MONTREAL — Expanded thoughts from my NAPA Auto Parts 200 Twitter posts.
* NASCAR is amazing. A couple years ago there were rumors that the NASCAR Nationwide Series was leaving Montreal. Now there’s enough buzz about the Sprint Cup coming to make your teeth chatter.
* That said, how much will Dodge’s departure from NASCAR affect this race’s feature? The brand is a ubiquitous presence at the Montreal race, not only as track car sponsor but also the sponsor for Andrew Ranger and Jacques Villenueve Saturday. We’re also talking about the official manufacturer for NASCAR’s Canadian Tire Series. Dodge is still doing all kinds of TV commercials up here to activate that sponsorship. It’s going to take a very strong corporate partner to replace what Dodge brings to the table.
* Then again, said corporate partner perhaps should be chomping at the bit to jump in Dodge’s place. Despite exactly zero promotion downtown for the race, fans once again showed up in droves. This race has a low-maintenance, high-reward feel to it.
* It’s a crying shame Patrick Carpentier had early woes Saturday, leaving him no chance to contend. His and Villeneuve’s separate Montreal cheering sections near at the start/finish line felt like a high school football game. I kept waiting for “We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how ’bout you?”
* Austin Dillon’s day began five hours before the Nationwide event with a race is the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. The ride was necessary, considering Dillon’s struggles in his limited road course experiences. He definitely has proven himself, but he’s still very lucky to have “Gramps” (Richard Childress) to cover him whenever he seems to have an issue in his development. I don’t blame Childress, though. I walked through the garage Saturday with a friend pointing out how many people were here almost exclusively based on family money rather than talent (Brendan Gaughan, Brian Scott, Michael Annett). At least Dillon quickly showed he really had the chops.
* I was fortunate enough to get a pace car ride from Max Papis Saturday. He greeted everyone who entered the car with a “Got your diapers?” line, then turned a lap that made you happy you had already, um, went. Max is awesome. This guy can’t just be driving a couple of road courses a year and offering personal training to Austin Dillon and brother Ty for Childress. I don’t really blame anyone, but NASCAR has to figure out some way to get the real talent/personalities out on the track to compete with the “daddy’s cash” contingent. NASCAR has tons of relationships with Fortune 500 companies (official potato chip, etc.), and should work harder with those companies to get the right drivers on the track.
* There was nothing sadder than watching a lone guy (wearing a uniform from a sponsor that departed long ago) working on the No. 42 start-and-park in the garage as cars were going around Cirque Gilles Villeneuve Saturday. He was jacking the car by himself, then putting old tires on the car so they could save the ones that spent a couple laps on the track. How low-budget was it? The team didn’t even bother taking Josh Wise’s name off the side of the car — even though Blake Koch was driving it.
* I was certainly feeling patriotic by the time the day was over. Three races (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series and the Nationwide Series) in Montreal meant a total of six national anthems in one day.
Follow Josh Stewart on Twitter @JoshNASCARWWE