Tomas Tales: Changes and Dirt as we Slide into August

Tomas Tales August 4th

We need to apply the brakes to the summer of 2014, even though the wet cool weather to date has many wondering when the heat and humidity we’re accustomed to in this neck of the woods will actually arrive!

As we get into the final full month of a summer that is still passing us by way too quickly, let’s back up slightly for a recap.

For only the second time in the 28 years they’ve run IndyCar races on the Lakeshore in Toronto, rain messed up the weekend schedule at The Honda Indy Toronto.

IndyCar tried twice to get race # 1 of the double header started on the Saturday, but red flagged both attempts, when the standing rain water caused not only Will Power and Ryan Briscoe to spin out, but even the pace car slid off on a track so slippery and dangerous, they could not and would not start the event.

IndyCar wasn’t going to send cars out in treacherous conditions, despite the absurd suggestion by critics they should have started the race behind the pace car because IndyCar boasts they race in the rain on road and streets.

Yes, the same pace car that slid off the track because pooling water took away the grip entirely!

IndyCar does race on road and streets, but not when conditions are so bad you have no traction and no visibility.

It meant the event came down to a pair of shortened races on Sunday, and looking for a silver lining, I loved the sprint-style 65 lap dashes! No time to waste! Just go as fast as you can and hope you don’t run out of ethanol!

Sebastien Bourdais used that to perfection to win race # 1.

The rain returned to mess up the strategy in race # 2, but Mike Conway made a bold call to go back to slick tires as the racing groove dried, and that grabbed him the win.

His Ed Carpenter team is coached by our good friend Lee Bentham, so there is a Canadian connection to the “little” single-car team and their 3 wins to date this season.

We had to change plans on the fly around the weather with our Raceline/Sportsnet 590 The FAN trackside coverage, but in the end, we aired some entertaining driver interviews and enjoyed some spirited bench racing with our listeners.

Thanks to all who stopped by to say hello, and to remind me exactly how long Raceline has been covering the Toronto Indy!

As we head into the new month of August, there are big changes afoot for next year.

The Indy this year ran a week later so it wouldn’t compete with the final of the World Cup soccer tournament, but now reports have the Toronto double header running in June in 2015 for two reasons.

Houston doesn’t want to run again in the suffocating Texas heat and humidity in July, and will demand a schedule shift that will impact other events.

In addition, The Pan-Am Games in Toronto next summer will be using Exhibition Place property, namely BMO Field, so the move to June makes sense in both situations.

Toronto Indy management is currently talking with IndyCar to get a date for next year finalized.

The July-August transition is also big on dirt… dirt tracks that is!

You likely are aware our roots are still firmly planted in the clay tracks in and around Southern Ontario, Quebec, Western New York and the North East.

The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series staged their annual summer Canadian Tour and former champ and Raceline Radio guest Donny Schatz swept the trio of stops at Autodrome Drummond, Drummondville Quebec, Cornwall Ontario and Ohsweken near Brantford Ontario.

In the Golden Horseshoe, the Niagara end, August is Big Block DIRT Modified time. The same sanctioning body that stages the World of Outlaws SprintCars and Late Models, also present the dirt modified machines also featured in weekly shows at Niagara Region speedways.

But it’s the Big Block Touring Modifieds, powered by stout 800 horsepower 467 cubic inch V-8 engines that fill the grandstands with ground-pounding 100 lap main events at back-to-back shows at Merrittville Speedway in St.Catharines Ontario, and Canadian-owned Ransomville Speedway, Ransomville NY.

Humberstone Speedway just outside Port Colbourne Ontario draws a huge crowd in August for their All-Canadian Championship for Sportsman Modifieds.

Right across the Raceline Radio Network, there are numerous major attractions to enjoy as we rapidly move out of July into August, prime-time for the sport at the local and regional level, as we see how the NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One campaigns play out.




Latest Progress Report on Canadian Motor Speedway

June 22, 2014

CMS Partner and Executive Director Azhar Mohammad was a special guest on The Raceline Radio Network across Canada this week, providing fans with the latest update on the $ 400 Million Dollar project that got underway last fall.  For those who missed the Raceline interview live, here is a full transcript. Raceline Radio Network anchor Erik Tomas in conversation with Azhar Mohammad:

ET:  It’s been a while since we’ve had an update, so I wanted to come in and talk with you today about where we are and what’s happening. Fans want to know why we’re not seeing equipment back on site in Fort Erie.

AM:  This is an investment, and an investment always requires de-risking various elements of the development. You mentioned the Ontario Provincial election earlier.  Certainly that is a huge part in terms of dealing with government. When you have an election,  government stops. And so the conversations about discussions on infrastructure, all of these things get deferred and we can’t really predict when a new government will come in and who is there to talk to. So that’s created a bit of a slow down or holding pattern.

But I can assure CMS fans activities certainly are continuing in the back ground. Unfortunately, these are not public activities. They relate to approvals and activities being scheduled and programmed for building and permitting. It’s not as cut and dry as just filling out an application and you get your permit.

