There are actually swirling rumors about their expansion in the United States. I heard from an owner of a local tri shop that they were looking to do races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, a NASCAR series if you will.
The idea of a NASCAR series is highly intriguing. They could even make it a points system for all three races like actual NASCAR. They could even spin off an entirely different race series from Challenge Family.
If they do pursue the NASCAR racing route, there’s potential, but I think they need to focus on long-course tracks of a minimum of 2.5-miles long (like Daytona International Speedway). I propose these six race tracks to host races:
I look at Talladega Speedway (Alabama) as a unique situation that Challenge could capitalize on. This race would have a split transition, but the nearest body of water is Choccolocco Creek. I’ve checked the local USGS reports, the depth gauge has a creek at about four feet deep on average, which is more than enough to swim in if you do some kind of safe start to the race like an in-water wave start. What I don’t know is if that depth is consistent for 1.2 miles, and I don’t know what’d they use as entry or exit points. It is a creek, so you can’t expect the flow rate to be extremely fast like you would at Augusta 70.3 or Chattanooga 70.3. I imagine the bike to be rollers as the speedway finds itself in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. You can’t tell me that race wouldn’t be a big draw with a downstream swim and only being two hours from Atlanta.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway also presents a unique opportunity. Like Daytona, they have a lake inside the speedway, which would make for only one transition. However, the White River runs right through the center of town if they wanted the appeal of having a current, and it’s only a mile from the speedway. Indiana is pretty flat, and their only competition is Muncie 70.3, which as long as they avoid the month of July they could get a decent draw.
Pocono Raceway has a body of water adjacent to the raceway called Long Pond. From what I can tell it may even have a bit of a current to it too if there’s no dam at the end. The swim could start at the far end of the raceway and exit down at the other end. However, Pocono is in the mountains and would have a challenging bike. Once upon a time there used to be a REV3 race called Pocono Mountains, but sadly it hasn’t existed for a few years. According to REV3 President Eric Opdyke, the race doesn’t pull in the New York market like you thought it would, and the town didn’t seem to want them or IRONMAN there (IRONMAN was actually there first).
Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin…the name says it all, there’s a decent sized lake right next to the track. The bike may be moderately hilly, I don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to assume that because IRONMAN Wisconsin is. This track would provide a pretty unique run course as it’s a true road track, not some oblong version of a circle you just turn left around all day. Obviously the competition is IRONMAN Wisconsin and Wisconsin 70.3, but Madison is 100 miles away and Elkhart Lake is almost actually closer to the boring frozen tundra of Green Bay.
Time to head out west to California for Sonoma Raceway. There is a body of water really close to the raceway, it’s the mouth of Tony Creek. If you were to do a swim there it’d probably have to be a U-shape. I’m assuming the bike course would be rolling hills as is typical for that area of California. This is also another road track instead of circular, so less boring of a run course. This race would get a pretty big draw from the San Francisco Bay area, but it would have some competition to contend with from IRONMAN. Did you know Sonoma is the largest wine producer in California’s Wine Country? Yeah, pack yourself a designated driver and go float your liver!
Lastly we have Watkins Glen International in Western New York. I kind of threw this one in here just for argument’s sake because it happens to be at the opposite end of the same Finger Lake (Seneca) as IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman. It’d likely be a split transition race, however it has one of those road tracks that would make for a fun run course.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park does fit my criteria but I’m excluding them and I’ll tell you why. First of all it’s a split transition race that would be very far apart because the nearest body of water is Lake Ontario and it’s 30 miles away. Moving past that, I’m guessing the swim start would be in a town called Bond Head going from Bondhead Parkette into New Castle Marina because the marina is the only thing big enough to stick 2,000 bikes. Bigger problem is you’d have to park everyone in from a satellite view that looks like cornfields. No parking for the swim equals a no go for my race picks. Lastly, Niagara Falls Barrelman had a tough time drawing US triathletes until they partnered with Rev3 for one year, and the race is just across the Niagara River from New York. I imagine this would also struggle being further away from civilization (40 miles from Toronto as the crow flies).
The interesting thing about racetracks is there’s plenty of lodging in the area. Most of these places make their nut during race weekend. It’s a feast or famine situation, and when nothing is happening at the track they starve. Bringing races to these locations would provide an economic boost. Also, none of these places are in major metropolitan areas (other than Indianapolis), I couldn’t imagine getting permits wouldn’t be any harder than most other race locations.
What I do know is that any future US Challenge races hinge on having a mind-blowing experience at the Super Bowl of Racing in December. They can’t come up short here, because triathletes will be starving for a one race before winter if we have to hold out till the end of the season for the ‘rona to be gone.