The exact plans for one of Canada’s most historic and anticipated annual drag races hangs in a balance….

Officially still – the 2020 edition of the Canadian Nationals — is still on the season calendar for Grand Bend Motorplex – this coming July 31 – August 2nd.

But the exact formula for this marquee fan attraction event is still an unknown due to the persistent and seriously frustrating affects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While racers, fans and the Grand Bend Motorplex management itself (are all for the most part) willing participants — exactly what will be acceptable and allowable continues to be a hinderance.

We have been in touch with Paul Spriet, Chief of Operations of Grand Bend Motorplex, who graciously shared the latest on the situation his track is facing with regards to this 21st event edition of Eastern Canada’s single longest running major drag racing event.

“We booked all of our feature cars quite a while ago — but right now we are forced to sit on the fence,” Paul confided.

Paul Spriet

  “Obviously the current USA/Canada border closing combined with local health level restrictions have complications for us.”

“But we feel there is room for optimism,” he continued.  “We keep in very close touch with our Canadian Motorsports Association spokesperson and various levels of Government officials.  If things continue to stay on the positive path they are now in Ontario – it’s sounds likely that we could be able to accommodate some spectators.”

Having fans attend and that associated revenue is crucial to the event to be a success and in order to accommodate feature cars and fund some eliminators.  

“We still have to toy with all that is required if we can allow fans in to this race,” Paul added.  “We have about 6500-7000 seats at Grand Bend Motorplex and we would need to fit social distancing guidelines within that.  If it was required for everyone to sit a seat apart or so — we think that’s doable.”

The complexion for the weekend’s on-track race product also remains a bit meandering at this point.   To be honest the likelihood of any participation of USA based feature cars is — pretty much totally unlikely — for the 2020 event.  Paul did reveal however there are also some contingent plans — including a still high entertainment “plan B” which could be implemented.

“Right now bringing in nitro Nostalgia Funny Cars and Nitro Harleys from the USA is pretty much impossible. Could we present a tempered down & all Canadian event? — Yes.   We do have a number of quality Canadian-based nitro cars – both supercharged and injected available to us.  (ie:  Paton Racing, Daniel Mercier, Smax Smith, Jeff and Gary Veale and Chatterson Racing).

That nitro feature part of the show would then be complimented by some Jet cars (ie: Neale Armstrong – Russ Lethbridge) and full contingent of eliminators in Pro Modified, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman – highlighting Eastern Canada’s rich talent in those racing divisions.

Paul and his group are ready to pull the trigger of final commitment — but admit some frustration by their inability to do exactly that at this time.

“Nothing has been cancelled and we can still put on a great show,” he summarized.  “I’ve seen some of those big protest rallies recently (ie: locally at London Ontario Victoria Park) which maybe calls into question some of the outdoor transmission theory threats out there.  We are hoping those incidents (lack of any apparent COVID spikes thereafter) was noticed by health officials and thus might help to open things up a bit for us?“

The final decision — “go or no go” — for the 2020 Canadian Nationals will probably have to be made by about mid July.  (Fingers crossed!)

Paul also clarified the other “elephant in the room” aspect for this years race developments – that being the fact that Mopar Canada is not the event’s presenting sponsor.  Mopar Canada has supported this race from its onset — an incredible dedication span of 20 straight years.

“Like everyone else the COVID crisis had a direct and major effect for Mopar Canada too,” Paul reiterated.  “We were disappointed about that withdrawal  — but it was a business decision they simply had to make and which we totally respect.”

Post by Bruce Biegler

DragRaceCanada File Photos by Bruce Biegler/Brennan Shortall