IndyCar race at The Glen could move to Fall

UPDATE #3 This rumor appears set to move to 'false' soon. Watkins Glen International IndyCar Series fans may have a lot more to celebrate than the independence of our country next year on the Fourth of July. When the Indy Racing League announces its 2010 schedule, likely to be this weekend, the top open-wheel series appears primed to return to the Glen on the summer holiday.

"We are having ongoing discussions with Watkins Glen to keep it at its current date," John Griffin, the IRL's president of public relations, said Wednesday.

During this year's IndyCar weekend at Watkins Glen, new WGI President Michael Printup said he would like to move the race to another date, possibly sometime in the fall. A return to Fourth of July weekend would satisfy fans who were against a change.

The inaugural IndyCar race at Watkins Glen was held in September 2005. The series' last three races have been held on July 4 weekend after the 2006 race was held in the first week of June.

Griffin said the 2010 IndyCar schedule will look similar to 2009, though with the addition of the race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., that was announced Monday. He said seven of the tracks on this year's schedule have multiyear contracts. Watkins Glen has a year-to-year contract with the IRL.

Initially, comments from Griffin and Terry Angst, president of the IRL's commercial division, left open the chance Watkins Glen wouldn't return to the schedule next year unless negotiations improved. Leonardo Santiago, director of marketing and communications for Watkins Glen's parent company, International Speedway Corp, described talks as "intense."

However, any fears of Watkins Glen losing the IndyCar race were alleviated two weeks ago when I talked to Griffin and Eiron Smith, director of public relations at WGI.

Griffin reaffirmed Watkins Glen's likely place on the schedule Wednesday, saying IndyCar's return to the Glen was "very promising." Star Gazette

07/09/09 analyzes the pluses and minuses of moving the Glen IndyCar race to late September:

Item Plus Minus
Weather Driving talent – Rain separates the men from the boys. Much higher chance of rain. Bring a poncho or umbrella.
Ambiance Autumn, with all the trees turned color and the pumpkins stacked high, makes the Finger Lakes Region of NY a sight to behold.
Timing Gets the race out of the crowded summer IRL schedule, but it puts it too close to the far away Motegi race. October would be too late weather-wise. Football season is going strong, which diverts attention away from racing. The Watkins Glen IndyCar race faced all of that competition once before, and that is why the date was moved in the first place. So why go back to the lion's den?
Tradition Late Sept. is the date of the old F1 races.
NASCAR Though they are not saying it publically, the France family wants to get more separation between. The Glen's August Cup race and the Indy Car race. The France family values NASCAR over everything else.
Attendance The largest attendance for an IndyCar race at the Glen was in 2005 when it was in the Autumn.
Hospitality Many Corporate sponsor guests are on vacation in July, so they cannot attend a July race. No suites to wine and dine corporate guests.

Conclusion: Either way, the race at The Glen (called "the Spa" of the USA given the 100% throttle down and up S curves that are not unlike the ballsy Eau Rouge of Spa) works – the IRL must do everything it can to retain it.

07/07/09 A high-stakes game of poker is taking place over when and if the IndyCar Series will return to Watkins Glen International next year.

If the talks break down, the Southern Tier could face losing another one of its sports gems after the 31-year run of the LPGA Corning Classic event came to an end in May.

Negotiations for the race to return in 2010, possibly on a date in late September, are taking place between the Indianapolis-based Indy Racing League, which sanctions the open-wheel series, and Watkins Glen International's parent company, International Speedway Corp., or ISC, of Daytona Beach, Fla.

"I don't want to put anybody in a panic, but there is some work ahead for us," John Griffin, vice president of public relations for the IRL, said Sunday. "There's a lot of pieces to the puzzle. It's a chess game, and we've got to make sure it works for everybody."

The IRL, which negotiates contracts with its tracks on a year-to-year basis, intends to announce its 2010 schedule later this month.

"We love coming here," Terry Angst, president of the commercial division of the IRL, said Saturday while at the Glen. "It takes at least two very important people at the table to decide where you are going to race. It's the track owner and the sanctioning body. Those are pretty complex conversations going on these days." reporter Robin Miller, who traveled back to Indianapolis on the IndyCar team charter plane after Sunday's race, said the teams were concerned about a possible strain in the negotiations to get the Glen IndyCar race on the 2010 schedule.

"That's all that everybody was talking about," Miller said Monday. "They all said they hoped the race would come back there."

2009 race drew crowd

It appears the race's Fourth of July holiday date may have lost its sparkle.

Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup said he wants to move the race, which has occupied the summer holiday for the past three years, back to the fall where it began in 2005.

"We are finding out the Fourth of July (date) didn't work," he said.

Printup cited an informal poll that he took among 100 or so race fans on Saturday as one reason to suggest the date change.

"At least 60 percent said it works, but it would be better if it weren't on a holiday weekend," he said.
But Printup also said this year's race drew more fans than 2008.

"The crowd (Sunday) was fantastic," said Printup, who replaced Craig Rust last month. "I talked to Craig, and he definitely felt that it was a much better crowd than last year."

A smaller sample of fans on Sunday told the Star-Gazette they were OK with the current date.

"I think it's a great opportunity for people to come out and enjoy the holiday weekend," said Paul Shampine of Syracuse, who attended his first race at the Glen.

