Some Encouraging News For Fans

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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.

George Phillips

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

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23 Responses to “Some Encouraging News For Fans”

  1. Oh man, if they can pull this all off it’s the best news in years. To be honest, Indycar is on a roll this summer. Ratings are up (the NASCAR lead in on NBCSN is only going to help with that), there are young American’s winning in the series, and the schedule is growing with honest to God real races (not contrived double headers). 2016 could be an amazing year, and lets not forget the rumors that Cleveland Lakefront returns in 2017!

    I’ll be leaving for Road America this afternoon, to see the IMSA races this weekend. Brats, Cheese Curds, and New Glarus Beer; does it get any better?

  2. I could care less about a race in Mexico City, but if they keep what they now have and add Road America and Phoenix, I would see that as a step in the right direction. What would not be a step in the right direction would be adding only road/street courses.

  3. Phoenix before Indy and Milwaukee after it would please many fans I think.

    Road America is good and Cleveland would be awesome. Don’t end the season at Sonoma though, I expect that to be a snoozer this year.

    All together though, this seems like a decent move. Can we drop Detroit though and get Michigan back or will that enact some anti-oval rule with those who have Dan Wheldon syndrome?

    • “Can we drop Detroit though and get Michigan back or will that enact some anti-oval rule with those who have Dan Wheldon syndrome?”

      That’s got exactly nothing to do with anti-oval sentiment or anything at all to do with Dan Wheldon. You’ll have to take that up with the sponsors that support having the race at Belle Isle. GM, I’m sure in particular, sees a lot of value in having a race literally within sight of their HQ in downtown Detroit as opposed to having a race some 45 minutes out of town in the countryside. I wish we could have both of them, personally, but Belle Isle is going nowhere as long as it has corporate (read: financial) support.

  4. Phoenix before Indy, with Alex Zanardi running in it as a tune up for Indy would be huge!

  5. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    If MKE stays without ASM running it, I’d be disappointed honestly. Brian Carroccio over at (AutoRacing1 blog) and I chatted at MKE this year and he had a pretty cool idea which would involve some deal for tickets to both WI events. Ideally in this scenario, MKE and RA would have their ‘ideal’ dates for success and also be able to incentivize people to try to make both events.

    I know Andretti has expressed concerns that one event could cannibalize the other, but as a fan, I think there’s room for both, if done properly. MKE is such a fun event for me and my family and a fun town.

    Currently RA schedule looks pretty solid with events from Mid-May through late Aug appx every two to three weeks. PWC races at RA in late June, and USCC in early Aug, and Xfinity cars late Aug.

    Late June with PWC would be within three weeks of the existing Indycar date at MKE, less than ideal for either. Hopefully there is a plan to make the dates work for both because I really REALLY want both of these dates on the Indycar calendar long-term and indefinitely. I could care less about CLE or MIS if I knew that MKE and RA were on every year.

  6. hey George. I agree with you here. the only thing I think that would make a bigger schedule better would be if Richmond, Chicago and watskins glenn would all three return in 2016. miles is dry and I belive he depended to much on that report from the boston. if he can save tennis I belive he can do it here. the only negative comment here I wished he would have supported derrick walker better.

  7. Gurney Eagle Says:

    Would Sonoma and Laguna Seca draw from the same San Francisco/San Jose market? Is there enough interest there to support two race weekends?

  8. Why on earth would anyone want a sponsored and successful race dropped from the schedule? I love Detroit anyways and encourage everyone to attend and support every race on the schedule.

    It is a shame about NOLA. The city is amazing and I loved the track. The wife and I enjoyed ourselves despite the rain as well. Looks like Clearwater Beach will be the vaca next March instead.

    On the oval front, the more the merrier. I just have my doubts anyone will show up. If MIS appears, I am good for a ticket if they avoid football season.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    It is nice to see the schedule length addressed, but it is a shame it took as long as it did (two years), killing Houston and severely wounding Fontana while nearly everyone involved in the sport told the Miles administration early on that the schedule was far too compressed.

    That said, Miles has proven in the past he can make quite a few things happen when he wants to, and it appears he wants to now. I would welcome any and all of Phoenix, Road America, etc. as much as I would welcome the retention of as much of the 2015 schedule as possible. Mending fences with ISC is welcome as well, especially since SMI steadily backed away from Indycar just as the series appeared to be calling on them to fill some of the gaps left by ISC’s tracks.

    I think Laguna Seca’s unsettled promoter situation would make it a long shot for next year’s schedule, in addition to the issues Sonoma may have with another race in its market.

    • I get why Miles did what he did (attempt to shift the schedule forward in the calendar, try to avoid the “eyeball suck” that NFL and college football represent to any other sport in the fall), and there might or might not be some flawed thinking there (crunching a bunch of the races together sure isn’t ideal), but I honestly don’t think Miles could have made the attempt at the “start in February, end on Labor Day” thing any quicker than he did.

      November 2012 – Mark Miles named head of IndyCar. 2013 schedule is already in place, so can not be modified.

      2013 – All work done to set up 2014 schedule, including ending season on Labor Day weekend. The was to be in concert with starting the 2015 season with international races in February 2015 (which didn’t work out).

      2014/2015 – First true attempt at “end early, start early”. The second part didn’t happen (much to the dismay of teams, fans and anybody who lives within earshot of some of the fanbase).

      2015 – Miles modifies his strategy for 2016 and largely gives up on the international races, except for (hopefully) one in Mexico in February.

      So, really, the original BCG idea was more or less a “one and done”, in that it looks like next year they’re going to end slightly after Labor Day (with maybe one or two races after), though they’re hanging onto the “start early” strategy. Fingers crossed that this works out.

  10. Put

  11. Put me down for “Believe it when I see actual cars on the track”.

  12. So who is suing who after the NOLA debacle?

    • Andretti Sports Marketing is owed a ton of money, but I don’t recall who owes them the money or where I read that. You can read about it by doing a Google search for “Andretti Sports Marketing Files Federal Lawsuit”. I imagine that situation has contributed to ASM cutting back or getting out of race promotion altogether.

    • The ASM Nola situation and the future of ASM might be a good subject for the oily blogster to tackle during this race schedule downtime.

      • I think what bugs me about the series is that Miles and Co., just don’t seem to see that they might need to step it up and help sponsor some of the “hurting” races. This hands off attitude is just self defeating.

        OT: Do you all remember the Graham Rahal sleazy TV ad for cologne? I saw one with his bride-to-be during NHRA a couple of weeks ago. Burnt rubber… I really thought it was a SNL skit.

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