IndyCar to return to Phoenix? UPDATE #2 CORRECTION: PIR does indeed have lights. When the spring NASCAR date was added, it was originally run in mid to late April, under the lights. That date, now abandoned by NASCAR, would be the ideal date for an IndyCar race.
12/15/11 People who think that PIR is waging a cold war with INDYCAR may be surprised to discover that the idea Sperber finds the whole idea laughable. Literally. "I've read and have seen a lot of the various news reports and columns that speak with great certainty about PIR's relationship with INDYCAR and about what we would or wouldn't do relative to IndyCar racing," Sperber says with a wry chuckle. "Quite candidly, most of it is completely false."
The rumors, Sperber explains, seem to spring from people who have not made any effort to actually ask him about whether they have any merit. Consequently, the perception that PIR and INDYCAR are feuding like some corporate version of the Hatfields and McCoys is off the mark. "I would say we have had a perfectly fine professional relationship with INDYCAR for as long as I've been here," he continues, "and many, many years before that."
Pundits might be further interested to learn that the oft-repeated belief that it was only Randy Bernard's assumption of control of INDYCAR's administration that broke the long-standing ice between PIR and the IZOD IndyCar Series is not only erroneous, but almost exactly opposite of the truth.
"It was a real shame when INDYCAR left here," remembers Sperber. "There is a popular misconception that we ‘dropped' IndyCar racing, but that was not the case. INDYCAR chose to leave here because of some scheduling issues that they had at the time. If you recall, they embarked on a strategy not to have any racing in the fall because they wanted to close the season in Chicago around Labor Day."
The change in scheduling paradigms left PIR with few available options. The biggest chunk of availability for the track outside of its other events was in the summer, and nobody with any sense of sanity would even consider attempting to race in weather that only got down to 90 degrees Fahrenheit after midnight. "The dates that we were able to run were dates that they took off the board," Sperber goes on, "so they elected to go elsewhere."
In subsequent years, Sperber and INDYCAR officials worked annually to try to find a fair compromise in race dates. Contrary to popular belief, the two entities remained in constant communication, raising potential scenarios and working to find a plausible model for the IZOD IndyCar Series to return to one of its foundational venues. That such a scenario never panned out was regrettable, Sperber admits, but it was not for a lack of trying.
That is, until two years ago, when communication from the INDYCAR side abruptly ceased. When Tony George was replaced as CEO of INDYCAR by Professional Bull Riders (PBR) executive Randy Bernard, it was as if the faucet controlling the flow of goodwill between the two entities had been suddenly closed. Indeed, it was not until after the tragic events of October 2011 that INDYCAR came calling again, and even then it was not Randy Bernard making the overtures.
"I don't know Randy," Sperber says bluntly. "I've never met him or talked to him on the phone. He's never called to talk to me. I hear good things, and I've certainly admired his work with PBR and watched with interest how he's managed IndyCar racing, but unfortunately I can't give you any good insight on what it's like to work with him because I don't know the man."
The lack of any sort of working relationship with INDYCAR's new CEO does not paint a very rosy picture of the future prospects between PIR and the series, but Sperber insists that if INDYCAR wants to do business in the future, "The answer is, ‘Absolutely!' If it makes sense for them and for us, of course we would do it.
"I think that the reality of the situation is that, at the end of the day, it's got to be a good business decision for any track, whether it's an ISC track, an SMI track, or anyone else. That's always what it comes down to the most - ‘Does it make financial sense for both parties to get together?' If the answer is ‘Yes,' then you get into the details of scheduling and distance and all those sorts of things. But anytime that you see a race not being scheduled, I can tell you what the reason is: it just doesn't make good business sense." More at SBNation.com
[Editor's Note: The track does not have lights to race at night so how would IndyCar pick a date they is not too close to the two Sprint Cup races in the cooler times of the year. Also, the fans in the Phoenix area are already buying expensive tickets for two NASCAR races a year. Are they really going to have money left over to also buy IndyCar tickets? And last, with those huge NASCAR-size grandstands even if IndyCar would draw 30,000 fans they would still come across as losers because the grandstands would look so empty. Hence we do not see how it can possibly work. It failed before for these very same reasons.]12/09/11 As the IndyCar Series searches for venues to fill its schedule, the possibility exists for a potential return to Phoenix International Raceway.
Bryan Sperber, president of PIR, told The Associated Press on Friday he’d welcome conversations with IndyCar about a return to the desert. PIR hosted IndyCar races from 1996 through 2005, and USAC and CART ran at the track from 1964 to 1995.
“Phoenix has a long history with IndyCar and open wheel, and while there would be challenges in bringing the series back to the track, we’d certainly like to try to work through them and see if there’s not a way to host IndyCar races again,” Sperber said. zzzz
But, Sperber said it’s too late for Phoenix to be added to the 2012 IndyCar schedule.
“I think 2013 is the earliest we could entertain anything,” he said.
IndyCar is in need of races now, and has yet to release its 2012 schedule. The series said Thursday it would not return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next season while it continues to investigate the Oct. 16 accident that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon.
It leaves IndyCar with only three announced ovals on its 2012 schedule — Indianapolis, Iowa and Auto Club Speedway in California. Texas Motor Speedway would be the fourth oval, assuming the series and the track can work out a sanctioning agreement. TheSpec.com
[Editor's Note: Get your cannons ready folks. You'll be able to shoot a cannon ball into the grandstands and not hit anyone. Phoenix is a NASCAR town now and the grandstands huge to accommodate NASCAR size crowds.]