you were just telling USA Today recently about the key to your design of the track is having the proper transition between the banking on the straightaways and the banking in the corners to promote side-by-side racing. Could you elaborate a little bit more on that?

JG: Sure. You feed off of your experience as a driver and the tracks you race on. Michigan for instance, is a big version of what I love about the transitions from the straightaway to the corners on an oval. You’re on a bigger track so you have more space to make those transitions. We would like to do something similar with the CMS three-quarter mile race track.

Just coming from Richmond, that’s close to what the CMS configuration is going to be, it’s fresh in my mind. I’m thinking, alright, I’m going to Canada and I start thinking about this track you’re designing, and we’re pushing hard to get it done, but I think of how these transitions are going to work to improve this type of race track.

I think that progressive banking is something that we we’ve seen more of, and I like that idea. I really do like being able to make those transitions. It’s funny because a lot of times when I race side-by-side race at a place like Bristol, they created more side-by-side racing and the fans wanted more bumping and banging so yeah, there’s a fine line that you’re trying to create.

But I do believe that creating multiple grooves and to try and go seamless from corner to straightaway is going to create more side-by-side racing.

We’ve actually put a simulator in my office. We map out the CMS track and put it in the simulation where I’m gonna be able to drive it to come up with the right banking and transitions.

ET: Jeff, for those who don’t know, can you retrace some of the history of how you got involved with the Canadian Motor Speedway project in the first place?

JG: Ya, it came through Paxton Waters. He’s an architect who did our track and reached out to my step father John Bickford who handles by business affairs. There was a group of investors that were interested in doing a project in Canada with a
race track similar to what Paxton designed in Iowa.

They wanted somebody to be involved in the design aspect of it and there was recognition in the name I guess, so that’s how it originally started and then it’s grown tremendously from there.

The concept is getting closer and closer to reality, with the investment group doing a lot of work. My side of it is primarily just the design of the race track and the facilities from the competitor side of it, and how it could be beneficial to the fans.

But I’ve also been talking to crew members and other people within the industry to try to bring it all together. That experience will make it the best race track it can possibly be.

It terms of the current status, it’s ongoing. It’s a long process, but we’re still moving forward. Every couple of months I ask, OK, where are we, and I keep getting good news each time that I ask.

As I said, we brought the simulator into my office recently so we’re moving forward. I can’t say it’s full speed ahead because it does take a long time for these things to get done. It’s a big project that goes beyond just racing. CMS is a project that’s going to incorporate local businesses and an entertainment element on a whole new level, because that’s what you have to do with these types of facilities today.

Jeff Gordon tours Toronto

On September 10th, 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and Canadian Motor Speedway track designer, Jeff Gordon toured Toronto, Ontario, Canada as part of NASCAR’s ‘Chase Across North America’ Media Tour.  First at the top level of the CN Tower where he held a press conference and answered questions about the Chase, a fifth championship and also designing the Canadian Motor Speedway.  After he walked on the famous glass floor – looking down 1200 ft to the ground!

Next was an appearance at Yonge-Dundas Square with NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion Scott Steckly and autograph session with the fans.  The Hockey Hall of Fame visit was a perfect way to bring together many Canadians’ favourite sports – hockey and motorsports!  Pictures on Twitter of Jeff taking a few shots on net and selfies with the Stanley Cup captured some of the highlights of Jeff’s time in Toronto.  Last stop was an autograph session at a Canadian Tire store.  All of this by 3pm, then off to an ESPN appearance and a dinner in Chicago with the 16 Chase Challengers and team owners.

The 16 NASCAR Challengers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship were spread out across the United States, Mexico and Jeff was in Toronto.  We may be bias about Jeff and Canada, but think that Jeff probably had the coolest day of them all.  Here are a few links to some of the media coverage from today’s events in Toronto with mentions of Canadian Motor Speedway:

GLOBAL NEWS ran a segment on Jeff Gordon, his run for a 5th championship and CMS.  This video also features Erik Tomas from Raceline Radio and CMS Media Consultant:





SportsNet The FAN 590 Radio, featuring Raceline Radio’s Erik Tomas will have complete coverage in his weekly show, but here are a few audio clips of Jeff Gordon from the press conference:


Photos by: Erik Tomas, @NASCARonTSN, @JeffGordonWeb.



CMS mentioned by Jeff Gordon in USA Today


September 2nd, 2014

Jeff Gluck asked 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, current 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup series points leader and CMS Track Designer, Jeff Gordon about track design and the Canadian Motor Speedway in a ’12 Questions with Jeff Gordon’ interview for USA TODAY Sports.

Click here or the image below for the interview.


Gordon designs racing oval in Canada, dishes on Oscar parties
(Photo: Andrew Weber, USA TODAY Sports)