Race gets high marks from IndyCar brass, drivers

Before the race was even underway, Randy Bernard, the IZOD IndyCar Series chief executive, was doling out high marks for the Edmonton Indy.

“Overall, even before this event happens, I’m giving it an eight," Bernard said Sunday morning.

The Edmonton race, under the management of Northlands in 2010, was about to be removed from the IndyCar calendar when the Montreal-based Octane Management stepped up to run the race for this year and the next two.

Toronto and Edmonton are the only two Canadian stops, and there are no immediate plans to expand on this side of the border.

“We wanted Edmonton, we wanted two races in Canada," Bernard continued. “Right now it’s easy to find other events, but that doesn’t fit our strategy. We want two events in Canada. The way it’s playing out, and from many of the responses from the fans yesterday, I do think they’ll need more grandstands next year.

“I’m very impressed with what Octane has been able to do in its first year. I’d give the professionalism a nine. To be honest, last year I probably would have given a six."

Driver Helio Castroneves, who finished second in the 26-car field behind winner Penske teammate Will Power, admitted he’s always been a fan of the Edmonton stop but that he was most impressed with the Indy presence he saw around town this weekend.

“Other places should learn from this," Castroneves said. “Unfortunately, you go to some places and they don’t even know that IndyCar is there.

“I’m glad they saved this place."

Wet weather washed out the first day of practice, leaving much of the site a muddy bog, but the sun came out for race day and so did the ticket holders. Octane would not release the count, which means it was not sold out, but it was definitely the busiest day at the track.

“Looked like a good crowd, as usual," said Dario Franchitti, the series leader who finished third on the City Centre Airport track. “It’s like the whole city of Edmonton got behind it."

For his part, Francois Dumontier, president of Octane, said he was happy with the end result given that they had just six months to prepare for the race, a turnaround that included the construction of a new track.

The group is already selling tickets for next year and is prepared to add more grandstands. They also want to add more on-track activity.

“There’s a lot of potential here," said Dumontier. “You can see the fans are behind the event and now having one year in front of us, I imagine we can do better next year."

Bernard applauded the Indy Lights doubleheader, the location of the stands, the presence of the event in the downtown core, and the revamped track.

“I’m going to listen to the fans, the sponsors, the teams and the drivers," he said. “That’s why I’m excited about this event."

Octane will have to find a new site if they are going to continue running the race in Edmonton. Bernard said he’s going to leave that in the hands of the promoter.

“Their marks have gone way up in my books," he said. “Let’s be frank, if (Dumontier) hadn’t stepped up, there wouldn’t have been a race here."

Make no mistake, Bernard is a promoter of his series; it’s why he is all for the drivers tossing verbal barbs at one another after races. He said it gives the fans a glimpse of the passion the drivers have to succeed.

It is also why he is willing to drop a $5-million gauntlet for the series finale in Las Vegas on Oct. 16.

Any driver from any other series who can step up and win the race will collect the cash.

“We like to define our sport as the fastest, most versatile race car and race car driver in the world because of the road and streets and oval (courses)," he said.

“We want to put our money where our mouth is and say that we have the best drivers in the world and if you think you’re one of them that can come beat them, come try. If you can, we’ll give you $5 million." Edmonton Journal

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