Schedule to remain at 15 races; season finale at Fontana extended to 500 miles
Plan B has been scratched.
INDYCAR announced today that it shall keep this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series schedule at 15 races and won’t seek a replacement race for the cancelled event at Qingdao, China that was previously slated for Aug. 19.
Recent rumors had the potential 16th race possibly going to Road America to create a doubleheader with the American Le Mans Series, but in the end, INDYCAR felt it was in their best interest to keep the 2012 docket as it was.
“We want to make sure that when we add events to our roster they have long-term potential and are given every opportunity to be successfully promoted,” said series CEO Randy Bernard in a statement. “The more we explored, the more we felt like we were rushing what could be good, long-lasting opportunities for the sport.
“I thank all of the promoters who entertained the possibility of hosting the IZOD IndyCar Series this season. It certainly validated what we already knew – there’s a lot of interest from venues across North America in hosting our sport.”
Among the other venues that were reportedly interested in the 16th race were Michigan International Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway offered to host a season finale event, but INDYCAR declined the proposal. Texas Motor Speedway was also in the mix for the season finale, but track president/GM Eddie Gossage said that his track needed to focus on hyping its November NASCAR weekend.
But while some fans will be disappointed that major open-wheel racing will not return to Road America — long considered one of the best road courses on the continent — there is some good news.
The season finale on Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles has now been extended to 500 miles, which will make it the first race of that distance outside of Indianapolis in the INDYCAR/Indy Racing League era.
ACS hosted 500-mile events for Champ Car from 1997-2002 and 400-mile events for INDYCAR/IRL from 2002-2005.
“We wanted to do something special to enhance the excitement to the season finale and renew the tradition of 500-mile open-wheel races in Southern California,” Bernard said. “We think it’s something our fans will enjoy and adds another element to what is already shaping up to be an exciting championship battle.”
Finally, there’s the very important matter of where IndyCar Series title sponsor IZOD stands on all this.
It is believed that the series is obligated by IZOD to have a 16-race schedule, but it appears that its parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen, is okay with INDYCAR’s decision to stand at 15 events.
“As the entitlement partner of the series, we agree that it is in the best interest of the series to focus on a long-term strategy for the future schedule instead of a quick fix for this year,” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of the PVH Marketing Group.
Dovetailing with its recent expansion into China, IZOD was apparently a key element in INDYCAR’s decision to go racing there. The Chinese round, which was announced last fall, was set to go off in the seaside city of Qingdao next month and at the same time as the Qingdao International Beer Festival.
However, new Qingdao leaders didn’t like the idea of a race coinciding with the festival and worked with INDYCAR to find a new date and location. When those efforts failed, INDYCAR scratched the race on June 13.
Quotes were taken from an INDYCAR press release dated June 25, 2012.