Barnhart miffed at NASCAR-ESPN IRL president Brian Barnhart said his series was put in a scheduling quandary by broadcast partner ESPN and powerful NASCAR for next season, the end result being the loss of Michigan International Speedway as a venue. Barnhart said the move of the Brickyard 400 from its normal slot - what would have been this past weekend - to July 29 started a series of events that negatively impacted the less-popular IRL.
"I guess they tried to make a big deal – to what success I don’t know, it’s not my position, I guess, to say – I think they were looking for, because ESPN is now starting their segment of broadcasting NASCAR races, they were looking for the Brickyard to be the first event during that stint,'' he said. "So it necessitated a week and created a situation for us that led to an impasse at Michigan. It was actually a Brickyard-NASCAR move that created the impasse that we’re at with the IndyCars at Michigan.''
How ESPN's maneuvering created the problem, according to Barnhart: "I’m a little disappointed and surprised by Michigan’s comments about not putting us on the schedule. We knew we were at an impasse with them and we were having troubles picking a date and we’re not planning on announcing our schedule until mid-August. The hard thing is when you really look at this whole deal – and not trying to point fingers – but there’s a lot of things that transpired into the situation that caused the problem for us at Michigan that were out of our control, and I hope people go back and see that the first domino that made that a difficult position for us up there was the moving of the Brickyard 400.
The Brickyard 400, for its first 13 years ran this (past) weekend and we always ran Michigan last weekend, for the last five years. When the Brickyard 400 was moved to July 29, we couldn’t go head-to-head with the Brickyard 400 at Indy with an IndyCar race at Michigan on the same day. A large percentage of the crowd at Michigan comes from Indiana. So we had to move Michigan for 2007. What choices did we have? We just finished a five-week stretch with Iowa, Richmond, Watkins, Nashville and Mid-Ohio. The last off weekend we had before this weekend was June 16. That’s the first Cup date in Michigan. We sure can’t put it there. And so now you have to go, can we move it backwards?
Well, we moved it backwards one week to Aug. 5. We do Kentucky, so you can’t go to the weekend, then the next weekend in Aug. 19 and that’s the second Cup date. So we clearly can’t go to that weekend. Then we do Infineon, Detroit, Chicago and then we’re done. We only had one choice to move it for 2007 and its this weekend. I just wish people would understand why it had to move in the first place. We didn’t want it to move for ’07, but we didn’t have any choice.''
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