NASCAR made quite the impression last weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Adam Stern reported that this weekend was much bigger than a one-off, as NASCAR is looking at potential “Opportunities” in regions around the world.
International NASCAR races can be a very risky move, but the reward could be immense as well. With that in mind, what are some potential venues for an international NASCAR race?
Fuji Speedway (Oyama, Japan)
A fact that may be somewhat surprising to newer NASCAR fans is that NASCAR has actually raced in Japan before. In 1996 and 1997, NASCAR hosted exhibition races held on the East Circuit at Suzuka. Now that NASCAR has a Japanese manufacturer in Toyota in the Cup Series, a race in Japan could be a big hit.
Now, Suzuka is currently owned by Honda, so I doubt Toyota would allow NASCAR to return to Suzuka, but Toyota does own an FIA Grade 1 race track in Japan, Fuji Speedway. It’s 2.8 miles long, which puts it within the current confines of NASCAR Road course lengths (Sonoma is shortest at 1.99 miles, and COTA is longest at 3.4 miles). It’s definitely not as iconic at Suzuka, but it’s definitely a worthwhile circuit.
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Mexico City, Mexico)
With a Mexican driver full-time on the grid, a Cup Series race in Mexico could definitely draw well. Add to that NASCAR has already run races there in the Xfinity Series between 2005 and 2008 as well as currently hosting the NASCAR Mexico Series. Honestly, running a NASCAR Cup Series race with the Mexico Series being the preliminary event would be pretty cool, and it could give some great insight into the NASCAR Mexico Series.
The track has changed a bit since the Xfinity Series left in 2008, but the addition of the stadium section at the end could be a place to watch. Imagine a last-lap bump and run going into that chicane with the crowd on their feet. That would be an awesome thing to watch.
Brands Hatch (Kent, England)
I would love for NASCAR to go to Silverstone, but Brands Hatch currently hosts the NASCAR Euro Series. Similar to what Mexico City could provide to the Mexico Series and Cup Series, Brands Hatch could do the same for the Euro Series. NASCAR could run a Cup Series race with the Euro Series as the preliminary event.
Brands Hatch does not have the brand as other European tracks such as Silverstone or Monza or Spa, but this 2.4 mile circuit probably fits NASCAR best. Plus with the Euro Series already racing there, it makes sense to put NASCAR here. I am all for going to Silverstone or Monza, however, if that opportunity arises.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal, Canada)
This is likely the most popular pick for an international track in NASCAR, and it is the most likely to actually get off the ground. Adam Stern already reported that NASCAR is in talks with this race track about potentially returning. This track produced some great Xfinity Series races between 2007 and 2012, and the Cup Series coming here could be a no-brainer.
On top of that, why not partner with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series? Again, give some promotion to the international series that NASCAR already runs.
Yas Marina Circuit (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Stern specifically mentioned the Middle East as a potential place NASCAR is looking at. Of all of the race tracks in that area, Yas Marina could be the one best suited for NASCAR.
This is because Yas Marina has multiple layouts, meaning that if NASCAR chose not to run the full circuit, it could run an alternate layout. I am not totally convinced that NASCAR would run well on the full circuit, but running the North Circuit could provide some good action given the best passing zones on the track are in that circuit. However, recent changes made to the track could improve the product.
Bahrain International Circuit (Bahrain)
Bahrain is in a similar boat to Yas Marina. It is situated in the Middle East, a market NASCAR is looking at, and the circuit also has multiple layouts.
The track has six different road course layouts ranging from 1.5 to 3.9 miles. I would prefer NASCAR go to the paddock circuit if NASCAR were to go there because of its’ 2.3 mile length while not sacrificing any passing zones. However, running the full Formula One circuit is not unrealistic by any means.
NASCAR seems to have its’ eyes on international races, which makes sense given that NASCAR has exhausted pretty much every major market in the United States. There are a lot of places NASCAR could go