Tom Barlow of Rochester said, "Potentially, I can see where it would be a problem for some people who make their vacation plans that week. I have no preference, I'm coming anyway."

John Rice of Bath, who has been coming to races here for 35 years, added, "This date is fine with me. You get into the fall and the weather becomes more iffy."

September strain

Griffin said a late September date would put a strain on the teams returning from the race at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan. It's a race he said is solidly slotted in the third week of that month. The Glen has had a tradition of holding top open-wheel events in the fall, dating back to when it hosted the U.S. Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980.

"We know that weekend is very valuable to Watkins Glen from a historical standpoint," Griffin said. "We are always going to be flexible and open, but we have to entertain the fact of what are we going to put our teams through." reporter Miller suggested the date change could just be a bluff to negotiate what may be the real sticking point – money – or, more specifically, the sanction fee a sanctioning body asks a track to pay to hold its event.

"You always have pretty intense negotiations when you are trying to host an event," said Leonardo Santiago, director of marketing and communications for ISC. "We're working with them. They've got their thoughts and mind on where they want to see the event and so do we. It's the negotiation process where we come to a common ground and go forward."

Neither Griffin nor Santiago would go into specifics of the negotiations. But Griffin did give this analogy:

"We are trying to grow our business, and part of growing a business is maybe to ask for an increase in a sanction fee or looking for flexibility in a date. And, the same thing might come back from a track or a parent company, saying would you consider moving a date here or there, or can you keep a sanctioning fee flat."

The IRL is also negotiating with four other ISC-owned tracks that run IndyCar Series events.

"I just hope that the Glen is one that makes it back," Miller said. "It was a good show (Sunday), and it's just a refreshing place to come to. Ithaca Journal

07/05/09 The return of big league open-wheel racing to Watkins Glen International was celebrated by the fans, local and national press, the drivers and the auto racing industry. The five-year contract with the Indy Racing League expires when one of the 21 drivers in today’s Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen performs a victory donut.

As Saturday evening’s fireworks show at the track was in full swing, the Indy Racing League and WGI didn’t have a new deal in place and the 2010 IndyCar Series schedule is expected to be announced at the end of the month.

“That gives us 26 days, let’s do it," said newly-crowned WGI president Michael Printup. Printup met with IRL officials on Saturday, but said their discussion wasn’t centered around a new agreement. Printup spent the day walking the campgrounds and grandstands to piece together an informal poll of the fans to see when the grand prix would be best for them and the response was “70-30" to put it in the autumn.

That is, if The Glen is in the IRL’s future plans.

During a 45-minute press conference late Saturday, three of the IRL’s highest-ranking members – Terry Angstadt, Brian Barnhart and Charlie Morgan – made statements and fielded questions from the press. Afterwards, when asked about the contract, Angstadt said “We think (Watkins Glen’s) great, the drivers love it, a lot of us love coming here, but it takes two (sides) to decide where we race – the tracks and the league."

Angstadt continued by saying negotiations have to be beneficial for both parties and they’re “pretty complex conversations."

Those conversations haven’t taken place here, but in Indianapolis and Daytona Beach, Fla. – headquarters for the IRL and WGI parent company International Speedway Corp., respectively. The corporate structure renegotiates sanctioning agreements, not the race track representatives themselves, although Printup said “we certainly have input." WGI also has a lot of competition.

Angstadt, the IRL’s president of the commercial division, said during the press conference that the league is hopeful to have a season-opening race in Brazil, is interested in and talking to the management of New Hampshire Motor Speedway and would like to keep the Milwaukee Mile on the schedule, despite the venerable track’s recent financial woes. In the same conversation, Angstadt said the league wants to keep a 17-18 race schedule next season, while hitting the top “designated market areas" – i.e. big cities.

With a race already in Toronto, and the IRL talking to New Hampshire, the Northeast market could be saturated with the presence of The Glen.

“We’ll keep working together and we’ll get it figured out," Printup said.

The main talking point during the “State of the League Address" was the well being of Indy racing. Earlier this week, it was announced that Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO Tony George had stepped down to concentrate on running his IndyCar Series team – Vision Racing. That put the rumors into overdrive about the George family, who have owned IMS for 60 years, pulling back financial support for the league.

“Organizationally, which is probably the most important, we have certainly — we, being the management team, in fact, on both sides of 16th Street have received assurances directly from the (IMS) board that they are pretty pleased with the direction and the management of the company," said Angstadt, who added later when asked if the IMS board would pull back, “Absolutely no resistance. It was absolutely the opposite of that. It was very favorably received." Other news to come out of the midseason report:

• The league is talking with five engine manufacturers – Honda, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen and Fiat – in addition to considering one of two “radically different" chassis for the 2012 season. Barnhart, the IRL president of competition and operations, said the chassis could be introduced by 2011, but the goal is to launch a new kind of Indy car in three years.

• In response to dull oval races, the IRL granted teams more flexibility with tweaking the cars’ aerodynamics, without altering wing angles. If those don’t improve passing opportunities on the big circle tracks, Barnhart said there is a backup plan, but did not elaborate on what Plan B is.

• The switch to a split TV schedule with ABC and Versus has netted better viewer retention than the same races on ESPN one year ago, although overall viewership is down. Mogan said that was expected and that's why the league inked a 10-year deal with the cable channel, to become a cornerstone property. The Corning Leader

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