IndyCar eyeing New Orleans as it struggles to find 19 venues

UPDATE New Orleans will not be on the 2013 IndyCar schedule. A road course is under construction outside New Orleans that reminds Tony Cotman of a track from the old CART days but it may not quite be ready for an IndyCar race.

“It’s very flat, like Cleveland, and it’s got a raised berm down one side so you can see all around it and that’s good," said Cotman, who recently inspected NOLA Motorsports Park to see if it was up to snuff for a race in 2013.

“But there’s not a lot of infrastructure right now and it may be a year or two away from being ready for us."

The 2.3-mile “north course" has one long straightaway and a few high-speed kinks and sits alongside the south course, which is more of a club track, about 20 miles from the French Quarter in Avondale, La.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard wants at least 19 races next season and was looking at New Orleans as a possible season opener – packaged around the Super Bowl in early February.

“We’re starving for good, permanent road courses and I’m not sure they’re built with IndyCar in mind," continued Cotman, who laid out the racy street course in Brazil and is currently overseeing the construction of the downtown circuit in Baltimore for the Labor Day weekend race.

“This is an average track but, having said that, Barber (in Alabama) was built for motorcycles and thanks to the cars and tires, IndyCar put on a damn racy show this year. The general manager at New Orleans is Mitch Wright and he came from Miller Motorsports Park (in Utah) and knows what he’s doing so that’s a big positive."

Cotman’s immediate concerns are the drainage of the track and runoff areas, which are all grass but quite a distance from the guardrails.

“Could we run there? Yeah. Is it ready right now? Absolutely not. Are they prepared to do what is needed? Yes. Would it be a great race? Maybe. The track knows what changes are needed and it’s not impossible.

“But it might need some time to develop."

08/12/12 IndyCar officials aren’t talking publicly about a new road course south of downtown New Orleans, but that could be the site of a spring race next season, perhaps even the first on the calendar.

NOLA Motorsports Park, which is officially located in Avondale, La., is in its first year and hosts its first major event, AMA Pro Racing, Oct. 5-7. It is a facility still growing, and at this point it lacks permanent grandstands. Temporary seating for 15,000 to 20,000 people will be in place for the upcoming motorcycle event.

When finished, NOLA’s complete circuit will be 5 miles in length, making it the longest in the U.S. But there are a variety of ways IndyCar could design a shorter course.

The track’s designer, Alan Wilson, also did Miller Motorsports Park in Utah and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Tony Cotman has inspected the facility for IndyCar, and it meets most specifications.

M1 Powersports is promoting the motorcycle event; IndyCar likely would turn to a group such as Andretti Sports Marketing.

As for oval tracks for 2013, IndyCar is talking with Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Michigan International Speedway about potential races. Both deals depend on finding a price point that suits all parties.

There are 15 events on this year’s schedule, the next being the Aug. 26 race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said it’s important to have 19 races next season, and he’s already got a street race in Houston set for Oct. 6. IndyCar is pushing for doubleheaders at some non-ovals.

Bernard is interested in a spring race in New Orleans in an effort to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the city’s Feb. 3 Super Bowl. Indy Star

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