Adiós To Mexico City For 2016

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The Verizon IndyCar Series schedule for 2016 has yet to be released, but one little nugget has managed to surface. Despite months of teasing that the IndyCar season would start in February in Mexico City; reports have now surfaced that it will not be happening – at least in 2016.

Although I liked the idea of the season starting earlier in February, I’m not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing. I give IndyCar CEO Mark Miles a lot of grief and most of it is justified. However, I think he made the right call in this case. A report in USA Today quotes Miles saying (I’m paraphrasing) that they simply ran out of time to do things properly to pull off a race in 2016. As we sit in mid-October, even a late February race is little more than four months away. With nothing finalized, that would be a pretty tall order to properly promote a new event in that short of a time period. In fact, it just couldn’t be done.

Even though Champ Car raced at Mexico City as recently as 2007, this would still be a new event for the most part. Eight seasons have passed since American open-wheel racing competed in Mexico’s largest city. A lot has changed locally and in racing since those days.

This is an important market to IndyCar. Going into what would essentially be the inaugural event in a half-baked manner is not something IndyCar needed to do. It’s much better to regroup, reset and do it right than to muddle through it just to meet some deadlines.

If you scoff at the importance of Mexico City, you must understand that the greater Mexico City area is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the eleventh largest in the world. The gross domestic product of Mexico City in 2011 was $411 billion – making it one of the richest metropolitan areas in the world. Some will scoff at the series racing in international markets when they cannot draw decent domestic crowds, but never overlook the power of the money trail.

While some IndyCar sponsors have no interest in a presence in Mexico, there are others that would covet the chance for publicity there. But for the series overall, it would be smart to go there.

Before I get accused (again) of being a cheerleader for all things IndyCar, my personal and selfish opinion was that it would have suited me fine to not go to Mexico or to any other foreign country, for that matter. IndyCar does not have a stellar track record for dealing with foreign governments. You needn’t look any further than the aborted race in Brazil this past spring that was intended to kick off the 2015 season on March 8th.

Supposedly, IndyCar did not lose anything financially in the Brasilia fiasco. Still it was perceived as another black-eye for a series that has the perception of not being able to get out of its own way. Of course, the biggest losers in the deal were the hard-core fans of IndyCar that had to wait an additional three weeks for the agonizingly long offseason to finally end when the green flag dropped at St. Petersburg.

Then there is the infamous China race at Qingdao that was cancelled in what was undoubtedly the biggest blunder in Randy Bernard’s tenure as CEO. It wasn’t a blunder that the race was scheduled, rather that he never got a signed contract. When a new mayor was elected, he opted for a beer festival over the IndyCar race and that was that. Handshake deals don’t carry much weight in this country. They are laughable in other countries. This, more than anything else, probably led to Randy’s ouster.

The instability of foreign governments, or the lack of integrity is some foreign leaders have made me very skittish of IndyCar ever dealing with some of these countries in the future. Our friends to the north in Canada is the exception to this rule, otherwise IndyCar should go into some of these deals expecting the worst if they don’t have every “i” dotted. Recent history has shown that going into these situations unprepared can be disastrous.

While I seldom applaud Mark Miles, I will this time – not only for recognizing the economic potential for going to Mexico City, but also for knowing that he can’t do it without everything neatly tied up. It’s better to get our disappointment of not starting the season early out of the way in October, rather than having the opener pulled away just a few weeks before the proposed beginning of the season.

We all know Road America is confirmed for 2016. There is still a chance that Phoenix could be return for the first time since the 2005 season. We learned last night from Marshall Pruett at Racer.com that Pocono will return, which is good because it’s looking more and more like Milwaukee will not. Now, we’re hearing that Gateway near St. Louis could be revived as well. If we have to wait a year for Mexico City, That’s OK. I’d prefer to wait and do it right, instead of rushing into things and bungling another event. There are too many of those in IndyCar’s recent past.

George Phillips

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17 Responses to “Adiós To Mexico City For 2016”

  1. First to vote again (4:27 central Time) … “one of the richest metropolitan areas in the world” could have already begun preparing for a race in February or March.
    Formula One, which has *not yet concluded* its 2015 season, announced its 2016 schedule last month. But INDYCAR … far too much dithering and then disappointing fans who want it to return to some markets (Portland, Laguna Seca, Phoenix, etcetera)

  2. JP, Colorado Springs Says:

    Much ado about nothing. Same old Indycar on life support. Pie in the sky promises. Belated schedule release, lacking in ovals. Holding our collective breath on Phoenix and Gateway. RIP Milwaukee, and Fontana. Obviously the 100th running of the 500 is the highlight of this otherwise lackluster schedule we await. Waiting for word from Mark Miles on the schedule. The suspense is killing us! NOT! Your most cosmic statement in this installment, George, is that Indycar can’t get out of its’ own way……………True.

  3. Partially established Canada and potential Mexico seem like logical extensions for a North American based series. Further out than that, would be a stretch for IndyCar whom does appear rather silly and disorganized with its continually non-confirmed schedule.

  4. I for one hope it never happens. And the loss of both Fontana and (it appears) Milwaukee is probably the beginning of the end. The ghosts of CART will destroy yet another series in its quest to become F1-Lite.

    The crowds at Milwaukee have been growing, in spite of the date being moved every year. Its not really coming down to money. Its all part of the plan. Ask Will Power.