With our particular project, we have about 20 different stake holders from not only the Provincial government, but we’re also looking at Municipalities, Regional and Federal governments. And so there’s a lot to discuss with all of these people, and they have their own internal processes.

So we’re doing what we can, under risk. Like when do things like the start of the relocation of Miller Creek, that’s not inexpensive. There was significant cost to the project. But we went ahead with it, knowing we will eventually get to the stage where we will get our construction permits in place and the government is on board in terms of infrastructure.

I would like to talk a little bit about infrastructure…

ET:  Please…

AM:  One of the things Canadian Motor Speedway requires in order to be successful, is to be able to manage the mass of people coming in. The 65 thousand seats, the 65 thousand fans who come with their families …

ET:  Access and egress….

AM:  Exactly! These are the kinds of things that have to be part of the overall design. The Queen Elizabeth Highway and the off-ramps coming into our site are directly involved with managing these people.

But these are not assets owned by Canadian Motor Speedway. They are owned by the Province and the Municipalities.  So CMS is very happy in the sense that the project is able to leverage this kind of support from the government for itself as a Province, and for The Town of Fort Erie.

So there’s a lot more involved in this. It’s not just us.  We have to make sure the Municipalities are on side, and the Province is willing to support this kind of development…

ET:  All the pieces have to fit together in other words…

AM:  Exactly! In order to do that, it sometimes takes years of negotiation. Then there are other issues like acquiring more land. We’re always on the lookout for more land. At the same time, we are still dealing with things like archeology on site that needs to be cleared. These are things that depend on weather, timing and availability of the various engineers and specialists during the year because we’re not the only deal in town! There are other projects going on.

Having said all of this, it’s a combination of all of these points that define time and the speed of the project. So we are just trying to do the best we can with what we’re given.

But as I said previous, our architect has already started working on some really cool ideas and designs. Jeff Gordon is very excited as he creates a design book with a lot of the ideas he’s compiled over his career. We continue to mobilize our educational component and the research and development related to motorsport…

ET:  You just signed a memorandum of understanding with Niagara College…

AM:  Absolutely! And so it continues. We are spending dollars every day. The public may not necessarily see this because for them, equipment and trucks and dirt moving means progress. There certainly has been dirt moving, absolutely. More than anyone else, CMS wants to see that level of activity happening, because it means our investment dollars are now starting to turn towards some kind of horizon.

So I would say that’s the best update we can give as we continue actively working with institutions like the Ministry of Transport and Tourism that provides further clarity in terms of what our schedule will look like for this year.

ET:  Azhar, it’s tough to put a time-line on this. Once things settle down after the election and we know who the government is in The Province, and you go back and re-visit all of that stuff and get that infrastructure support from The Province that you need for this thing to go ahead, in your best guess-timation, is there a chance we’ll see activity on site this summer?

AM:  Well I think if we follow our best case scenario, we could see some pre-grading work before the winter. That’s our hope, because that will trigger the start of construction in 2015. But having said that, again, with summer in play, the availability of various bureaucracies and so on to turn around their process remains to be seen whether we achieve that target or not. It’s a waiting game.

ET:  That’s the number one question I get from fans and some media…

AM:  And we appreciate the fan’s sentiment! We love all their input that’s coming in, because it’s really helping us consider a lot of design issues that we’d like to implement, you know, what fans expect.

But at the same time, again, we want to be successful in terms of developing a world class facility.

It has to make money…

ET:  It’s not a hobby….

AM:  No! It’s not a hobby! And everybody that does go out to these tracks can see themselves if there’s no sponsorship that’s optimized at the facility. If there’s nothing else providing a value-add for fans and for their families to attend, then it’s not worth them going to these facilities.  And we need to make sure that Canadian Motor Speedway has that in place so that when somebody does come with their family and they travel that long distance, they’re getting bang for their buck. This is paramount for us!

ET:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if this was easy, everybody would be doin’ it….

AM:  And that’s why you don’t see a lot of tracks of this size and stature being built every year. These things are one-off. This happens to be the first one of its kind in this country and that has its challenges! But we’re committed and we have met those challenges. The few that remain ahead of us, we’re dealing with those.

I’ll just leave you with a little example. When we talk about new highway interchanges and that type of off-site infrastructure, one of the designs that’s come from The Ministry of Transport relates to an interchange that’s going to cut right through a large component of one of the most valuable pieces of our property.

ET:  Who saw that comin’…?

AM:  So then as investor, we have to say, well, do we have a choice? So we have to bite the bullet in those cases, and those kinds of things can cause significant dollar changes in our expectations on revenues. So these are the kinds of business decisions, lots of balls in the air, we have to make.

So far we have taken that sacrifice everywhere we’ve need to, in order for the CMS project to move forward.

We are looking forward to getting some activities done this summer. But having said that, all of the other pieces need to fall into place.

