IndyCar back to Watkins Glen in 2013? UPDATE
After more than a year apart, the IZOD IndyCar Series and Watkins Glen International are talking again, with plans to pick up the conversation in the new year.
|In 2009 Justin Wilson brought Dale Coyne Racing their first IndyCar win at Watkins Glen|
Since IndyCar’s last visit to Schuyler County in July 2010, the series has undergone somewhat of an epiphany.
Randy Bernard took over the newly-merged open-wheel racing sanctioning body in February 2010 and immediately went to work, courting new designers and engine manufacturers, securing a series sponsor and injecting the kind of optimistic enthusiasm the sport desperately lacked since the schism. He made one slight miscalculation: snubbing the most powerful and influential entity in the auto racing industry – International Speedway Corp.
Bernard dropped all ISC-owned tracks, Watkins Glen included, from the 2011 schedule. From everything written and said, this was not an IndyCar plot against ISC, but cutting off four tracks under the same corporate umbrella sure doesn’t reinforce those claims. That’s akin to walking into a board meeting, slapping the CEO with a leather driving glove and walking away while twirling your cane. Sure it felt good, maybe even made a statement, but good luck getting any favors in the future.
Despite Bernard’s swashbuckling, ill-advised moves into New Hampshire and Las Vegas with ISC’s chief rival – the Bruton Smith-led Speedway Motorsports Inc. – backfired in the worst ways imaginable.
In the place of an IndyCar race last summer, The Glen hosted a concert – one which not only attracted more people than any of the Indy Grands Prix did before, but catered to a demographic never thought possible by a race track: modern-day hippies. Thirty thousand of them. Still, racing is what The Glen does best and is one of America’s Big 3 in terms of history and heritage.
IndyCar and WGI need to get a deal done for 2013. Maybe the track needs to add an incentive to the ticket, like another touring series – think NASCAR trucks, the Rolex Series or, maybe, the DTM cars (please note I have no inside info on this, just throwing that one in to satisfy my own fantastical scenario). To that end, IndyCar needs to be open to A) sharing a twin bill and B) come down on the sanctioning fee a bit. A big bit.
It makes zero sense for IndyCar to not return to The Glen. Both sides need to enjoys the holidays, and then work their butts off to make this happen again. The Corning Leader12/13/11 IndyCar and Watkins Glen International are talking again, but the open-wheel series’ return to Schuyler County in 2012 isn’t going to happen.
Track president Michael Printup and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard have been discussing the parameters of a potential reunion after a hit-and-miss relationship from 2005-10. Those races drew cheers from the drivers, teams and hardcore IndyCar fans, but attendance was well below expectations. Unofficial estimates put crowds at less than 30,000 for the Indy Grands Prix at The Glen.
However, a lot has happened since the last IndyCar race here since July 2010.
“I would love to have them back, that one’s harder than the trucks, but that’s what the fans are asking us,” Printup told The Leader. “I still think it’s a great product, if we can put enough people is, I guess, the question to be able to work on the financial part of it.”
The Glen isn’t the only track IndyCar has been courting, according to reports.
Tracks in Michigan, Phoenix and even Pocono Raceway have all been in contact with the country’s lone open-wheel series during a tumultuous offseason that began after the death of Dan Wheldon in the October finale in Las Vegas. The IZOD IndyCar Series is also trying to develop a new car, which has been challenging, and recently overhauled the front office.
IndyCar confirmed the talks in an email stating: “As we do with a variety of other tracks, we continue to keep open dialogue with the team at Watkins Glen.”
In 2010 when IndyCar and WGI were trying to extend a deal to keep drivers like Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Will Power coming back, there were two main sticking points: the price of a sanctioning fee and the series’ perceived lack of promotion on the part of WGI, and other International Speedway Corp. tracks.
There appears to be a willingness, from both parties, to compromise.
“They’re definitely going to change some of it and kudos to them – they’re willing to work on a deal. I told them it was too late for 2012, because these things take more than a year to plan,” Printup said. “I just said, whatever we can work on. The model is up for negotiations. They would like to sit down and consider anything that’s brought to table. Before, you didn’t get that kind of reaction.” Corning Leader