APRIL 23, 2007

NASCAR's fact-finding tour of China

NASCAR is not doing much these days to disguise its international aspirations and the news that chairman Brian France, senior vice president Paul Brooks, international managing director Robbie Weiss and consultant Ken Clapp are all off for a week-long visit to China to discuss possible projects with the government there should set alarm bells ringing in F1 circles.

NASCAR says that it has no plans to send the Nextel Cup series to China and that the talks are centred on setting up junior series at Chinese race tracks. The ultimate outcome of that, however, would be to create demand for a Nextel Cup race.

NASCAR ran three exhibition races in Japan between 1996 to 1998 and more recently has run a Busch Series race in Mexico and intends to move into Canada this summer with a Busch Series race in Montreal in August.

The fact-finding mission may also be in response to the plans that have been announced for a new Speedcar Series in Asia and the Middle East, kicking off in November with identical US-built stock cars. The first race will take place at the Dubai Autodrome and will be followed by other events in Bahrain, Qatar and China. The series has already signed up former F1 men Jean Alesi, Johnny Herbert, Narain Karthikeyan, Gianni Morbidelli and Stefan Johansson and further names are expected to follow.