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Edmonton Promoters ready to fire up Indy marketing campaign
Edmonton's new Indy promoters have 171 days to sell their product to a market that believed the open wheel auto race had died and wasn't officially notified of its miraculous reincarnation until well after the Christmas ticket-buying season.

So there's that.

Montreal-based Octane Motorsport Events Inc. officials will begin doing their retail best on Tuesday by unveiling a new track layout for the City Centre Airport's closed eastern runway, which features grandstand and trackside suite locations that are "a few meters from the track," according to the race website.

They will also divulge ticket prices and introduce Anne Roy as the new general manager of the event. She had previously been promotions and communications director for the Atlantic Racing Series and is moving up the starting grid in this role.

Octane's principals understand it's not racing season in Edmonton and they know that even the 29th-place team in the National Hockey League dominates its landscape in February, so they rescheduled their press conference from Wednesday in order to avoid a clash with the Oilers' home game against the defending Stanley Cup champs from Chicago.

So yeah, they get it. They promote the Formula One Grand Prix of Montreal, and understand all about hockey's upper hand.

They are simply up against it time-wise and are trying to piggyback their Tuesday announcements on this week's news that the City of Edmonton has paid off all remaining Indy debts and a reiteration of Northlands' interest in perhaps, one day, possibly building a race track on their 166 acres. The Indy will have to move after 2013 due to the closure and redevelopment of the airport. Northlands is sitting on an urban location serviced by a freeway and LRT access and that makes it a viable alternative for IndyCar.

"The city has mentioned (the Northlands site) as a possible location in the future but, for now, we are really concentrating on the 2011 race," said Octane spokesperson Normand Prieur. "We have agreed to sit down with the city to discuss it at a later date."

What they need to do today is sell tickets and sponsorship and create a buzz for a July 24 race that was clouded by uncertainty created while the city and Octane hashed out details. As they put together the nuts and bolts of running and flogging the show in a new city, on a track that may well cease to exist, Octane officials are obviously going to need some help from the IndyCar hype machine and the teams and drivers who lend the 17-race circuit a face and a personality.

As the people of Northlands discovered, you can't just open the doors and expect to fill the joint anymore. The novelty has worn off.

There is less of a fascination with Danica Patrick now than when Indy-Cars first roared through Edmonton. The best drivers are familiar faces with no new stories to tell. The worst driver, Milka Duno, who became a target for derision last year, has run out of places to play back marker.

So they need some fresh blood. Duno's spot in a Dale Coyne Racing car may well be taken by Sebastien Bourdais, the old Champ Car ace who tested at Sebring earlier this week. While that was happening, his old nemesis, Paul Tracy, was working on a sponsorship package that would put him in a full-time seat for Conquest Racing.

"I've got $1 million raised in sponsorship and have heavy meetings this week," Tracy said. "We have enough money for five races. I'm hoping to get an answer on a prime sponsorship for 12 races that would basically put me in the car for the year."

Tracy said there is no doubt he will run in both Toronto and Edmonton in July, aided by the sponsorship of Honda Canada, a company that will likely be back on the Edmonton Indy masthead soon as title sponsor. Honda Canada inked a one-year deal for last year's race with Northlands and Prieur said negotiations are ongoing and look promising.

This is the silly season for racing; promoters flogging their wares in the middle of winter as hordes of would-be drivers jockey for position on a finite number of teams. As of Thursday, 18 car-and-driver pairs were ready to roll, with another four teams still working on putting either one or two cars on the grid. Tracy and Bourdais are still in the latter category.  Read more Edmonton Journal

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