ET:  Great job bringing everyone up to date on CMS Azhar. I thought it was important to do this. Still one thousand percent behind you as you know. As soon as something happens that moves some of this stuff forward, let us know.

AM:  Thanks very much Erik! Again, big thanks to Raceline Radio and all the fans. Certainly we will update you as soon as we have some big developments ready to be announced.

We are looking forward to a successful summer!

Is the Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Is the Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Every month of May, as we get closer to the U.S Memorial Day classic, I debate this point with race fans across the Raceline Radio Network and beyond.

The Indianapolis 500 bills itself as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, a phrase coined by legendary Indy Motor Speedway radio anchor Sid Collins in the 1950’s, and is still used to this day.

But are those just a few hollow words to sell a broadcast and tickets?

Before television took over as the most popular entertainment medium, it was Sid Collin’s job to convince radio station management the automobile race he and his colleagues were describing was a big enough spectacle to expand the broadcast from short 5 minute reports every hour, to a lap-by-lap long form sports program.

By the late 50’s and early 1960’s, Sid had convinced radio stations across the United States and Canada to air the entire 500 miles.

Currently, The Indy 500 broadcast is carried on over 12 hundred affiliates.

You add shortwave and armed forces radio to the list, plus world-wide television coverage and those connected on the internet around the globe, and you have millions watching the Indy 500.

Even with NASCAR stock car racing and Formula One’s popularity, you would have to search very hard to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of the Indianapolis 500.

Casual and even non-race fans will usually admit they will tune in to listen to or watch at least a portion of the event.

Despite political divisions and mismanagement, The Indianapolis 500 is easily the greatest automobile race in the sport in terms of audience and popularity.

The Speedway certainly hosts the greatest spectacle when it comes to sheer venue size!

They can put close to 400 thousand fans into the place! There isn’t a ball park or stadium anywhere else in the world that large.

In terms of area, it’s easily the greatest venue anywhere!

Within the 253 acres that includes the 2.5 mile rectangular-shaped oval, you can fit Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Coliseum and Vatican City in the infield.

But what about the sporting event itself, the race, and the point of this Tale?

IS The Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

I can only use my own personal experience to declare it very much is!

I have covered two, and have watched two more Indy 500’s.

And I wish I could be there at 16th and Georgetown Road in the Town of Speedway Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, every year for the race.

It’s that good!

I have covered Formula One and NASCAR races a plenty, but nothing comes close to the drama, excitement, stress and yes danger of The Indianapolis 500.

Especially the start, from two perspectives.

The incredible sight of the crowd on race day and the pageantry is unequalled.

Unlike any other race track, there are grandstands along both sides of the front straightaway, inside and outside at IMS.

It’s a solid a wall of people.

And when those eleven rows of three, 33 cars come full bore out of turn four, heading south to the green flag, the blinding speed and the roar of the crowd that just about drowns out the roar of the cars, it literally sucks the breath out of you!

Then you look up into turn one and that wall of fans, and you realize these missiles, going better than 230 miles per hour, so fast you can’t tell what colour the cars are let alone their numbers, have to turn left without lifting, running side-by-side!

And through some miracle, they do! More often than not!

Through the south vista, the field screams down the back stretch as the fireworks boom, the balloons are released skyward and the fans are still roaring!

And around they come by you again, even faster, only a little more spread out this time.

It is the most exciting two minutes, 30 seconds in professional sport!

2.5 miles gone, and just under 499 miles to go over the next three and half hours.

For the fan in the stands in the stadium, and the journalists covering it, this is easily the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!

From another perspective, I remember Canada’s Scott Goodyear, who came within inches of beating Al Unser Junior to win the race in 1992, and his incredibly vivid description of the start of The Indy 500 as a driver in the cockpit of one of the cars.

Scott recanted a feeling of near panic when the draft-tow of the moving field pulled him along for the green flag to the point he felt he wasn’t in control of the car anymore, a 230-plus mph!

With every car full of fuel, Scott remembers the methanol fumes burning his eyes and throat, even with his visor down, and not bring able to breathe!

Goodyear says you didn’t know how he was going to hang on, but somehow, as the pack spreads out, the air cleared and the tension eased, he did, and entered the record books as part of the closest finish in Indy 500 history with Little Al!

You do get a very good idea how huge the Indianapolis 500 is on TV and radio, but the full impact of the event doesn’t come to full realization unless you’re there to witness it live.

If you have, you will completely agree with me, The Indianapolis 500 is The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

If you haven’t, it should be # 1 on your racing bucket list!

If the planets align properly,  we might be able to stage our own racing spectacles at CMSIndy 500 crowd Indy 500 field!


Jeff Gordon Back at The Top!

Jeff's # 24 Show Car at the CMS display at the Canadian Motorsports Expo.

Jeff’s # 24 Show Car at the CMS display at the Canadian Motorsports Expo.

Jeff Gordon’s Back On Top!

