Supercars floats Gold Coast NASCAR plan

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/10/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

A single-car NASCAR demonstration at this weekend’s Vodafone Gold Coast 600 is a precursor to a possible appearance of the American category at the event next year.

Supercars CEO Sean Seamer has confirmed preliminary talks with NASCAR, which follows a visit from senior NASCAR personnel to The Bend SuperSprint in August.

Team Penske has supplied a 2016 Ford Fusion NASCAR for demonstrations this weekend, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard to get behind the wheel.

The car has sat in DJR Team Penske’s workshop museum since last November, on loan from Penske’s American base.

“It’s still very, very early days, so we don’t want to get carried away here,” Seamer stressed of the NASCAR tie-up.

“But they (NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell and vice president of innovation and racing development John Probst) came down and met with us in August.

“We committed to having a more open and regular dialogue, which we have had.”

While NASCAR teams traditionally have a number of spare chassis for each entry, which drivers would be available to race in Australia is unclear.

The packed schedule for NASCAR’s premier Cup series includes a race at Martinsville, Virginia, on the Gold Coast event’s 2019 date, October 25-27.

The second-tier Xfinity Series, however has a weekend off, while retired NASCAR stars could also feature in a possible showcase race.

“We’ve spoken to DJR Team Penske and we’re gathering information around how and when we might be able to get cars out here,” continued Seamer.

“Obviously they’ve got a lot more cars than we do and they have a rotation of vehicles, so we’ll work through that with them.

“Is it a combination of main game, Xfinity and Trucks? All that still needs to be worked through, but it’s really early days.

“The first thing was, let’s get one out, get one running this weekend, see what it looks like, what it goes like and gauge the reaction. 

“If it all goes well this weekend those conversations will keep going.”

NASCAR action in the United States

Supercars has already declared its intention to shake-up next year’s Gold Coast event with a format change, moving to a single 500km race on Sunday, subject to final agreement from Government and sponsors.

A US category once underpinned the Surfers Paradise meeting, with IndyCar competing at the venue from the first event in 1991 through to 2008.

The early years also included support races for Australia’s now long-defunct NASCAR championship, and its AUSCAR development class.

Queensland’s Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, Kate Jones, joined Seamer in the pitlane to announce the NASCAR demo.

Supercars’ current deal with the Government to stage the event runs through to the end of next year.

“We’ve had very productive conversations between Supercars and Tourism Events Queensland and I give this assurance, I want to see this event continue to grow,” she said.

“As you’ve seen, there is a NASCAR behind us. Certainly, looking at new products and new races to add to the event are part of those discussions.

“The commitment I can give is we are 100 percent committed to growing this event into the future and this will certainly be part of our conversations going forward.

“We know that Supercars is a race product, but we also know there are many fans out there that would love to see NASCAR added.

“What we’re saying is we will continue to have those conversations to ensure we grow this event and have even more people coming to the Gold Coast to enjoy this experience.”

While the NASCAR tie-up is being explored to add further spice to the Gold Coast event, Seamer said no other categories are being courted “at this stage”.

“We’ve spent a bit of time with the guys at DTM and the CEO of the BTCC,” he said.

“We are talking to everybody and being very, very open, trying to maintain a dialogue with our peer group globally, but we haven’t entered into any other discussions (about the Gold Coast), as yet.”

Seamer, whose wife is from Michigan, will head to the US in December, where he’ll visit Team Penske’s headquarters, and again meet face-to-face with NASCAR executives.

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