Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Monday, August 30, 2010

Montreal Proving to Be NASCAR Country

Sure, the Sprint Cup Series had the weekend off, but that didn't mean there wasn't any NASCAR excitement to be had. And I'm not referring to Kyle Busch winning the Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night.

Because let's face it, Busch winning a Truck race isn't all that noteworthy.

But the Nationwide Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec more than made up for the lack of drama, as it has every year the series has run on the picturesque road course. A quick primer of the track's NASCAR history:

-In 2007, Robby Gordon was sure he'd won after late-race contact with Marcos Ambrose. But NASCAR black-flagged Gordon, and he ignored the flag, so NASCAR took the win away from him. Kevin Harvick went on to win the first Nationwide Series race held at CGV, and both Harvick and Gordon did celebratory burnouts on the frontstretch.

-The 2008 race marked the first time that one of NASCAR's three national touring series ran in the rain. New tires made the move possible, though attachable windshield wipers and brake lights proved less than effective. Ambrose dominated the race, but a pit road speeding penalty cost him. Canadian Ron Fellows, driving for JR Motorsports, won the rain-shortened event.

-Ambrose again dominated at Montreal in 2009, but he hit the curb in the last corner on the final lap, sailed high heading to the finish line, and Carl Edwards got around him for the win.

The 2010 race was perhaps better than those three combined, though, thanks to the action throughout the day and a classic finish between Boris Said and Max Papis that was the fifth-closest in series history.

Rather than try to explain it, I offer video. It speaks for itself.

Said's win is the first in his Nationwide Series career, but the race begs the larger question of whether the track deserves a larger stage in the world of stock car racing. Stock car action at Montreal isn't unique to the Nationwide Series, either; check out the finish from Sunday's NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race:

So does CGV deserve a Sprint Cup race? Politics aside -- you know neither International Speedway Corp. or Speedway Motorsports, Inc. would give up one of their Cup dates for another track not owned by them -- I say yes. Canada has proven how passionate it is about racing, not just NASCAR, and I say it's time to reward them with a Cup date.

The stands have been packed every time the Nationwide Series has come to Montreal, unlike the races in Mexico City, which saw attendance declines every year until the series stopped running there entirely. Add that to the fact that Canadians often cross the border to watch Cup races -- Michigan International Speedway says 15 percent of its ticket sales go to Canadians, while 10 percent of those who buy tickets to New Hampshire Motor Speedway go to those who live north of the border.

Road course racing is one of the most polarizing aspects of NASCAR, but I love it. It's different, and in recent years, they've been among the most action-packed races on the schedule. The Nationwide Series made its debut at Road America earlier this season, and it was one of the best races of the year.

I think the Cup schedule needs more road courses, including one in the Chase, and I think Montreal -- which also hosts the Canadian Grand Prix for Formula 1 -- would fit in just fine for America's premiere motorsports series.

Regardless of whether Montreal gets that much-deserved Cup race, it has become a staple of the Nationwide Series and one of the series' destination races. The action never fails to disappoint, and the fans embrace the sport better than some of the tracks on this side of the border. That loyalty deserves to be rewarded, and I think NASCAR would do well to put its highest-profile, most talented series on the twists and turns at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

But what do I know? I'm just a fan.

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