I have to admit that every once in a while, I have to remind myself that Jeff Gordon is still very much a primary competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car racing Series, and not just the professional celebrity race face of Canadian Motor Speedway as the designer of our speed plant.

So it was nothing short of excellent to see the four time champion finally make it to victory lane at Kansas Speedway, to all but stake his claim in the 2014 Chase for the Championship.

Very strong over the first ten races of this NASCAR Sprint Cup season, a win was the only thing missing from Jeff’s tally. The only thing.

You knew it was only a matter of time before Jeff pulled his # 24 into victory lane.

Five top 5 and 8 top 10 finishes on the board shows us that patented Gordon consistency is still there, good enough to hold onto the points lead into a fifth week.

Kansas was win # 89 for Gordon’s career that’s spanned over 20 years as one of the biggest and influential players in the sport.

Gordon told the media after the win, “It just feels so good to get that first win of the season, especially this year with the points structure and how close we’ve been so many weekends. I think that, while that’s a huge relief off our shoulders, it’s probably going to just make us that much hungrier to go get that next one.”

Gordon won his 4th championship in back in 2001, all under the old “Winston Cup” banner.

He told us at the start of the season he very much wants a “Sprint Cup” championship trophy and to be the first driver to win it using the new revised Chase format.

Jeff also hinted that should he win the title this season, it might be the perfect time to retire and call it a career, finishing on top.

But I’m not so sure the “retirement” word is etched in stone.

This season, with Hendrick Motorsports veteran Crew Chief Alan Gustafson calling the strategy, Jeff is driving with renewed focus and intensity.

Should he wind up winning the Sprint Cup this year, I can see the Vallejo California native sticking around to try for a sixth or even a seventh title.

He might turn 43 in August, an age some might consider a little long in the tooth, but winning and running at the front is like taking a big swig from the fountain of youth.

Gordon also has some unfinished business to look after.

89 wins puts him just 16 shy of tying David Pearson’s 105 victories for second place on the all-time win list.

And a fifth title for Gordon, would put him just a pair behind tying the all-time record of seven championships shared by “The King” Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.

Those records just might be enough motivation for Jeff to stay in the game for a few more years, even if he claims a fifth championship this season.

As the designer of Canadian Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon might work with us, but it’s extra special to be able to root for the guy when he straps into his stock car as one of the biggest NASCAR stars of our generation.

That privilege doesn’t come along very often.


It’s DIRT not MUD, and It’s in Your Blood!

As we standby for work to resume on the Canadian Motor Speedway site in Fort Erie, the local Niagara racing scene is emerging from its long winter’s nap to start a brand new season. Just a short drive from the CMS location, the three dirt tracks in St.Catharines-Thorold and Port Colborne on The Canadian side, and a short hop across the bridge in Ransomville New York, form a solid and long surviving Niagara racing fan base.CMS will draw fans and competitors from across North America, but Niagara’s dirt track racing fans, who already know how important the sport is in this market, already make up the foundation of what will be a large, enthusiastic and loyal percentage of CMS ticket buyers and customers.

The three clay ovals in the immediate CMS neighbourhood have been vital sports attractions in the region for generations.

Very much aware of the vitality of the local racing tradition, CMS established immediate  dialogue with the management of all three tracks. We have all pledged to co-promote each other’s events and to work closely together.

It can’t and shouldn’t work any other way.

For those not familiar with the area dirt tracks, let me take you on a little written tour with some photographic assistance from my good friends Alex and Helen Bruce. Thanks to Softouch Photo as well.

Merrittville Speedway, the 3/8’s mile D-shaped banked clay oval just south of St.Catharines in Thorold, is only 12 miles from the U.S border and a stone’s throw from CMS.

The elder statesman of dirt track racing, Merrittville opens this month for their 63rd consecutive season. They are the oldest and longest operating dirt track in Canada.

My Dad first took me to Merrittville when I was seven years old in 1960, so the place has been part of my life for 54 years.

I eventually met my wife Janice at Merrittville, as her family co-owned the track in the 70’s and 80’s.

Janice started working there in popcorn when she was a kid, moved to hotdog sales and then graduated to the control tower as an official scorer.

I figured if she could put up with my ridiculous race calling as the track announcer every week, she would make the perfect spouse.

I was right.

We had daughter Katelyn at Merrittville when she was a baby, and I’m proud to say Katie spent 12 years as a scorer herself, inheriting her mother’s prowess for keeping track of cars at the historic bull ring.

Owned by the Bicknell and Williamson families, with Pete Bicknell himself a multi-time track champion who also builds most of the cars, their feature division on their Saturday night card is small block DIRT Modifieds.

Full House at Merrittville!

For those who haven’t been entertained by these cars, a DIRT Modified is like a big, long and heavy sprint car without wings, with body panels attached. You broad-slide these 500 horsepower machines around corners.

Supported by several support divisions at all three tracks, the Modifieds keep the fans coming back for more every weekend from April to September, season after season!

