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.