Will Cleveland get its race back? UPDATE #5 It is not looking good for a 2009 return of the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport. The Indy Racing League plans to make an announcement by July 31.
"I think we'll get there," Terry Angstadt, president of IRL's commercial division, said this week. He had hoped to make an announcement before July 1.
Angstadt, who has headed scheduling since the merger of IRL and Champ Car, would only say, "there are some moving parts we are dealing with, but absolutely [Cleveland] is still under consideration."
It appears the late push for more oval races on the IRL schedule may have significantly reduced chances for the Grand Prix's return. [Editor's Note: If Phoenix or New Hampshire are on the list they will fail miserably - some people have a hard time learning from their previous mistakes.] The Indianapolis Star, which once considered the race's return next year a high probability, this week published a speculated schedule for 2009 that had 15 "locks" -- including Mid-Ohio -- four "highly likely" and two "possibles."
The Grand Prix of Cleveland was under none of those headings. Eight of the 15 "locks" are ovals, three of the four "highly likely" are ovals and both of the "possibles" are ovals.
Also, there have been no reported contract negotiations with Cleveland officials over potential dates or sanctioning fees, which leaves a tight window of opportunity before July 31. The IRL wants 18 or 19 races next year. Cleveland Plain Dealer06/13/08 Bobby Rahal, a native of Medina, came to the aid of Cleveland when he attended a meeting between Cleveland officials and the Indy Racing League. Rahal, who won 3 Indy League Championships, told IRL officials that he was a big fan of the track and that it would be a shame for the event to be discontinued.
The Cleveland Grand Prix is currently in a hiatus and is in competition with bigger cities such as Houston, Toronto, and Mexico City. A merger between Indy Racing League (IRL) and the Champ Car World Series cancelled the event.
The Cleveland stop on the tour is thought to be one of the most popular on the circuit because of the design of Burke Lake Airport's track. Whether or not that will sway the decision makers at the IRL remains to be seen but Cleveland officials are pushing hard to have the 3 decade race remain part of their tour.
Latest Poll results
Which Champ Car races should make '09 IRL schedule?
05/11/08 It's no guarantee the Grand Prix of Cleveland will return to the Indy Racing League schedule in 2009, but at least it's clear racing fans want the event back at Burke Lakefront Airport.
|Long Beach (2601)
|Mexico City (1073)
|Mt. Tremblant (631)
|Road America (2393)
|Assen, Holland (468)
|Surfers Paradise (2237)
Total Votes: 15468
According to AutoRacing1.com, of the former Champ Car races not currently on the IRL schedule (Long Beach, Surfers Paradise, Australia), the Cleveland race is third (1,759 votes or 14 percent) only to Long Beach (17 percent) and Road America (15 percent, Wisconsin) among the events race fans want to see returned. Road America is within a few hours of the Roscoe, Ill., hometown of Danica Patrick.
Of the 12,952 votes cast, 2,172 went to Long Beach.
IRL President Terry Angstadt confirmed Saturday he will visit Cleveland and Houston in the near future, the two races promoted by MJ Promotions and chief executive Mike Lanigan. But he maintained it's no guarantee either or both events will make the IRL's 2009 schedule.
"Things are tight," he said of the IRL's hope to announce a schedule no later than early July. "But they are not impossible." Cleveland Plain Dealer (See latest AutoRacing1.com voting results)05/10/08 A return for the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport remains a work in progress. But time is getting short for the open-wheel cars to return in 2009.
Cleveland race promoters, led by MJ PRomotions CEO Mike Lanigan, gave a presentation to Indy Racing League officials Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As promoters for former Champ Car races in Houston and Cleveland, Lanigan's group presented a package to IRL president Terry Angstadt that included both events, stating it's more cost effective to do two races than one.
A big positive to come out of that meeting, Lanigan said, was IRL's interest in checking out the Cleveland venue in person, hopefully, sometime in June.
"That's something we offered and they jumped at," Lanigan said. "Many people with the IRL have never seen what Cleveland has to offer. The IRL is motivated to see us, touch us and feel us."
