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Cleveland pitches for IRL date in 2009
Cleveland made its pitch to get back on the IndyCar schedule for 2009 on Wednesday as political and civic leaders met with Indy Racing League officials.

Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport had been a popular stop on the former Champ Car schedule and organizers were hoping to leverage the city's 26 year racing history as a way to get back on the racing calendar.

Following the open-wheel merger between Champ Car and the IRL, a number of Champ Car events in 2008 were knocked off the calendar - only Edmonton, Long Beach and Australia managed to survive this year. But Cleveland is looking to join Toronto and several other venues in getting back on the calendar in 2009.

"We hope there is an opportunity here, but we don't want to give any false expectations, either," John Lewis, IRL vice president for League Development and Marketing tells The Plain Dealer.

"I guess the key word would be balance. If something works out where everybody wins, that's a good business model. But if it's going to have challenges in respect to this venue, or other venues that we're already at, we'll have to address those and see where that plays out."

Traditionally, the Cleveland event has fallen in late June on the Champ Car calendar. The current IRL calendar has events in Iowa and Richmond scheduled for later this month. Cleveland also faces competition from nearby Mid-Ohio, which currently hosts an IRL event.

While there are concerns about a lack of title sponsorship for the Cleveland race, current IRL team owner Bobby Rahal is a strong supporter of the event.

"I am a huge, huge fan of this track, and a lot of people other than myself will say that," Rahal tells the newspaper.

"Some of the greatest races in this sport were on this circuit. Cleveland is the race that started the concept of bringing the event to the people [in 1982]. It elevated Indy car racing, suddenly. I hope Cleveland can be on the schedule. My hope is something favorable can be done."

The 2009 IndyCar schedule is expected to be announced early next month. TSN.ca

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