Adiós To Mexico City For 2016
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.