    • Hey Bud, if you know something we don’t why not tell us instead of being cryptic with the Will Power reference?

      • Lighten up Phil. Just a reference to Will (and others) constant complaints about ovals. It is pretty much limited to drivers on two teams, but two teams who have the most power. Look into the history of the owners and it does tell as story.

    • If IndyCar and the drivers really wanted to eliminate ovals, then why didn’t they seize the “opportunity” of Justin Wilson’s death and banish Pocono from the schedule forever? And why is there a persisting rumor of adding a date next August for Gateway, which last I checked is [GASP] an oval? And similarly, if the drivers are so hell bent against racing at ovals, why do we hear basically nothing but glowing words about racing at Iowa and Milwaukee, and hardly any negative words about the current style of racing at Texas (and most of the negative words that are uttered are basically just about the configuration of the fence)?

      I know it doesn’t fit your narrative, but the loss of Fontana really is about money, and TV ratings. Apparently Fontana wanted to stage a late season race, maybe the season finale, under the lights. But doing that means finishing the race well after midnight on the east coast. That ain’t great for TV viewership, is it? After all, doing that exact thing a couple years ago resulted in a 0.3 or 0.4 TV rating, which is far less than what IndyCar is shooting for nowadays. Hence the impasse and the loss of the race. Bummer, but maybe they can hammer things out down the road someday. Milwaukee is a little more vexing, since crowds have been increasing (both to my eyeball from my couch and to friends’ eyeballs who actually attend in person), but I guess that Andretti Sports Marketing decided that just scraping by and breaking even or slightly better was not worth their time, and apparently the folks at Road America had too much on their plate with bringing their race back to take on promoting Milwaukee. Also a bummer, but I have hope that once Road America is stabilized on the schedule that maybe Milwaukee comes back in a year or two.

    • I’ve never been much of a grassy knoll guy, so I don’t know what “plan” you are referring to Bob. What I do know is this: Every time that Will Power has come here to Milwaukee to race he has said that the Milwaukee Mile is one of his favorite race tracks. Actually, most drivers past and present say that. Last time I checked it is an oval. You are right about the crowds growing each year. Perhaps Gateway will be the oval du jour for 2016. I hope you were able to make it to the Milwaukee Mile at least once over the years.

      • Made it to the race as a Fathers Day present in I think 2013. It had always been one of my goals to attend a race there. Loved that track. I have been to several tracks but never saw one quite like it with all the restaurants and taverns actually in the track and the suburban setting. They did a great job in the infield with the carnival setting. And the racing was fun.

        Lets be honest. Anyone who really cared about Indycar racing and its history would not let this race lapse. Oldest track in America. Great tradition in Indycar.

        There is no denying where Indycar is going. Indy and a bunch of road/street courses. And it’s by design.

        • Again, if that is the design, then why is IndyCar bothering to get Pocono back on the schedule next year? And then why would they bother to even entertain the idea of going to Gateway in the first place?

          There’s no doubt that road/streets are probably going to be greater in number than ovals for the foreseeable future, and maybe for as long as the Series exists, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting rid of all but Indy. I just don’t see any evidence of any sinister plan like that.

        • I’m glad you made it here Bob. That was one nice Father’s Day present. Across Greenfield Avenue near the track ticket office is a little restaurant called Pegasus where many of the teams like to have breakfast and lunch. As I was leaving the ticket office this summer I saw a golf cart driving across the street from the restaurant toward the track. It was A.J. Foyt and for some reason it made me laugh. In his day he probably could have put that golf cart on the pole.

  5. I think it’s a good idea to end the season around Labor Day, but I’m disappointed that the schedule isn’t longer and doesn’t start earlier in the year. I never knew Milwaukee was gone, that’s real bad news if true, but I won’t miss Fontana anyway.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I’m not sure Miles has earned applause just for taking a common sense approach to scheduling a race in Mexico City, but there is certainly nothing to take him to task on here.

    Still, it is constantly frustrating how these international race plans, whether announced or rumored, seem to collapse in a mild breeze.
    I understand that putting together an international race is not easy, but Indycar’s batting average on races held vs. races discussed wouldn’t keep them in Single A. When it comes to international races these days, Indycar fans are all from Missouri and why shouldn’t they be? Show us.

    Hey, maybe that’s why we’ll get Gateway back…

  7. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    Let’s just call any race in Canada “The International” portion of the schedule and be done with it. When Tejas secedes from the union, they can be part of the International series as well.

  8. Not sure where my poll question went or how to get it back. It disappeared this morning after only eleven responses. Modern technology… – GP

  9. I vote yes!

    I would have loved to start in February. The best part about Western Hemisphere races is the reasonable start times. We obviously didn’t get that in Japan. I may be Mr. International, but I would love for a race in Mexico and 2-3 in Canada (Montreal? Hello?). It gives the series more credibility beyond the contiguous 48 states.

  10. I’d love a Mexico race in late February or early March. But I understand that Miles that announcing it today would be rather late.

    Anyway, there’s no proper Mexican driver in IndyCar, so it doesn’t make that much sense. Yes there’s Montoya and Muñoz, but that’s not enough.

    Sergio Pérez has collected podiums this year and ranks 9th in the F1 standings. The race has been hyped massively for a year. They had to build even more stands to fill it. It’s a very high bar.

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