IndyCar looking at many venues to replace China UPDATE #2
IndyCar's search for a required 16th race this season turned Friday to at least one Midwestern venue.
|IndyCar is looking to end its 2012 season with possibly now two back-to-back races on 2-mile ovals (Fontana and Michigan) in front of near empty grandstands to make the series look like a loser twice in a row . The above photo is from 2007, the last time IndyCar raced at Michigan.|
Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis confirmed a call from a senior IndyCar official -- not CEO Randy Bernard -- but he declined to spend time on the matter given this weekend's NASCAR event at the track.
A track spokeswoman said Curtis would "get back to (IndyCar) in a couple of weeks."
The hole in IndyCar's schedule is the result of the cancellation of inaugural street circuit race in Qingdao, China. That race was scheduled for Aug. 19.
Contracts with several partners call for IndyCar to present 16 events in 2012, putting the pressure on the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body to deliver another event somewhere, sometime.
The topic was among the most discussed Friday as Andretti Sports Marketing _ owned by Michael Andretti _ tried its hand at promoting a race at the historic Milwaukee Mile.
Today's 225-mile race will begin at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Dario Franchitti is on the pole for the second consecutive year.
IndyCar last raced at MIS in 2007, and it is a nostalgic venue among the sport's hard-core fans. The first such race there was in 1968.
Even if financial details can be worked out, there are concerns about the speed of the track's new surface. With recent repaving, Greg Biffle turned a lap of 204.708 mph in Friday's practice. The official track record, set by Ryan Newman in 2005, is 194.232 mph.
IndyCar's call to MIS was fueled by Texas Motor Speedway's decision to pass on an offer to host a second race there this year. Track president Eddie Gossage said there were too many conflicts with the track's NASCAR event in November.
"We appreciate IndyCar reaching out to us for that opportunity, but there were numerous issues and obstacles to overcome to successfully promote the event like the past 23 IndyCar events that we have hosted here," Gossage said in the statement released by the track. "Our focus during that fall period (three dots) is squarely on the (NASCAR) weekend, especially with it being a key Chase for the Sprint Cup race.
"We couldn't justify dividing resources between two events to make it happen, and it would be an injustice to both due to the scheduling."
Bernard, who did not make himself available for comment Friday, has said it's likely the 16th race will be a season-ending event, which points to early October.
In a statement released by the series Friday, Bernard said his staff will "continue to speak with various tracks to find the right venue."
Speculation has centered on Road America, an hour north of here in Elkhart Lake, Wis. That facility hosts a sports car event on its road course on the weekend intended for the inaugural China race.
However, IndyCar might not be able to race at Road America based on its Milwaukee contract.
Another track believed to be in the mix is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a permanent road course in Monterey, Calif. But Bernard is keeping his options as much to himself as possible.
Drivers certainly have preferences, with several taking to Twitter to cast their vote.
"If I had to pick a road course I would go Road America or Laguna," Tony Kanaan said. "If I had to pick an oval I would go Phoenix or back to Homestead."
Phoenix International Raceway hasn't hosted IndyCar since 2005. Homestead-Miami Speedway last had the series in 2010.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway president Chris Powell said Bernard passed on an offer to return. Pocono (Pa.) Raceway officials said they are not interested in this event.
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International president Michael Printup tweeted that Bernard doesn't have "a good business plan for us." Indy Star06/15/12 In IndyCar's search for a replacement for the canceled China race, Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell said Thursday he offered the track to series CEO Randy Bernard for a season-ending race, but Bernard "politely declined."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials also confirmed that the facility's road course is not being considered as a replacement site [Editor's Note: How dumb is that?]
Texas Motor Speedway is the only track to confirm interest. Bernard may talk to officials at Road America, located in Elkhart Lake, Wis., after the Milwaukee race. Indy Star 06/14/12 If the rumors are true, then the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet will host an IZOD IndyCar series race in the near future, possibly as a replacement for the cancelled China race.
But for now, track president Scott Paddock is shooting down those rumors as he continues to work with IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard on trying to get an IndyCar date back to Joliet — for the long haul and not just for one year. If they raced there this year, October 7th has been mentioned as a possible date.
“We left him alone during the month of May [for the Indianapolis 500],” Paddock said. “But we are going to re-engage again. This market supports IndyCar and we want them back for good. We conduct a lot of fan forums and it’s fair to say that there is a lot of interest.”
Whether Indy racing will return to Chicagoland remains in question after the series pulled its Chicago date in 2011 because of a scheduling conflict. Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti said he has heard rumors that the series will race the 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval again.
And Andretti has a non-compete agreement so-to-speak with his Milwaukee event that essentially says IndyCar will not schedule any races too close to Milwaukee to help Andretti sell more tickets at the famous mile oval, so depending on how well this weekend's race does, Chicagoland can be in play (especially if the Milwaukee tickets do not sell well and IndyCar never returns).
But many drivers Andretti has talked to expressed safety concerns with the Joliet track, especially in the wake of two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon’s death in Las Vegas Oct. 16. Las Vegas’ track is also a 1.5-mile circuit.
“The Dan thing was terrible and a reminder of what our sport can be like,” Andretti said. “Joliet makes [racing] more dangerous because there is more wheel-to-wheel and pack racing, and you have guys up front who may have never been there before.”
However, the new IndyCar is not like the Brian Barnhart orchestrated fake pack racing car of old. IndyCar can now race safely at Chicagoland again and likely will.
Another possibility is Oct. 7 at TMS, which would make Texas the season finale.
"We have been approached about it," Eddie Gossage said Wednesday. "It just came up (Tuesday), so I really haven't had much time to think about it. I just don't know the answer right now.
"We are going to discuss it internally this week. I know IndyCar needs to firm up its plans and have us respond quickly."
The Dallas Cowboys are off and the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas is the following weekend. One possible conflict would be a Texas Rangers playoff game.
Three other tracks are possible sites to end the IndyCar season. Two are road courses -- Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, Calif. The other is Pocono Raceway, a 2.5-mile oval in Long Pond, Pa.
Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who was critical of TMS before Saturday's race, tweeted Wednesday that his first choice as a replacement race is Road America. But Bernard previously said he didn't want to cannibalize the oval-track event at Milwaukee, which takes place this weekend, so that locale has the same issue as Chicagoland.