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Shannonville for sale; National Guard quits Earnhardt, Rahal

Published August 6, 2014

These columns have been pretty heavy so far this week.

Time to switch gears and lighten up a bit.

Flash: Shannonville Motorsport Park is for sale!

Owned for the past 23 years by the affable Jean Gauthier, who is retiring, the Belleville-area racing facility is officially on the block.

Shannonville was opened in the late 1970s. Starting with the 1.8-km “Nelson” circuit (named for the circuit’s owner, the late John Nelson) it was also owned over the years by Jack Boxstrom and Raymond David, patron of the late racer Bertrand Fabi, after whom the 2.23-km “Fabi” circuit is named.

After Fabi was killed testing a Formula Three car in England (he was considered a “coming man” and his death made the cover of the British Bible of Motorsport, Autosport magazine), David lost interest and sold the facility to Gauthier, who has spent his time ever since building the business.

His decision to link the Nelson and Fabi circuits, and thus create the 2.47-km “Pro Circuit,” was considered the stuff of genius.

Motorcycle racing, CASC automobile racing and drag racing are featured at the property, which can be seen on the south side of Highway 401 between Belleville and Napanee.

Interested? Email Jean at jgauthier@shannonville.com

Me? I wonder if Carlo Fidani wants another partner . . .

Flash 2: U.S. National Guard ends sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal.

This from the American publication Military Times:

“The Army National Guard is ending its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Indy Racing League driver Graham Rahal, the component announced Wednesday.

“The decisions follow an “intensive internal review,” according to the announcement.

“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business,” said Maj. Gen. Judd Lyons, acting director of the Army Guard, in the announcement.

“The Army Guard spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on the IndyCar sponsorship for 2014, according to the announcement.

“The Army Guard came under fire earlier this year for spending $26.2 million to sponsor NASCAR racing in 2012 to boost its marketing and recruiting but failing to sign up a single new soldier through the program, according to a USA Today report.

“At the time, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., assailed the Guard for “wasting a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship,” the newspaper reported.

“According to USA Today, the Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012. The potential recruits indicated that the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining, USA Today reported. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard’s entry qualifications, and not one of them joined, according to the newspaper.

“Sports sponsorships have played “an important role” in helping the Army Guard build strong brand awareness, but existing contracts are set to expire at the end of the current season, Lyons said in the announcement.”

Now, I’m a racing fan and I realize that racing costs a lot of money and is commercially driven by sponsorships.

But I choked on my cornflakes when I heard that Bobby Rahal had talked the National Guard into giving him $12 million.

Please.

It’s that sort of thing that can ruin it for everybody else.

I have it on very good authority, from a current racing driver in the IndyCar Series, that you can do a full season, first-class, for less than half that amount of money.

Okay, tickets for the 2014 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary Induction Ceremonies, presented by Canadian Tire, are now on sale at www.cmhf.ca

Come and rub shoulders with Tracy, Maxwell, Mansell et al on Sat., Sept. 27. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Glenn Gould Studio Theatre in the CBC Building at 250 Front St. West, Toronto.

This year’s inductees are Diana Carter, John Magill, Scott Maxwell, Paul Tracy and Norris McDonald, which is me. The International Inductee is Nigel Mansell. (People ask me if Mansell is really coming and I can tell you right now that he is.)

Tickets are $85 – it’s a fund-raiser for the Hall, remember -  and can be ordered online.  Or, tickets can be ordered by mail by printing and completing the  form at cmhf.ca and mailing it and a cheque to 1 Hickory Court, Innisfil, Ont., L9S 1N1, attention CMHF.

For more information, call (705)431-7544.

Here’s how much NASCAR thinks of Milka Duno, who’s been hired to drive in this weekend’s Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen. The media release said: “Venezuelan woman to race Nationwide.”

Talking of women drivers, Karl Thompson’s Toronto-based Compass360 Racing team has hired Katherine Legge for this weekend’s IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Road America in Wisconsin. Legge, who drives the revolutionary Delta Wing racer when it’s entered in Tudor United Sports Car Championship events, will join James Vance in the team’s Street Tuner-class No. 74 Expo Systems/Honda Performance Development Civic Si.

The Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres is on this weekend, with the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series headlining the event that will be celebrating its 45th renewal.

It was at Trois-Rivieres in the mid-1970s when Gilles Villeneuve defeated James Hunt and another couple of F1 drivers brought in to race “the locals” in Formula Atlantic cars and Hunt was so impressed that he went back to Europe raving about Villeneuve’s talent. The rest, as they say, is history.

The best open-wheel racing of the weekend will take place in the Formula 1600 Super Series that combines the Quebec-based Toyo Tires Formula Tour and the Ontario based Toyo Tires F1600 Championship. Twenty-seven drivers from all over North America will take part in the oldest street race on the continent and at the end of the weekend the best formula car racer in Canada will be crowned.

Tristan DeGrand of Eureka, Mo., goes into the event with a near perfect record: five wins in six races. His only defeat came at the hands of Brandon Newey in Toronto a few weeks ago. DeGrand has accumulated 540 points to date and is the championship leader.

Chase Pelletier, of Brampton is second in points with a total of 440, within striking distance of DeGrand and showing great pace in the last couple of rounds. He has challenged DeGrand this season, won a pole and led some laps.

Hot on his tail, however, is Olivier Bedard, of Terrebonne, Que. He will no doubt have the hometown advantage over DeGrand and Pelletier and sits solidly in third with 390 points. He has beaten DeGrand once this season in Formula Tour action but had some bad luck in Montreal and was not in his regular ride for the Toronto rounds.  He will be one to watch this weekend.

Here are your TV listings for the weekend. F1 is still on vacation and IndyCar is on a weekend off before the three-race push to the end of the season. NASCAR, though, is on the road course at Watkins Glen.

All of TSN’s NASCAR coverage will be on TSN2.

Sat., Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. - NASCAR Nationwide Series: Zippo 200

Sun., Aug. 10 at 12 noon -  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Cheez-It 355

Th-th-th-th=that’s all, folks.

For now.

- NORRIS McDONALD (nmcdonald@thestar.ca)

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