IndyCar to run doubleheaders in 2013

UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded back to 'strong' today. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard wants a minimum of two doubleheader weekends in 2013 and as perhaps as many as four. Detroit will be one if television contracts can be worked out, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway likely will be another. Both tracks could offer different circuits.

Event chairman Bud Denker said the wheels are in motion to extend the course to a pass layout, which would provide another passing zone. The key to the initiative, he said, is the state of Michigan's new management oversight of Belle Isle.

Sonoma has been quiet on the subject of IndyCar doubleheaders. Track president Steve Page has only acknowledged that final details are being worked out for the Aug. 25, 2013, race, but one of those details apparently is how to use the road course differently for a Saturday race.

Promoters not interested in hosting a doubleheader say that IndyCar is asking for an additional $100,000 to cover the cost of the extra race's prize fund. Indy Star

08/26/12 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' as all the team owners talked to this weekend in Sonoma do not see doubleheaders working. Most felt Randy Bernard suggested the idea because he came out and said he wanted to get to 19 races next year and when he found out there are not 19 race promoters who will pay the sanction fee IndyCar wants, he would need doubleheaders to get to 19. We suggest he stick to 16 or 17 solid races that run the same weekend year in and year out. 19 is only a number. If more opportunities arise in future years than add more races, but no need to force the issue with gimmicks.

08/23/12 Not able to find enough race promoters to pay the sanction fee IndyCar needs to be viable, Randy Bernard has had to switch to Plan B. Robin Miller rumors on – Bernard knows that IndyCar isn’t going anywhere with its current game plan and it sounds like he’s got a potential solution. One track promoter called me to say that Bernard has a great idea for 2013. He wants to run doubleheaders at all the street and road courses.

In other words, practice and qualify on Friday, have one race Saturday afternoon and another on Sunday afternoon. The teams are already there, so are the TV cameras and more fans might be inclined to spend the weekend. Cut down on travel expenses and get more bang for your buck. Crash damage for a road race isn’t nearly as bad as an oval so a wreck on Saturday shouldn’t put a team on the trailer for Sunday.

“It’s a damn good idea because it gives us something to promote on Fridays and should also help sell a weekend package," said the promoter who requested anonymity. “I’m not supposed to say anything but I saw you Sunday night on SPEED talking about how some of the owners want to get rid of Randy and that pissed me off. He’s the best guy we’ve ever worked with. He’s 5-star in my book."

Of course the doubleheader’s best benefit would be more exposure on television but it’s not known how it would be received by ABC and NBC Sports Network. The engine manufacturers and Firestone would also have to sign off on it and it’s not known whether Bernard has pitched it to them yet. Ditto for all the owners.

But the point is that Bernard knows IndyCar can’t stand pat at 15-17 races from late March to early September. Six months of inactivity is death. For god’s sake, the truck series has 22 races. He is leg-chained with a 10-year cable contract inherited from the George era and he’s trying to make the most of it to help the puny ratings and, in turn, give the sponsors more exposure.

So this twin bill idea seems like an inexpensive yet creative way to have 20-22 races next season and give the promoters of the solvent events a little caveat without gouging them. And give TV twice the chance to gain some viewers. And not cost the owners a lot of extra money to have more good events.

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