My recent reports on Toyota's entry into Nextel Cup competition and NASCAR racing north of the border certainly struck a nerve with many out there in NASCAR Nation.
Many of the emails I received regarding Toyota contained quite a bit of patriotic vitriol thrown in the mix. "NASCAR is an American sport and it should stay that way!" was a common theme. Let's just say that most of the readers who responded weren't very happy about it – but that wasn't the sole opinion expressed by NASCAR fans.
As for Canada ... first of all, I like Canadian beer, I like Canadian food and of course, I love Jessica Paré. I also love watching hockey (I follow the Red Wings ... when they're playing), and although I don't quite understand curling I do respect those who play it. Now that that's out of the way ...
Several readers commented that while they like NASCAR, they prefer open wheel racing of the F1 or Champ Car variety. I like open wheel racing, too. And even though some were excited about NASCAR racing in Canada, the enthusiasm wasn't necessarily there for seeing NASCAR on a road course.
Finally, there were some comments regarding Canada not allowing the use of leaded fuel. Actually, the Canadian government has relaxed the rules regarding the use of leaded fuel in motorsports competition, so it's not as great an obstacle as many believe.
Here are some questions I received, with my answers in italics.
OH WHAT A FEELING ("The next big thing" Jan. 22, 2005)
I'm a red-blooded American and I do believe in buying American made products, but I must admit, Toyota makes one hell of a "dependable" vehicle.
There is no doubt or question that Toyota's results and performance in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series are raising eyebrows and concern from the Ford, Dodge and GM people in Nextel Cup. I'm surprised that this hasn't happened a long time ago.
Kimberling City, Mo.
Why are you so up on Toyota in NASCAR? Who cares about Toyota, or any other manufacturer winning races? It's not going to change most people's buying decisions. Most racing fans today know the cars that are raced are nothing like the cars in the showroom. And NASCAR's race cars are so far off from the showroom cars that it's not even worth talking about.
I really don't think the people that buy the kinds of cars Toyota sells are watching NASCAR. Did Toyota's sales increase because they won in GTP, CART or IndyCars? The bottom line is, Toyota doesn't create interesting cars, and the cars NASCAR races are not interesting cars. So why does anyone think NASCAR is a good business for selling cars over the last decade or so? I think "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is a phrase that worked years ago but has little meaning in NASCAR today.
Bill, I'm not really "up" on Toyota in NASCAR. But I do feel that its entry into NASCAR's top series is an inevitability that fans had better get used to – quickly. Just ask those folks who work at Toyota's factories here in the U.S. if they think Toyota is an American brand. And how many other brand names that we take for granted as American are actually foreign owned – like Dodge, for instance?
The bottom line is that Toyota has its fans among the truck crowd, but they've got their PR work cut out for them to win over the car crowd.
NASCAR is an American sport for American-made cars. If the sanctioning body of NASCAR feels it necessary to allow Toyota to participate, they will be doing it without the support of this fan.
BLAME CANADA ("NASCAR looks north" Jan. 29, 2005)
Most of the NASCAR fans I know don't even watch road course races. While I will watch every lap of every other race, I only flip the channel to road course races occasionally just to see how the drivers are doing and look at it for a minute near the end if the race is in doubt. But I cannot watch the whole race.
Alan's email was typical, although several others – mostly from Canada – suggested that NASCAR look at Mosport International Speedway, a multi-track facility northeast of Toronto, as an alternative to the Circuit Gilles Villenueve in Montreal. Mosport does offer exciting scenery on its challenging, albeit narrow road course, and it does currently have a half-mile paved track. But the facility would require extensive upgrading to support a Nextel Cup event.
What do you really know about "Canada's enormous bureaucracy"? I suspect next to nothing. Still let's not let the truth get in the way of a stereotype. Stick to cars that go fast.
Peter, what I do know about Canada's bureaucracy comes straight from several long-time Canadian associates and other trusted sources who have been involved in Canadian motorsports for quite some time. They insist that government red tape is a BIG problem with auto racing.
NASCAR has raced in Canada before. Richard Petty's first Grand National race was in September 1958 in Toronto. He drove car No. 142, an Oldsmobile. He qualified seventh, but he hit the retaining wall midway through the race and dropped out. He finished 17th and his winnings were $115.
Now a U.S. resident, I think NASCAR would do well in Canada. After all, we too had the mullet hair and drank cheap beer a while back ... sorry, had to do it. Seriously, I'm sure they'll attract the crowds and it will be a brilliant move by NASCAR!
But why is it that every time I read a story about Canada, reporters always find someone that will badmouth the country ... or in this case its processes, regarding the time it would take the government to approve a race. Canada is like the USA in that MONEY talks! Please get some positive out there, we are neighbors and in a few years we'll use the same money. They may have a few more "processes" and a lot more taxes ... but in the end they are race fans and good people.
Weston, Fla. (ex-Montrealer)
Patrick, I agree, money does talk. In the next couple of weeks, I'll be talking to a developer who is looking to build a speedway in Calgary – if he can get the financing. By the way, if we are going to start using the same money, can we make it the colorful kind like you had at home?