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NASCAR in Australia

The American stock car racing category NASCAR raced in Australia from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. After strong initial interest, particularly in Melbourne at Australia's only purpose built NASCAR style paved oval speedway, the Calder Park Thunderdome, the category collapsed in the early 2000s and has defied several attempts to revive it since then.

History

Bringing NASCAR to Australia was the creation of four-time Australian Touring Car Championship and Bathurst 500 winner, Bob Jane, whose personal A$54m investment created the Thunderdome at the Calder Park Raceway, modelled on a scaled down version of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Australian NASCAR racing was sanctioned by Bob Jane's Australian Stock Car Auto Racing (AUSCAR) authority on behalf of NASCAR in America but the relationship between the two was tenuous, and drifted over time.

In 1987 with the completion of the Calder Park Thunderdome extensions the much delayed first NASCAR race late in the 1987 racing season with the first major event, the 1988 Goodyear NASCAR 500 following on February 28, 1988. Initially Winston Cup drivers such as Neil Bonnett, Bobby Allison, Michael Waltrip, Dave Marcis and Kyle Petty visited the Thunderdome but interest waned over time and big name guest drivers were lured from circuit racing to bolster fields. Allan Grice and Dick Johnson were both early supporters of the concept, both traveling to the USA to race in the then Winston Cup series, although success was limited.

As popular V8 powered sedans became less successful in the Australian Touring Car Championship, NASCAR arrived in Australia at exactly the right time to exploit a dissatisfaction within Australian race fans and crowds were initially promising, although they faded. The advent of night racing in 1991 brought crowds back to peak levels and for the next five years enjoyed success. This success was limited though with only one circuit available.

The Australian NASCARs were supporters of the Gold Coast Indy 300 run by CART on the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit during the early years when CAMS sanctioned categories ignored the race meeting, for until 1992 this was NASCAR's only opportunity to race away from its home circuit at Calder Park. The only other paved oval track that the Australian NASCARs raced at was the Bob Jane owned 1/2 mile Speedway Super Bowl at the eastern end of the Adelaide International Raceway. This limited the category's national audience as the cars very rarely ventured west of Adelaide. NASCARs only other regular stop was Sydney's Oran Park Raceway, a road racing track that had lights allowing for night racing.

Occasional forays onto other circuit began during the 90s, first to Eastern Creek Raceway in Sydney before also racing as a support category at the Bathurst 1000 with the cars regularly being faster than the V8 Touring cars on the Mount Panorama Circuits 1.1 km long Conrod Straight, reaching over 310 km/h (193 mph). By the end of the 1990's popularity had fallen below viability and the series moved to an exclusively road course calendar when NASCAR parted company with founder Bob Jane and thus the only paved speedways in Australia, the Thunderdome and AIRs Super Bowl. Rebadged as V8 Stock Cars, the series lasted a single season on the 2001 Power Tour before grid numbers dropped to the point where continuing into 2002 was no longer viable.

There have been sporadic attempts to revive interest in NASCAR racing, assisted most recently by the profile of former dual V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose who now races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the USA for Richard Petty Motorsports, but the continued unavailability of Australia's major circuit, the Thunderdome, hinders most plans.

Champions

Season Driver Car Team
1989–90 Robin Best Chevrolet Monte Carlo N/A
1990–91 Robin Best Ford Thunderbird N/A
1991–92 George Elliot Chevrolet Lumina NASTRACK
1992–93 Max Dumesny Oldsmobile Cutlass John Sidney Racing
1993–94 Barry Graham Oldsmobile Cutlass John Sidney Racing
1994–95 Brad Jones Chevrolet Lumina Brad Jones Racing
1995–96 Jim Richards Pontiac Grand Prix Jim Richards Racing
1996–97 Kim Jane Chevrolet Monte Carlo Kim Jane Motorsport
1997–98 Kim Jane Chevrolet Monte Carlo Kim Jane Motorsport
1998–99 Kim Jane Chevrolet Monte Carlo Kim Jane Motorsport
1999–2000 Kim Jane Chevrolet Monte Carlo Kim Jane Motorsport
2000–01 Tony Southwell Chevrolet Monte Carlo TSR
2001 Andrew Miedecke[1] Chevrolet Monte Carlo Whiteline Racing

References

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