The same machines are the headliners Friday nights at Ransomville Speedway, Ransomville NY, just east of Lewiston NY, just a short drive across the Queenston-Lewiston bridge.

It’s a unique facility in that it’s located in New York State, but it’s owned by long time friends the Friesen family of St. Catharines.

Janice’s Dad Kurt co-owned “The Big R” and Merrittville together with since departed Friesen family patriarch Stan Friesen in the 70’s and 80’s.

Stan’s sons Jamie and Joel and their families run the speed plant into 2014, Ransomville’s 56th season of dirt track thrills on the larger, faster 5/8th mile high banked clay oval.

The Modifieds Pack Them In at Ransomville!

The Modifieds Pack Them In at Ransomville!

Ransomville’s ticket buyers hail mostly from Western New York, boosted by a loyal Canadian following of fans and race teams.

The closest track to CMS geographically is Humberstone Speedway just outside of Port Colborne, less than a twenty minute drive from the Fort Erie site down highway three.

Operating Sunday nights, Humberstone is a banked 3/8’s mile clay oval, slightly wider than Merrittville,  that’s been drawing fans and drivers from both sides of the border since 1958.

Their main division is DIRT Sportsman cars. They are essentially the same as a Modified, only with slightly less engine power.

Turning Right to Go Left at Humberstone!

They bring in the Modifieds several times as season as a special guest attraction.

All three Speedways are clean, well lit, well run facilities with ultra-modern enclosed hospitality areas, excellent concessions and ample parking. Ransomville also offers a camping area.

Canadian Motor Speedway Directors, Planners and Investors know The Niagara Region is the perfect location to build our world class racing and entertainment complex.

The fact the region already has a long standing and prosperous local dirt track racing fan base and tradition is a well recognized, greatly respected and valuable bonus for CMS.

I’m proud and privileged to have been associated with the dirt track scene in Niagara and Western New York almost my entire life, personal and professional!

It will make the connection and cross-promotion of our racing programs and attractions, a marriage of dirt and asphalt, all the easier going forward.

We are going to be excellent racing neighbours!





The Rights of Spring a Good Show!

This has been one of the most entertaining spring sessions in the sport I can remember, and we have been doing this a while!

We’re seeing lots of changes, lots of different results and different faces at the top. For those of us who like some variety, it’s been great stuff to watch and cover.

It might be a coin-toss as to what series has experienced the most significant changing of the guard, but let’s go with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first.

The first seven races of the new 2014 season produced seven different winners, and that’s unusual.

We didn’t get our first repeat winner until Darlington, where “The Lady Too Tough to Tame” allowed Kevin Harvick into victory lane for a second time.

NASCAR’s change in the Chase qualifying format that puts more emphasis on winning, has drivers thinking and talking more about wins than points, since all you need to do is basically win one race to make the playoff.

Not only are we seeing some extremely good racing in CUP so far with the drivers pushing harder for  “that win”, I for one, like the look of the cars this season.

I’m not a big fan of ugly race cars.

Called the Generation Six or “Gen 6 “car, they look tougher, meaner and fast, even standing still.

The elimination of pre and post-race front ride height rules and tech inspections, a new square leading edge for the front splitter, adjustments to the side skirt and rear fascia areas, plus the eight-inch rear spoiler has the cars looking less box-like with a lower racier profile.

I just think they look more like stock cars.

The Formula One World Driving Championship so far has not looked anything like the last few seasons and for those bored with The Red Bull/Sebastian Vettel domination, this is very good news.

The new cars wrapped around brand new V-6 turbo-charged engines have been a handful for many teams trying to find grip and aero balance, save Mercedes and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The Mercs have been the class of the field so far, already enjoying a sizable lead in the Constructor’s points tally.

So far it’s been a Mercedes party! Rosberg won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, then proceeded to finish behind stable-mate Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia and Bahrain, back to back.

They are also 1-2 in F-1 driver points.

Force India is second in Constructor Points! Where are McLaren and Ferrari? They are fighting mid-pack and toward the back with Vettel and Red Bull!

The F-1 landscape has changed drastically this spring, and you won’t hear me complaining!

On the down side, there have been complaints and howls of protest from some promoters and fans over the much quieter and raspier engine sound.

Some promoters say the much less dramatic F-1 engine note is not what fans pay for and are demanding a rule change to get the car sound back closer to the ear-splitting scream they used to emit up to this season.

I do prefer the wicked screech of the old motors, but a smaller, lower-revving V-6 that’s also turbo-charged can’t sound anything close to the old power plants, so adjusting the sound of their show is not an easy fix.

The IndyCars entered the new season with a brand new and badly needed title sponsor, Verizon. The largest cellular telephone provider in the States comes on board as the main bill-payer.

After supporting Penske Racing for several seasons, Verizon already understands the series. Their familiarity with the drivers, the administration and inner-workings of IndyCar will mean positive strides in marketing, communications and technology.

