Chevy, Road America and IndyCar UPDATE #6 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with the announcement Friday of Road America's full schedule, which does not include IndyCar.
11/07/11 With several races still up in the air to complete the 2012 IndyCar schedule, rumor has it that IndyCar is again talking to Road America, the superb, four-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, about the possibility of running a doubleheader with the American Le Mans Series in August - ALMS on Saturday, IndyCar on Sunday.
09/22/11 The chance of IndyCar coming to Road America next year remains, but it's "a long shot at this point," track president and general manager George Bruggenthies said.
It's not for a lack of interest or for lack of a title sponsor but because of the difficulty finding a date that would work.
"Mr. Bernard is working on some foreign events, maybe two Brazil races, and he doesn’t know the dates of those," Bruggenthies said Wednesday, referring to IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. "That’s part of his business plan because those races pay for a lot of the rest of the schedule and help us. So it was more the date than the money. Absolutely.
"We wanted to put them on the Sunday following American Le Mans, which I think we were the first promoter to have that double-header. That’s why we expanded the paddock (for 2007), where we literally had American Le Mans Saturday and then (Champ Car) on Sunday. And I think our fans would like that. That was kind of my plan, but August was really kind of busy for Randy. That’s really the way it went."
That's also where money does come into play.
One of the biggest reasons to pair the two series is the cost of television production. Bruggenthies estimated a combined weekend would result in a savings of hundreds of thousand dollars per event -- upwards of $1 million -- over separate stand-alone weekends.
Financially it would compare with having very strong sponsorship for both races.
ALMS produces many of its shows but piggybacks with IndyCar and IMS Productions when the series race at the same venue.
Meanwhile, IndyCar has said it won't return to the Milwaukee Mile in 2012, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway said in a story Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., said it probably won't bring IndyCar back. (Granted, those are two ovals. That balance of the schedule is another issue for the series.)
It may seem easy for Road America to juggle dates to fit an IndyCar race into its schedule. That's not the case, Bruggenthies said.
Vying for weekends are the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Grand-Am, the American Le Mans Series, the AMA, three vintage events and two club racing events, the June Sprints and SCCA Runoffs, and those are just the parts of the schedule for which the track is open to spectators. The facility gets used in some nearly all year, and while, say, a Ferrari club track day doesn't bring money in the front gate, it’s an important part of the overall financial plan.
Bruggenthies would love to have the weekend after Indy, but that Texas Motor Speedway has a promise to follow the 500. The motorcycle weekend currently holds down that weekend after Memorial Day. The track's June schedule also includes NASCAR/Grand-Am (the biggest weekend of the year) and the June Sprints.
"I’m not going to put (IndyCar) the week in front of Nationwide, and what am I going to do with the Sprints?" Bruggenthies said. "I could have moved AMA to August. But I’ve got to keep things spread out enough.
"Because we’re so busy here, the August date worked best for us. Whether it was a shared risk or a sole risk for anybody, that would have been the best business plan, in August."
Road America had hoped to announce its 2012 schedule this month, preferably in connection with the Runoffs, which are going on this week. Although the track has agreements are in hand for NASCAR/Grand-Am, ALMS and AMA, details remain to be worked out, those series have not put out their schedules for next year and "and rather than say, ‘Other things TBD,’ maybe we’ll wait till we’ve got it all done," Bruggenthies said. JSOnline.com08/28/11 We are hearing that the talk is to combine ALMS and IndyCar into a weekend doubleheader at Road America. IndyCar belongs at Road America, period end of story. It is a fantastic track for IndyCars. To not be racing there is a complete travesty. Of course it has to make financial sense. With Chevy supply engines to IndyCar starting in 2012, perhaps they will step up and sponsor the race.
08/22/11 Road America put out this announcement today about the Corvette bridge, which was part of this original rumor.
02/09/11 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Chevrolet and Road America announced a multifaceted marketing partnership today that will put Chevrolet in the spotlight at one of America's premier racing venues. Chevrolet is now the Official Vehicle of Road America, the renowned Corvette Bridge will return to the historic track, and the Corvette World Tribute will celebrate Corvette's rich racing heritage.
"As we celebrate Chevrolet's 100th birthday, it's fitting that two icons of American racing, Chevrolet and Road America, join forces," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "Road America has played a prominent role in Chevrolet's racing programs for more than 55 years, and we look forward to even more success at this magnificent venue in the future."
The scenic 4-mile, 14-turn track known as "America's National Park of Speed" hosts events that span the spectrum of motorsports, including the American Le Mans Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, AMA Superbike, SCCA June Sprints and National Championship Runoffs, and historic car and motorcycle events.
"Road America is proud to renew a partnership with Chevrolet," said George Bruggenthies, Road America president and general manager. "Chevrolet’s significant mark on the circuit over the past 55 years will make it a pleasure to promote not only their brand but their successful presence in the American Le Mans Series, GRAND-AM, NASCAR Nationwide Series, vintage racing and club racing. The return of the Corvette Bridge will be a great landmark for our fans at the track and our TV audience."
A ceremony will be held to rededicate the famed Corvette Bridge, which spans the track at Turn 6. The Corvette Bridge was a signature landmark at the track from 1963-81, and the Corvette logo reappeared on the crossover in 1992. The Corvette World Tribute, to be held on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011, following the seventh round of the ALMS, will include a Corvette racers reunion, club and pro series races, a concours, parade laps and other activities. Road America is working with the Registry of Corvette Race Cars (RCRC) to coordinate the Corvette World Tribute.
"Our relationship with Road America provides an opportunity for Chevrolet to showcase its entire motorsports portfolio and to connect with current and prospective customers in an exciting and engaging way throughout the year," said Campbell. "Chevrolet will activate its sponsorship with trackside displays and promotions in cooperation with Chevrolet dealer organizations at many of the events on the Road America schedule."
Road America figures prominently in Chevrolet's racing history. Bill Mitchell, GM’s vice president of design, was an avid racer who fielded the original Sting Ray racer driven by Corvette legends John Fitch and Dick Thompson at Road America. Mitchell chose Elkhart Lake as the venue to preview his stunning Mako Shark concept car in June 1961; the Shark’s sharp-edged body and hidden headlights foreshadowed key features of the production 1963 Corvette. Wisconsin-based racers Augie Pabst and Jim Jeffords excelled in sports car racing in the early ’60s with their Chevy-powered machines. The lightweight Grand Sport Corvette created by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov rumbled through Road America’s rolling hills with racing luminaries Roger Penske, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp sharing the driving chores. Notable Chevrolet racers who have made their mark on the legendary circuit include Tony DeLorenzo, Jerry Thompson, John Greenwood, John Heinricy, Ron Fellows, and many more. In modern times, Corvette Racing has notched six victories at Road America in ALMS competition.01/11/11 Word has it that the Toyota signage is being replaced with the Chevrolet bowtie at Road America. Toyota has been the major automotive sponsor at Road America for over 10 years but Chevrolet was the major auto sponsor before that. Could this mean a return of IndyCar to Road America soon?