Yet securing a spot on the 2009 schedule still remains tenuous.
Acknowledging, "every person that mentions Cleveland says what a great event it was," Angstadt made it clear there are hurdles. Since the February unification of Champ Car and the IRL, only three former Champ Car events made the schedule for this season.
Angstadt said all of the remaining Champ Car events have made requests to be on the 2009 slate and will be making presentations to the IRL.
"We want to see a dedicated plan," Angstadt said. "Financial stability. Show a sensitivity to the success factors we look for: high interest levels, good corporate hospitality, good connection to the community, newspaper involvement. Do they have things like concerts and other things to create a total experience?"
In recent years, Cleveland's corporate involvement in the race has been tepid, and a title sponsor has been lacking. Lanigan and race general manager Chuck Kosich admit they are working hard to secure a sponsor. But they say corporate involvement has ebbed and flowed with the split in open wheel racing. Now that all sides are under one roof, they expect that involvement to improve.
"People realize this [Cleveland race] can be bigger now," Kosich said. "We haven't lost one of our sponsors who were on board with us before the '08 race was cancelled." More at Cleveland Plain Dealer 02/27/08 The first press conference since the open-wheel unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League shed little light on the return of open-wheel racing to Cleveland in 2009.
The merger definitely eliminated the June 24 race for 2008. But while IRL CEO Tony George said today from Homestead, Fla., that he expects a schedule of 20 races in 2009, he would not commit to any venue as being definitely on or definitely off the slate, including the Grand Prix of Cleveland. And he did not say what it would take to make it happen.
"I don't know. I've spoken to Mike Lanigan who promotes both Houston and Cleveland," George said on a teleconference.
"If there's any way, and it may not be viable, any way to keep those events going ... but we really can't have those discussions right now. There are so many other (merger/unification) things to discuss that we can deal with today.
"That's where our focus needs to be. But I'd say within a couple of weeks, two or three, we start having conversations. Obviously they need to be knowing how they are going to plan for their future one way or another."
However, various websites, including ESPN, have possible race schedules for 2009, and they include the Burke Lakefront Airport race. John Oreovicz "Dream Schedule" says Cleveland: July 3-5 - "Re-establish and grow this unique event with an annual Fourth of July tie-in."
The 26-year event originally began as a Fourth of July event, so returning to its roots would not be out of the question for the Cleveland race promoters, if George and the IRL want it back on the schedule. Cleveland Plain Dealer02/21/08 It is clear when Mi-Jack Promotions took over the Grand Prix of Cleveland in 2006, CEO Mike Lanigan believed the race was an integral part of the future for open-wheel racing.
If current rumblings out of Indianapolis are true, we will soon find out whether that is indeed the case.
A merger between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series has been a hot topic for weeks. A news conference has been anticipated for several days, but nothing has been officially set. There is also no definitive word yet on how the two series with different philosophies - ovals for the IRL, road and street racing for Champ Car - will join hands.
But it seems whatever emerges will have elements of both. And some races are destined to be eliminated. Will the 26-year-old Grand Prix of Cleveland be one of them? The IRL holds several races in the Midwest, including at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, 100 miles south of Cleveland, and in Detroit, less than 200 miles from Cleveland.
Overall, there are 16 IRL races on the schedule for this season, 14 for Champ Car, including the June 22 Grand Prix of Cleveland. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Lanigan had not responded to several phone calls. And publicists for the Grand Prix of Cleveland said they had been told nothing.
Yet when Lanigan and Mi-Jack signed a five-year promotional deal with Champ Car owners Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi in 2006, it was with an eye toward a future merger and Cleveland being a part of it. Lanigan and Mi-Jack also own the Champ Car race in Houston.
"Would unification solve our problems? No," Lanigan said in 2006. "Would it make it easier to climb the mountain? Absolutely. There will be some gleaning, but I will guarantee you that Cleveland will not be one of them. I already have that understanding."
Now two years later, and just months after Mi-Jack and the city of Cleveland signed a five-year race agreement through 2012, it is unclear whether the Champ Car owners will hold to the promise to Lanigan. Cleveland.com