Four-time Series champ and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti has retired, former champ Juan Montoya has returned, lone Canadian James Hinchcliffe has stumbled a bit out of the gate, and there’s still a twin-bill IndyCar race this summer in Toronto.

IndyCar continues to be a big mountain on the Canadian racing landscape.

On the Canadian Motor Speedway beat, crews are just waiting for the slow-to-arrive warmer weather to thaw the ground on the Fort Erie site so work to finish Miller Creek can continue, and excavation on the core land can begin.

CMS has been out at various sports and trade shows over the winter with our display, talking it up. Fans are very excited the project is underway and can’t wait for that first race!

This is going to be a huge spring and summer for CMS, and you can catch all the updates right here on

The local Niagara Speedways: Merrittville, Ransomville and Humberstone, that form the racing fan base in the region, are into testing and tuning as their seasons are ready to bloom.

Merrittville, the longest operating dirt track in Canada, is set to open their 63rd consecutive season!

The snow blower has officially been put away, and the lawn mower test-started first pull.

The Rights of Spring are lining up as they should, as the 2014 racing season is ready to fire on all cylinders right across the board!



Stewart-Haas It Goin’?

Danica and Little GirlVery well thank you!
Dale Earnhardt Junior’s Daytona 500 win was a major headline, but if you are looking for gross racing news tonnage, give the early season nod to Stewart-Haas Racing!
This actually started last season with news occasional bad-boy and former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and front-runner Kevin Harvick were heading over to join Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing.
All these personalities and ego’s on one team was a news bonanza waiting to happen!
Things started to boil right before the season-launching Daytona 500, when our friends and partners at The Canadian Motorsports Expo decided bringing in NASCAR “King” Richard Petty would be a good idea.
How right they were!
In the media scrum with Richard, The Toronto Star’s Norris McDonald asked Petty if he thought Danica Patrick would ever win a NASCAR race.
Richard, with that patented Petty grin drawled, “Ya… as long as everybody else stays home! If she was a male, nobody would pay any attention to her!”
Petty’s answer created an over-blown fire-storm of media coverage that extended far beyond the boundaries of the racing world.
Even NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams ran the story! Was Petty sexist? Was the 7-time champ and 7-time Daytona 500 winner out of bounds with his rebuke of Patrick?
Danica and I took the same stance. The King is entitled to his opinion and his NASCAR royalty status means the man can say pretty much what he wants, understanding this was all marvelous publicity for Danica, Petty and NASCAR on the eve of their biggest race.
It was also invaluable coverage for Stewart-Haas. Smoke’s driver stable was already making waves, and the season hadn’t even started.
Danica does need to get a lot more competitive before she can challenge for wins, but as the photo shows, this is where Miss Patrick wins, and where NASCAR and the sport wins. She’s a role model for countless young ladies to strive for their goals and dreams.
This little girl and her big Hello-Kitty bag is not only a Patrick fan, she’s now a racing fan and that’s the key to our future. Danica knows that and stops to make sure she gets an autograph.
Even Petty admits she’s fabulous for NASCAR’s image. And no goofy The King Vs Danica one-on-one gimmick race is ever going to change that.
So the Patrick Vs Petty tussle got it started.
Then Kevin Harvick goes to work and wins the second race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, dominating at Phoenix, making the move from Richard Childress look like pure gold!
Less than a week later Kurt Busch generates even more headlines for the team, confirming he will attempt “The Double”, The Indy 500 for Michael Andretti, and the NASCAR Coke 600 at Charlotte later that same day for Stewart-Haas, a grand total of eleven hundred miles of racing and media attention, in two vastly different forms of machinery.
Of the three drivers who have attempted “The Double”, Robby Gordon, John Andretti and Tony Stewart, Smoke is the only one who’s completed the entire total distance.
His results in 2001 were also outstanding that day: a 6th in The Indy 500 on the lead lap after leading 13 laps, and a 3rd at Charlotte after starting dead last and recovering from an early race spin.
Tony’s feat comes full circle again with team mate and employee Kurt Busch attempting to at least match his boss’ numbers, to say nothing about the value it brings IndyCar to have a NASCAR star cross over to the open-wheel world.
In essence, Stewart-Haas Racing is currently the darling of two major sanctioning bodies at the same time!
If the team was paid by their sponsors per word of media coverage, Smoke and Company would have enough cash flow to race the next decade free and clear!
Tale Wags:
We are thrilled to announce News 95.7 Halifax has re-joined the Raceline Radio Network. That brings us to 16 Network affiliates across Canada, and 21 airings a week… Canadian Motor Speedway works through the winter interviewing architects to take Jeff Gordon’s track design to blueprints. Work on the Fort Erie site resumes when the ground thaws in the spring.

The King Vs Danica on a Slow News Day.

