Some Encouraging News For Fans
Over the past few years, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has been ripped, by me and other IndyCar fans, for various reasons. Much of it is justified, though a small percentage may have been unwarranted. I try to be objective on most subjects pertaining to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Some call that fair and balanced, while others call it being inconsistent. For example, I was fairly unkind in many rants regarding Graham Rahal over the past few years. But this year, I have been heaping praise on the resurgent driver that has been having a remarkable season. Is that jumping on a bandwagon or acknowledging the obvious?
So if you are hoping this is another scathing article of Mark Miles, you will probably be disappointed. I feel like if you are going to take someone to task for their shortcomings, it’s only fair to acknowledge when they’ve done something right. From what we are hearing regarding the 2016 IndyCar schedule, it sounds like Miles is doing something right.
For starters, it sounds like it is all but official that the Verizon IndyCar Series will finally be headed to Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. If that’s true, I may start making my travel plans as soon as the date is announced and confirmed. That is a venue that has been on my short list of tracks to visit. For years, it was always my favorite non-oval on the CART schedule. The circuit is exactly four miles in length. If you miscalculate your fuel mileage there, good luck finding your way back to the pits.
The scenic course reminds me of a couple of traditional Formula One tracks. The thick woods that are on both sides of the track in many sections remind me of Hockenheim. The front straightaway, with its steep elevation changes followed by a couple of quick right-hand turns, reminds me of Spa. The weather almost always appears to be cool at whatever race I’m watching at Road America. I also hear that the food at the track is some of the best you’ll find at any sports venue.
In addition to Road America being a possibility, Marshall Pruett has reported in an article he wrote that Chief Revenue Officer Jay Frye contacted some of his acquaintances at ISC to make a few inquiries about IndyCar possibly returning to some of their tracks. My question is; if Frye had all of these old contacts in his network, why is he just now utilizing them?
As a sister company to NASCAR, ISC owns many of the ovals that have been on the IndyCar schedule at one time or another. Fontana is the only ISC track on this season’s IndyCar schedule (although Iowa is now owned directly by NASCAR). The longer list is the one with ISC tracks once run by IndyCar, but no more. That list includes Phoenix, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Homestead, Chicagoland, Richmond and Kansas; as well as the now-defunct Pikes Peak and Nazareth. Just a couple of those tracks returning would bring a smile to the face of many fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Pruett says that Phoenix is probably the most likely of those races to return. On Tuesday night, Trackside reported that next year’s race at St. Petersburg has been moved up two weeks to March 12, as opposed to this year’s season-opening race that took place on March 29. But the real kicker is that St. Petersburg will not be the opener. That honor is reserved for Mexico City sometime in February. That would be the earliest opener since the days when the IRL used to open the season at Walt Disney World in January, the day before the Super Bowl.
At the other end of the season; Fontana, Sonoma or maybe even Laguna Seca are mentioned as possibilities for the season finale to be sometime in September – although Miles seemed to downplay Laguna Seca as a possibility when asked about it by Robin Miller on last week’s broadcast from Mid-Ohio.
Not surprisingly, it sounds as if the rain-soaked event at NOLA Motorsports Park near New Orleans will not return. Not only was this year’s inaugural event a major disappointment, there are too many legal situations surrounding that event for it to be a possibility for next year. In all likelihood, the Verizon IndyCar Series will probably never go back there. That’s a shame because I think with good weather, that could have been an interesting track. I know Susan and I had a blast when we went down there, the weather notwithstanding.
On a more positive note, even though Andretti Sports Marketing will no longer be involved with Milwaukee – it looks as though IndyCar is going to try and make Milwaukee happen, no matter what it takes. Attendance has been slowly climbing each year since The Milwaukee Mile returned to the schedule in 2011. Credit IndyCar for recognizing the tradition and importance of this track and trying to make it work somehow.
I’ve heard no news or rumors regarding Pocono. Perhaps they plan to wait and see how attendance goes in two weeks, now that they have a later date and have moved away from the Fourth of July weekend.
All in all, it’s very good news on the schedule front – even if it’s not yet official. Of course, being official doesn’t mean it’s carved in stone. You don’t need to look past this current season and the abandoned Brazil race for an example of a scheduled race that didn’t happen. So credit should be given when it is due. If even some of these possibilities come to fruition, Mark Miles should be given full credit. He seems to be coming off of his stubborn stance to end the season before Labor Day. He has been saying for a while now that the season will start sooner and end later. That’s good. A five month season is not acceptable. Now it looks like there will even be an increase in the number of races, as well. Good for him.
Now if they can just drop Belle Isle and move Milwaukee back to its traditional spot just after the Indianapolis 500, that’ll definitely be a move in the right direction, in my book. But I guess I shouldn’t get too greedy.
Please Note: There will be no post here on Mon Aug 10. Susan and I are having out-of-town company and I will have no chance to write this weekend. I will return here on Wed Aug 12. I hope everyone enjoys their non-racing weekend. – GP