IndyCar eyeing Phoenix, Austin and Brasilia for 2013

UPDATE #4 Phoenix International Raceway won’t be on IndyCar’s 2013 schedule, but Bernard said Sunday that his goal remains 19 races. He said he has “weekly" conversations with Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. “We continue to negotiate," he said. … IndyCar is exploring opportunities for a second Brazil race next year. The new target is the capital city of Brasilia, which is home to Vitor Meira. Porto Alegre was considered for this season, but a deal couldn’t be reached. IndyCar has twice raced in Sao Paulo in April. Indy Star

07/20/12 Absent a major sponsor unexpectedly stepping forward to help pay IndyCar's usual $1.5 million race fee, it's doubtful the series will be at Phoenix International Raceway in 2013. But series CEO Randy Bernard says he considers a 2014 event a "must" as part of the Avondale oval's 50th anniversary season.

As has always told you, when in doubt follow the money. Let's run the numbers:

$1.5 million Sanctioning Fee
$1.0 million Advertising Budget
$0.7 million Operating Cost
$3.2 million Total Cost to host the race

Without a race sponsor, the track would have to sell 64,000 tickets @ $50 each just to break even (less for every sponsor they can add). If you think even 50,000 will pay to watch an IndyCar race at Phoenix, we have a bridge to sell you.

The gap between IndyCar's typical fee and what PIR believes it can pay without suffering a significant financial loss — as it did on the poorly attended 2005 race — apparently is too wide. Bernard, in a telephone interview with The Republic on Thursday, said he wants to add to the Izod series' current 15-race schedule but admitted team owners are concerned about the additional operating costs given the economy and challenging sponsorship environment.

IndyCar's new vice president for business affairs, Matthew Breeden, visited PIR last week to review financial details with track President Bryan Sperber. An industry source familiar with the situation but who asked not to be identified by name said PIR's operational costs — not including the race fee — would exceed $700,000. The track proposed a marketing budget of just under $1million.

Ironically, Breeden was general counsel for Champ Car in talks for a proposed downtown Phoenix race in 2007, which PIR opposed. That race was canceled due to poor ticket and sponsorship sales. Champ Car's assets were purchased by the Indy Racing League the following year to create a combined series.

Both sides studied a Saturday night, April13 date. That would have given PIR a reasonable six-week promotional time frame after the March3 Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. But IndyCar's March-April schedule this season was demanding, with four races in a six-week period, plus another weekend to load cars onto cargo planes for transport to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"2013 is unlikely due to several issues, including timing … we are continuing discussions regarding 2014 and beyond," Breeden said in an e-mail.

Said Bernard: "We are evaluating our options to determine if it makes more sense to wait until 2014. We think there's significant value in that race and it's an important market to us."

Said Sperber: "When Matthew was, here we reviewed the necessary financial commitments from both sides. We proposed a marketing budget that would be on-par with the resources we spend to promote each NASCAR weekend, in order to show we're serious about working with them to produce a serious event, should we agree to schedule it.

"In the end, there were a number of factors that have likely sidelined a 2013 race, but the spirit of the discussions was so positive we've all agreed to focus on trying to make something happen for 2014."

07/13/12 The new Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, Texas, could host an IndyCar race in 2013, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said Thursday. "Their contract (with Formula One) will allow it," he said. IndyCar and Circuit of the America officials were to meet this week. F-1's U.S. Grand Prix will be this Nov. 16-18. IndyCar also met with Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber about an event next season, Bernard said. Indy Star

06/23/12 A reader responds to our criticism of Phoenix, Dear, A mid-April Saturday night race in PHX could be a good thing for a number of reasons.

1. They've never done that at PIR for IndyCar, so it's not something that's been tried (doesn't really fit the definition of insanity)
2. It's a date and event format (Sat. Night under the lights) that was vacated by NASCAR.
3. It's after MLB spring training, which wasn't the case the last time they raced in Phoenix. There also will not be a Luke AFB event taking place the same day (as was the case in 2005).
4. It could be made into a full Road To Indy race, featuring IICS, FIL, Mazda, F2000, USAC SC and Midgets.
5. If Bryan Sperber is even considering it at this point, he has to feel pretty good about its prospects.
6. It's a great time of year to go to Phoenix, as the weather is perfect, hotels have begun dropping their rates, as have rental car companies. Plus, there are actually rooms available, which cannot be said of a March event.
7. It will be the only oval before Indy. David (Last name left anonymous)

Dear David, We hear there is a 70% chance it might happen. The scheduling would be the key here. The issues:

The 2013 spring schedule for IndyCar is very tight w/ lots of good races.
St. Pete March 22-24
Easter March 31, 2013 (April 20 in 2014, which will move Long Beach a week earlier)
Barber April 7
Phoenix April 14 (Sat. Night)
Long Beach April 19-21.

There is a spring NASCAR date (March 3, 2013?), and that basically eats a 6-8 week gap in the middle of the spring.

Then there is that small matter of selling tickets in the face of selling 55,000+ NASCAR seats at roughly the same time. Mark C.

06/22/12 IndyCar isn't listed on Phoenix International Raceway's 2013 season-ticket renewal brochure, but the series still might return to the Avondale oval for the first time since 2005.

Substantive negotiations between PIR President Bryan Sperber and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard are expected within the next six weeks. Key issues remain financial terms and date. The Republic previously reported a likely date would be Saturday night, April 13.

[Editor's Note: Get your cannons ready. You will be able to shoot them into the grandstands at Phoenix for the IndyCar race and not hit anyone. There's nothing worse to destroy the image of your race series than massive areas of empty seats on oval tracks sized for NASCAR. As Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Milwaukee attendance last weekend was better than 2011, but there were still massive of areas of empty seats. Phoenix will not be even that good.]

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