Richard PettyDanica Patrick

Tomas Tales. February 12, 2014
There used to be an old staying in radio news and sports, “There’s no such thing as a slow news day!”
So we must have been dead asleep during the final day of the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto.
Why else would an appearance by The “King” of NASCAR stock car racing, Richard Petty create such an un-expected fire-storm of protest and criticism?
Petty, who has deep racing roots that reach up into Canada, was brought in by The Motorsports Expo as a special guest attraction for the fans.
Line-ups out the door for his autograph attest to the man’s legend and status.
Before Richard’s meet-and-greet and autograph session with his fans, the media were allowed a few minutes with the always charming and engaging NASCAR figurehead.
To maximize the limited time, we usually form a round-table, where yours truly with recorder and microphone in the middle, records the proceedings for Raceline Radio, moderating the Q and A session with other members of the media, print and electronic.
The session sailed along with Petty remembering his first NASCAR race at the old CNE stadium in Toronto in 1958, his memorable scraps in the 60’s and 70’s with David Pearson, and how much a driver needs to do these days when he or she is out of the car.
After close to 15 minutes with Petty, and time with him drawing to a close, friend and colleague Norris McDonald of Toronto Star Wheels innocently asked Richard if Danica Patrick will ever win a race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

Petty, from under that legendary big cowboy hat and behind those ever-present sunglasses drawled deadpan, “If everybody else stays home!”
After peals of laughter from all, and with that equally famous wide toothy grin, Richard tempered his comment by paying Danica a compliment, declaring her popularity and image has helped increase NASCAR’s fan base, and that’s good for him too!
It’s taken for granted Richard can say just about anything he wants. He’s earned the right. Such straight from the lip honesty is fully expected and nothing new for the “King”.

7 NASCAR championships, 7 Daytona 500 wins, 200 career wins over more than eleven hundred races makes the now 76 year old Petty still the undisputed KING of the sport.

And nobody will argue that distinction because Richard and his famous # 43 was cool in NASCAR long before NASCAR became cool and main stream!

But it had to be the slowest news/sports day of the winter, because Petty’s comment about Danica not winning a Sprint Cup race unless everybody else stayed home, created an alarming and highly over-blown tornado of controversy!

It created moans and howls of protest across the racing landscape and other mediums that likely don’t even know what NASCAR is!

Judging by the bleating, condemnation and headlines asking if Petty was sexist, the story hit the papers, radio and TV like an angry nest of hornets. It even made The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams!

You would have thought Petty shot Patrick with a bullet instead of words!

Everybody needs to take a pill and calm down!
Petty has always spoken his mind and he did it again, and it has nothing to do with Patrick’s gender.

She’s not competitive right now in NASCAR, unlike her tenure in IndyCars, and I have stated that on the air on Raceline Radio many times, even though Danica is an international sports ambassador for a major Raceline sponsor we are in the process of re-signing, Tissot Swiss Watches.

Raceline, Danica and Tissot work together, but you have to call it like you see it.
If your average season finish is outside the top 10, you have some improving to do, and Danica agrees.

Of course a great deal of Danica’s popularity is based on the fact she’s a very attractive young woman in a male dominated sport, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I do however think she can and will win a race eventually, so I, like Norris McDonald, disagree with Petty.

But to those media types who went way over the top criticizing The “King” Richard Petty for stating his opinion on Danica Patrick, I can name quite a few fringe male drivers in Sprint Cup who haven’t won a race, and will never win a race.
All I can guarantee, is that they are nowhere near as attractive and valuable to NASCAR’s image as Ms. Patrick.
Right Richard?

2014 Canadian Motorsports Expo Scores!

It was an absolutely splendid weekend at The 8th Annual Canadian Motorsports Expo, Powered by Inside Track Motorsport News.
Wearing three hats isn’t easy, but it was way too much fun and very productive!
Friday we launched Alex Tagliani’s brand new Tagliani Autosport Team EpiPen/Dicom Express # 18 Dodge for the 2014 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season. Media coverage was thick and fast with plenty of sound and pictures!
It was excellent to meet everyone from Pfizer/EpiPen. They are going to be great folks to work with in my new capacity as Media and Public Relations Manager for Tagliani Autosport!
All weekend long we manned the Canadian Motor Speedway display with Jeff Gordon’s gorgeous new # 24 Axalta Chevy SS Sprint Cup Car smack dab in the middle! Fans who didn’t already know were thrilled to bits the CMS project has actually started. Wide-spread and very enthusiastic support of CMS re-confirmed!
We lost count of how many updates we gave the fans using our video terminal, but CMS Partner and Executive Director Azhar Mohammad, Marketing Executive Claire MacSweyn, Jeff Gordon’s stepdad, mentor and the man to who handles Jeff Gordon Inc. John Bickford and yours truly rarely had a moment to sit down.
Raceline Radio had a tremendous weekend with interviews with Richard Petty, Ryan Newman and more to be heard in coming weeks on the show.
It’s always very nice to have listeners tell you they regularly tune into Raceline for their racing news and interviews.
The Media Round table at the Expo was another hit, with the hi-lite from The Toronto Star’s Norris McDonald announcing the birth to his brand new granddaughter!
Jamie Hackonson was showing off new cute-as-a-button baby boy Hudson at the Fast Eddie booth… so the Expo was this like this little City with inside the International Centre.
Big thanks to Expo chiefs Greg MacPherson and David Weber for staging one of the best Expos yet!
But there’s no time to relax, because we now head into The Canadian International Auto Show, for a weekend of reporting for Sportsnet 590 The FAN.
The one good thing about being this busy? It helps keep your mind of this terrible winter we’ve been suffering through!
Stay warm y’all!

