Delaware apppears ready to turn corner
AUTO RACING: It was confirmed during Wednesday's Summer Showdown the two are currently in negotiations to bring in a NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour race for October 2011
By JIM CRESSMAN, The London Free Press
DELAWARE -- Delaware Speedway is the oldest paved racetrack in Canada but it's the newest track on NASCAR's radar.
The Free Press has learned that speedway officials are in negotiations with North America's largest stock car sanctioning body to bring another touring series event to the half-mile oval.
Sources confirmed Wednesday, during the Delaware Summer Showdown featuring NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch, David Reutimann and Jason Leffler, that Delaware is attempting to land a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race for October 2011.
It would bookend with the season-opening NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race next June.
The Modified Tour is the only series remaining from NASCAR's original season in 1948 and many Sprint Cup drivers have come from it. The series makes stops at some of the big-name tracks used for Sprint Cup and Nationwide races and is considered a developmental series.
"I can assure you one thing, we are going to do this again and NASCAR loves what we're doing up here," Delaware owner Arlen Scherba said. "NASCAR officials have been up here several times to inspect the track and they love what they've seen and we have an excellent relationship with them. Because of that we are pursuing a bigger event to fill up our fall space in 2011."
Delaware race director Jeff Wilcox said it was important to bring in the NASCAR drivers.
"This is a really big event for Ontario racing and if these guys go back with a lot of positive talk, it can only do good things for the speedway," Wilcox said. "We have to do some more work to the speedway, but we are in negotiations with NASCAR to see what other events we can bring here. We probably are a little bit of time away from a top-three tier race (such as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) but you just never know what might happen."
Reutimann had nothing but praise for Delaware, which opened in 1952.
"This track definitely has got some character. It's got some rough patches, but it's a really cool place. And I like the layout. I like racetracks that have some history to them and people have grown up at and seen them change."
Reutimann said these small tracks take him back to his racing roots in Florida.
"I have to admit this would have been considered a pretty big racetrack compared to the tracks where I grew up; third- and quarter-miles," he said.
"If I would have rolled in here with my late model I would have thought I was in heaven. But everybody has to have some place to start. You just don't walk in off the street and you're Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"Unfortunately the local racetracks are having a tough go, but if you don't have these, we don't have our next NASCAR stars."
Busch is a team owner in the truck series and that series is always looking for new short tracks, said Delaware late model veteran Ron Sheridan.
"I see no reason why the truck series couldn't come here," Sheridan said. "Kyle is big into that and if he can go back and say some nice things about our speedway and we get a couple of these events under our belt and the track makes some money at it and it puts that back into improvements, there's no reason we couldn't get a truck race.
"I get the feeling from Arlen he's going to dump it all back into the track, so whatever we can do for the track as drivers and fans, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"This means everything to have these three guys here and I think it's the best thing to happen to Delaware in quite some time."
Busch was driving Steve Robblee's car as the nine-time track champion is laid up with a back ailment. Robblee said he feels the trucks would be a perfect fit.
"Affiliating themselves with NASCAR (and the Whelen All-American Weekly Series) helps so much. There's room on this track for the trucks and this half-mile racing is so much better for them than the mile-and-a-half superspeedway stuff."
Robblee said many people aren't aware this is the type of track where most of the Sprint Cup stars cut their teeth.
"Some of the fans we need to get out here watch TV and they watch mile-and-a-half racing and they think Delaware is only a dirt hole and can't be any fun. But they're sadly wrong because they haven't been educated. And this is the type of event that can educate them as to what we're all about."