After 2 long years, the reopened border allows Canadian racing fans to return to MIS

BROOKLYN, MI – After two long years, Canadians have returned to Michigan International Speedway and are being welcomed with open arms.

MIS is 70 miles from the border and is the closest NASCAR Cup Series track for many Canadian fans. In 2020 and 2021, the US closed its borders due to COVID-19, preventing Canadian fans from camping out and watching the races.

No public attended the 2020 races as they were closed to spectators due to the pandemic.

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However, the Canadians are back on track in 2022 and ready for the NASCAR Firekeepers Casino 400 race weekend on August 6-7. This includes Toronto resident George Kleinsteiber, who is ready to be around food, people and the NASCAR community at large, he said.

“It was a bummer not to come down because we enjoy just cooking, the three of us, having a good time here,” Kleinsteiber said. “We know a lot of people.”

Kleinsteiber, his son, and his brother-in-law attended the races every year for 13 years, until the last two years. They felt welcomed with the open arms of NASCAR. While neighbors to the north missed out on the last two years of racing, MIS gave Canadians who couldn’t use their tickets a credit toward this year’s event, Kleinsteiber said.

“NASCAR was great in letting us keep our site, tickets and all that. We never lost a dime on anything,” Kleinsteiber said.

A 2014 University of Michigan economic impact study found that Canadians made up 12% of general admission tickets and 19% of infield camping spots. In 2013, an estimated 10,000 Canadian fans attended an MIS race weekend, according to the Toronto Sun. Former rink president Roger Curtis told the Windsor Star in 2014 that 20% of his audience was Canadian some years.

With just a glance at the infield, it’s obvious they’re back in 2022 as campers show their pride with Canadian flags, tents and more.

Brian Hartman, from nearby Toronto, has been running with a group of his neighbors for about five years.

“You see it on TV and you see it on the screen and you say, ‘Normally that’s where we’d be,’” Hartman said. “It was very hard”.

The group is back at their old place this year.

“Everyone is so nice,” Hartman said.

Aside from the food, beer, and people, they were of course excited to see the races in person again. Each group had their own favorite driver, including Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, James Meecham said.

But overall, they’re excited to see the tires hit the track, he said.

“Being Canadian, we have to support everyone, right?” Meecham said.

Watching the races on TV doesn’t have the same feeling as being there in person, said Rene and Julie Erskine of Ontario.

“There are sounds and smells that you don’t see on TV,” said Julie.

Even missing the two years, Canadian residents feel at home, they said.

“It’s good to be back,” René said. “It’s like we haven’t even missed a beat.”


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