Gordon’s # 24 New Paint Debuts with CMS at Expo!

JG Axalta 2014JG Axalta 2014 HOF

Jeff Gordon Fans Will See a “Hot” Number 24 at Canadian Motor Speedway Display at Canadian Motorsports Expo!

Race fans anxious to get a close look at the new 2014 Jeff Gordon No. 24 Axalta Chevy SS NASCAR Sprint Cup show car at The Canadian Motor Speedway display at The Canadian Motorsports Expo, will definitely feel the heat!

Cloaked in secrecy until the official Hendrick Motorsports unveiling and presentation at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC, Axalta Coating Systems finally took the wraps off the striking Brilliant Flames paint scheme on the popular No. 24 driven by 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.

© 2014 Hendrick Motorsports, LLC.

Now fans at the Expo can take their own personal photos of the car, as The Canadian Motor Speedway ( CMS ) is proud and privileged to showcase Gordon’s show car for a 4th consecutive year at The Expo, ( CME ) February 7th through the 9th at the International Center Toronto.

Gordon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup show cars at the CMS display are a centerpiece attraction at The Expo, but this year is extra special, as the CMS display will mark the very first time the brand new No. 24 Axalta Chevy SS showcar’s new paint scheme will be shown in Canada!

The Brilliant Flames paint scheme, designed by renowned artist Sam Bass, marks the 22nd season of an historical partnership between Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports and Gordon.

Axalta describes the new paint scheme as a colourful racing design fitting of a champion, symbolizing longevity, style and fire for the business and for the sport. The base colors contain a unique specialty pigment called Brilliance that reflects a multitude of colors that demonstrates why Axalta color scientists develop coatings designed to superbly protect and enhance.

Fans will also be able to meet John Bickford, the Vice President and General Manager of Jeff Gordon, Inc. at the CMS display. Bickford is the stepfather and the man behind the illustrious career of Jeff Gordon, the 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and designer of Canadian Motor Speedway. John will be greeting fans at the CMS booth on Friday February 7th and Saturday February 8th.

Canadian Motorsports Expo attendees can also meet The CMS Management Team to view CMS renderings and up-to-date information on the on-site work completed so far, and construction plans for 2014 and 2015. Fans will also be able to obtain information about the hiring process, sponsorship opportunities and CMS community programs. The CMS team will also be available for business to business discussions to explore partnerships and potential opportunities.

About Canadian Motor Speedway: CMS is a world-class motorsport and entertainment development in Fort Erie, Ontario. CMS will include industrial, recreational and commercial retail space, as well as a motorsport innovation park in collaboration with McMaster University’s renowned Faculty of Engineering and Niagara College, expanding the build-out to $400 million. The core of the project is a stand-alone “Jeff Gordon Designed Signature Speedway” that includes a ¾ mile banked oval and a 2 mile FIA/FIM grade road course. Initial grand stand seating: 60 thousand, plus 5 thousand enclosed club seats and 80 suites., or on Twitter @CMSnation

About John Bickford: John Bickford is Vice President and General Manager of Jeff Gordon, Inc. Stepfather to NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, Bickford started Gordon’s racing career on a makeshift racetrack in Vallejo, California in 1976 at the age of 5. At the same time, he started MPD, which is a company that produces products for physically challenged people to enable them to drive cars without the use of their feet. The company also produces race car products. In 1985, he moved east to further Jeff Gordon’s racing establishing a base in Pittsboro, Indiana. In 1996, following a move from Pittsboro to Concord, North Carolina he became the Executive Vice President of Action Performance. While with Action, he spent 18 months in Europe working on Formula One and SBK World Super Bike. In 2004, he returned to Jeff Gordon, Inc. where he remains Vice President and General Manager.

About the CME: The 8th Annual Canadian Motorsports Expo Powered by Inside Track Motorsport News runs February 7, 8 & 9, 2014 at Toronto’s International Centre, adjacent to Pearson International Airport. The show features motorsports content geared to racers, fans and automotive enthusiasts. For information about the show, including news, exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities, call (416) 962-7223, or email The CME’s website is located at

About Axalta: Axalta Coating Systems is a leading global provider of liquid and powder coatings to automotive, transportation, general industrial, and architectural and decorative customers. Axalta will continue to build on more than 145 years of experience in the coatings industry. For more information visit