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The Top 5 Potential International Venues for NASCAR Cup Racing

International markets may be a significant aspect of NASCAR’s future.

After holding exhibition races in the 1980s and ’90s in Australia and Japan, NASCAR has explored the concept further with NASCAR Xfinity Series races in Canada and Mexico in the late 2000s. But a modern NASCAR Cup Series race outside of the United States has not happened just yet.

That should change soon. NASCAR came very close to having one on the 2024 calendar by all accounts, and there have been other countries thrown about by executives and the rumor mill.

It should be mentioned that the most financially successful race that NASCAR could put on in international markets would be a paid race in the Middle East. It would be a situation where a government, whether it be Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, pays NASCAR a ridiculous amount of money to hold a race there. This is a tactic seen in other sports/events held in these countries such as Formula 1, UFC and WWE.

With that in mind, here are five international tracks at which NASCAR should — and probably are — look at holding Cup races.

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5. Montreal

The most obvious choice, and one that came extremely close to being on the 2024 schedule by NASCAR’s own admission.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve combines street racing characteristics — the track is on a man-made island that functions as a public park — with traditional circuit driving. The Xfinity Series always put on a great show when it ran there, with plenty of races coming down to the final chicane and the notorious Wall of Champions.

It seems extremely likely Montreal will be visited by NASCAR in the near future. Canada has not seen a NASCAR Cup race since 1958, so there will be plenty of hoopla among local fans when it does.

4. Mexico City

Another former Xfinity standalone, Mexico was much less revered in its time on the calendar than Montreal was.

One major complaint among race teams at the time was how much more costly transportation was going to Mexico City. Those costs are still there, but with the amount of media rights money NASCAR will be making per race on its new deals, those costs will be much more offset with Cup in town.

From an attendance standpoint, Mexico City makes a lot of sense with Daniel Suarez active in the Cup Series. F1 has had tremendous success building its event around Sergio Perez, to the point where this year’s grand prix is already completely sold out.

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is not the most exciting track in the world, but with a full stadium section, it more than makes up for it in atmosphere. Everybody would have a lot more fun at this track in modern days than back in the late 2000s.

3. Suzuka Circuit

This track is mainly here because many F1 drivers, chief among them Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, love this racetrack.

And it’s well deserved. Suzuka requires a very balanced racecar, as there is an equal amount of left and right turns. Races there are just a delight to see, with a very loyal fanbase. The Japanese have a profound respect and appreciation for motorsport that doesn’t always come across in other cultures.

This track really deserves a second chance. When NASCAR had its exhibition race there in 1996, it only used the small east configuration. Fans were treated to an unmemorable race with only one real passing opportunity. With NASCAR being more willing now to use full configurations, as seen with Circuit of the Americas, this would be amended with a NASCAR return.

One big problem having a race in Japan or in Australia comes with is start times. NASCAR is primarily a television product, and it would be hard for the at-track crowd to watch a race starting at 10 p.m. ET. But starting at a more manageable 1 a.m. ET would kill the television audience. That’ll be a huge hurdle for perspective NASCAR races in Asia or Oceania.

2. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

If NASCAR wants to do a European road course, this is the track that would get the best racing.

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Watching NASCAR stock cars blaze through Eau Rouge, swerve through Raddion and draft down the Kimmel Straight would be a dream to see. Spa is a hefty track, bigger than COTA, but it has so many passing zones in a lap that it would be a sight to see.

There would be a few problems, however. Key would be how the weather situation. Due to where Spa is located in the Belgian Ardennes countryside, the area receives a lot of rain in the summer months.

It’s very rare that F1 finishes a weekend there without having to contend with at least one wet session on track.

Rain itself is all well and good, but at Spa, it’s a very serious situation. Eau Rouge-Raddion is a very dangerous area to take in the wet for the same reasons they are fun to take in the dry. There have been two deaths in Formula feeder series in the last five years in the wet in that area. With how relatively inexperienced NASCAR is at wet weather officiating, this would be a significant situation to watch.

1. Wembley Stadium

If NASCAR wants to do a a race in Europe, this would probably be the best option as the next stop for the Busch Light Clash after the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The reality with European interest in NASCAR is that I don’t think there’s that much interest in there being a straight-up road course. There is plenty of NASCAR style road course racing in Europe now that the current generation of cars are more similar to GT racing. I’m sure there would be some interest, but not as much demand as you might think for it.

Now, an actual NASCAR oval race? That is a different question, a hook that could generate some interest with the right marketing. There are no real suitable ovals in Europe for the Cup Series to head to, however.

But there’s an obvious workaround of that now. With the Clash finding a new format of running in stadiums, Wembley Stadium seems almost custom made for the event to go there. There would be ample time to set up and then tear apart the track for a mid-January date.

There are no major conflicts with other events, no regular sporting team tenant in the stadium that would demand priority. There are also no exclusivity agreements with another series NASCAR would have to work out with, like in America with Monster Jam.

What’s more is that, well, a Clash at Wembley wouldn’t be the first-ever racing event at the stadium. Race of Champions held events there in 2007 and 2008 at a makeshift track on the pitch that could very clearly become a wider short track even bigger than the LA Coliseum.

Heck, the Clash winner wouldn’t even be the first NASCAR driver to win at Wembley.

There would be two major arguments against this event, the first being the weather and the potential for rain, problems that are always going to be faced for the Clash outside of Los Angeles. ROC was held both years in mid-December, as a comparison.

The second, more pressing matter would be the stadium capacity. NASCAR would need a fairly decent crowd to show up at Wembley to make the race look nice. If the event is marketed properly, however, as a once-in-a-lifetime event for both lifelong European NASCAR fans and those who became interested thanks to Garage 56 at Le Mans last year, that shouldn’t be a problem.

NASCAR will more than likely go to a new international market. Even counting out Canada, there has been far too much buzz about doing an international event for NASCAR not to do it. And of all of these ideas, Wembley would be the strongest argument outside of the easiest one in Montreal.

About the author

michaelfinley010

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021, and also formerly covered the SRX series from 2021-2023. He now covers the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and road course events in the NASCAR Cup Series.

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Jeremy

All will be failures – metropolitan cities with high class clientele who do not understand nor appreciate what NASCAR was and are smart enough to see through what NA$CAR has become.

No, I’ve watched plenty of YouTube fail videos and I don’t see any redneck tomfoolery from the areas listed in this article. If NASCAR wants a shot at international success, they need to focus on countries that have rednecks! Start with a swing through Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Russia would be a nice fit (if threat of war goes away). Then head east – Thailand would be a great choice (watch their tractor races!). Wrap it up down under in Australia.

Stuart

Ignorance is big in your world?

Jeremy

I think you take things way too seriously.

Sandeep

I feel NASCAR’s product should be centered around oval racing, even outside the US, so, a LA Coliseum style stadium oval event would be better in my opinion. You didn’t see road racing series like say Aussie Supercars switch to oval or dirt when they came to the US a few years ago.

Stuart

SO?

Sandeep

I mean, I’d like it to be oval racing, not road. NASCAR is an oval racing product and that’s what should be showcased internationally. Is that simpler to understand for you?

David Smith

I would like to see them try Monza.

DoninAjax

Richard Petty’s first race in Cup was at the CNE in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1958, which Lee Petty won. Lee punted Richard out of the race when he took too long to get out of Lee’s way. They ran the NEXT NIGHT in Buffalo.

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