Providence needs another year to plan for Izod IndyCar Series race
Wait 'til the year after next.
That's the attitude that fans of IndyCar racing in New England must now take regarding a possible event through the streets of Providence, R.I.
While Mayor Angel Taveras impressed Izod IndyCar Series officials last month in Baltimore with his pitch to bring a street-course race to the Ocean State's capital city for 2013, the proposal was simply made too late in the game to be included when the schedule was announced Sunday.
Consider that a blessing in disguise.
The last thing fans should want is a hastily prepared event in which it's obvious to all how hastily prepared it is.
The Baltimore race that Taveras attended was on Sept. 2. The schedule was released only 28 days later, and Providence missed lat week's deadline to file the necessary paperwork.
Series CEO Randy Bernard did not rule out the possibility of a 20th race being added to the slate before the season starts. If that happens, however, don't expect to clear Aug. 9-11 on your calendar for a trip to Providence.
"They just weren't able to pull it off in time for our deadlines," Bernard told USA Today on Monday. "We have to stick to a formal plan, and we did that this year. In regard to 2014, we would love to see Providence, but we need to get that done sooner rather than later. There's a limited amount of races. There's not room for everybody."
It appears as though Bernard shares my view that this process can benefit from the extra time.
New England Grand Prix LLC, the group promoting the race, now has a year to shore up its proposal. Sponsors can be lined up and feasibility studies can be completed on how the proposed 2.1-mile course can be constructed.
They can truly figure out how to turn the city into a racecourse that showcases all it has to offer.
Above all, Providence can create a real buzz among New England race fans.
However, even with a tremendous proposal, I wouldn't doubt that Bernard and other series executives would be hesitant to go back to New England after the dreadful turnout for the August 2011 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
When asked about the schedule in mid-September, Bernard called Providence "an interesting market."
This is how I interpret that remark: Sure, the series would love to make another attempt to gain traction in the greater Boston media market, but at what cost? What happens if the series gets burned again?
A few years ago, the parking lots of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough were a rumored site for IndyCar, similar to the two races that will be hosted in 2013 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. There had to be some reason why Robert Kraft opted against it.
My advice to Mayor Taveras, New England Grand Prix LLC and others involved in this process is simple: get your ducks in a row and then wow them with an off-the-charts proposal.
Baltimore nearly lost its Grand Prix after its 2011 debut due to the uncertainty of financial backing. Now it's on tap for a third installment because all the Is have since been dotted. Providence must do the same.
One thing that can be used as a selling point is the idea that IndyCar needs to be in or near most of the major media markets if it wants to truly gain traction nationally. The Loudon debacle needs to be forgotten, and the Boston area should get a second chance.
Street-course races are probably the best way for IndyCar to separate itself from NASCAR. By racing through the streets, the host cities are selling themselves, while IndyCar is selling its differences with other forms of racing.
Ovals are great and all, but New Hampshire just didn't seem to work. Drivers generally hated the progressive banking in the turns, and the track seemed to be just as hard for the IndyCars to pass on as it is for their NASCAR brethren.
On the other hand, every street course is different. Providence would be unique compared to Toronto, Houston, St. Petersburg, Baltimore and other locations.
If you're an open-wheel fanatic, the best case scenario you can hope for is this: next year's Formula 1 race in New Jersey succeeds (iffy) and returns for 2014 and the inaugural New England Grand Prix joins Pocono and Baltimore on the 2014 IndyCar slate.
That would give you one race each in June, July, August and September to whet your appetite for wings.
Isn't that worth waiting for? Jason Remillard, The Republican