Notes: Rhode Island Grand Prix, anyone?

Providence street race possible for 2013

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When you think of Rhode Island, what comes to mind? Waterfire? Del’s frozen lemonade? The Newport mansions? Some fat guy with a chicken problem?

How about an IndyCar race? No? Thought so. That’s mostly why I wasn’t so sure how serious to take this Sept. 6 piece from the Providence Journal, which said that series officials had toured the city in hopes of finding another location in New England to stage a race in.

Well…I figure we all better take it seriously now. RACER Magazine revealed today that a potential street race is indeed in the works for Providence and is slated for the weekend of August 9-11, 2013.

In the piece from RACER’s Tony Dizinno, Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting — which has created a 2.1-mile downtown circuit in the heart of Rhode Island’s capital city for the potential event — said that while some work will need to be done to the roadways, they’re altogether in “reasonably good shape.”

IndyCar’s 2013 schedule is expected to emerge later this month, and CEO Randy Bernard has maintained that he’s aiming for a 19-race schedule to help boost interest. But consider me more than a little surprised that Providence is in the hunt for a race.

Full disclosure: My family and I lived a half-hour northwest of Providence for almost a decade, so I can tell you first-hand that it’s a lovely city. But I never figured that it’d be home to a major league auto race (maybe we figured that big city an hour to the north of us would be the place that got one).

However, those thoughts didn’t stop Baltimore from joining the schedule in 2011 with a picturesque course on the Inner Harbor. So why not Providence, which can definitely draw from the alluded to Boston market, as well as from Connecticut and New York City.

INDYCAR seems very intent on putting down roots in New England, and in my mind, it’s too important a region to ignore even though things did not work out as hoped with New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011. Attendance for that race, forever known for a rainy restart and Will Power’s angry birds, fell below the break-even point and it became a one-and-done job.

On the other hand, a Providence street race wouldn’t be good news for fans seeking more ovals to balance out a schedule already heavy on road/street circuits. As of now, one new race is slated for 2013 in Houston, which will host a street race around Reliant Park and the famous Astrodome.

With 22 entrants expected to test Wednesday in preparation for Saturday night’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway, the aero package for the 500-mile battle have been revealed by INDYCAR.

The package for the event is closely patterned after the one used by teams at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500, except for one major exception: No rear wing wickers.

Eight drivers, including IZOD IndyCar Series title contenders Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay (17 points behind Power), tested the Speedway configuration last Thursday at ACS.

Speaking of Power and Hunter-Reay, the oval statistics between the two from this season so far seem to say that Power’s got a tough task ahead of him on Saturday night.

In four oval events, Hunter-Reay has two wins, an average finish of 12.5, and 136 points earned, while Power has not won on the ovals this year and has an average finish of 17.8 with 74 points earned.

One can argue that Power had the fastest car in June at Texas Motor Speedway — site of his one career oval victory so far — until a late blocking penalty knocked him out of contention for the win. But it would appear that Hunter-Reay is set to apply lots of pressure to his Australian rival as the championship comes down to the final race of the season.

A project to fix the streets of Detroit’s Belle Isle Park has begun and is expected to take eight to 10 weeks to finish, according to Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker.

Belle Isle’s return to IndyCar racing this past June was marred by widespread track surface problems that forced lengthy repairs and eventually shortened the race by a whopping 30 laps (the race only went 60 laps instead of the expected 90).

About 80,000 tons of new concrete and 3,000 square feet of asphalt will be installed after deteriorating concrete patches on the course are removed and storm drainage systems are repaired. Work will be done on Turns 5 through 12 of the course.

“As we said on race weekend when we experienced the issues with the track, we are completely dedicated to the future of this event and we would make the necessary repairs to the surface,” Denker said in a statement. “…We will be using private funds for these repairs and ultimately, this will result in better roads for not only the teams and drivers during race weekend, but also for all of the visitors to Belle Isle during the rest of the year.”

Some materials used in this article were taken from various press releases. All quotes have been attributed to their proper subjects.