Cleveland considering oval/road course doubleheader UPDATE #2 Individuals trying to organize IndyCar events in Houston and Cleveland are scheduled to present their plans to their respective cities leaders this week, league officials said Sunday. IndyStar [Editor's Note: Read that Mike Lanigan and company.]
05/28/09 If and when the Grand Prix of Cleveland returns to Burke Lakefront Airport, it could do so as an all-star event of open-wheel auto racing -- a unique event featuring an oval race and a street-course race, all in the same weekend.
Talks continue between Cleveland representatives and the Indy Racing League, which expects to announce its 2010 schedule in July, about what role the city will play. Some proposals on the table:
• The IRL wants to put a one-mile flat oval, with no walls, inside the existing 2.47-mile Burke street course layout and have an oval race.
• One day later, the IRL would hold the traditional 2.47-mile street course race.
• Included with those two races could be other potential wrinkles, which would add up to an All-Star weekend of open-wheel racing.
"We only have one shot at this," said Mike Lanigan, CEO of MJ Promotions, promoter of the Cleveland race. "We have to do it right."
What is certain is that the IRL does want Cleveland back on the schedule, and when Cleveland returns, the event needs to be special.
"Conceptually, we think that would be a home run," said John Lewis, vice president for Indy Racing League development and marketing. "It would give us a chance to give something back to the fans in a region that has had a very significant, successful open-wheel history."
"Mayor [Frank] Jackson is disappointed the race has not been here the last two years," the mayor's spokesperson, Andrea Taylor, said Thursday. "He will continue to work with the promoter to bring it back."
When the race ended a 25-year run in 2007, it was recognized as not only as one of the fastest street courses in open-wheel racing, but also the most distinctive. The layout had a recognizable first turn and a carousel of four turns at the opposite end of the course that ended in a long straightaway. It was a favorite race for fans and drivers, and at its peak a bonanza weekend for Cleveland hotels and restaurants.
Yet as popular as the race was, it was a financial challenge through the years for the city and the event's varied promoters. Concerns this time include adding pavement connecting the runways and taxiways at Burke for corners to bring an oval together.
Another key would be finding a good date. The schedule opening right now is Labor Day weekend, but that is already a staple for the Cleveland Air Show. And the Mid-Ohio race, 85 miles away in Lexington, has its traditional race in late July or early August that the IRL does not want to disrupt.
"I'm adamant we don't cannibalize the races against each other," the IRL's Lewis said. "With that said, personally, I believe they can co-exist. We just have to make sure the promoters and cities are in positions of strength to both have successful events."
Lewis said that adjusting the cars from oval racing to street racing takes about a day. Even if the teams could physically make the changes, getting enough practice and qualifying in for both races over a three-day weekend would be a challenge, along with having a need for double the equipment -- engines and tires -- to pull it all off.
Yet if it all comes together . . .
"This would be something that has never been done before," Lewis said. "To run an oval one day, then a road course the next at the same venue, I think the fans would embrace that. Cleveland had 25 years. If we can come back, we need to come back bigger and better than what it was." Cleveland.com05/17/09 How about an IndyCar doubleheader on an oval and a road course -- on the same weekend at the SAME TRACK?
That's an idea currently being kicked around between promoter/car owner Mike Lanigan, IndyCar's John Lewis and the folks at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. It's been run at night, during the day, and now, possibly, both night and day in the same weekend, says Robin Miller. Brilliant.
Lewis, the vice president of marketing and league development, was looking at putting Cleveland on the 2010 schedule as an oval instead of its traditional road course configuration. Lanigan wanted to stay with the old airport circuit that produced great racing in CART for three decades and Lewis is trying to wean the IRL off all the cookie-cutter 1.5-mile ovals.
So John Griffin, vice president of public relations for IndyCar, tossed in an idea: why not run the oval on Friday night, come back Saturday on the road course with an Indy Lights show, IndyCar qualifying and a fireworks show. Then have a road race on Sunday afternoon.
"I'm all for it, I think it's a great idea," said Lanigan, who promoted the Champ Car races at Cleveland in 2006 and 2007 and who co-owns the cars of Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos with Carl Haas. "There's never been anything like it to my knowledge.
"There a lots of things to be addressed but we're taking a serious look at it." More at SPEEDTV.com