The IndyCar Series stuck to its prediction of releasing its 2010 race schedule this weekend at the Kentucky Speedway. In contrast, on-track activities have been delayed today on account of persistent weepers thanks to a glut of rain overnight.
The series' president of the commercial division Terry Angstadt was present at a press conference to explain some of the schedule decisions. The series' president of competition Brian Barnhart was busy inspecting the track and so could not attend.
To no-one's great surprise, new events in Brazil and at the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Al. were added for 2010 while races at The Milwaukee Mile and Richmond International Raceway were dropped.
"As we have said on a number of occasions, developing a schedule is always a challenge for a sanctioning body," Angstadt admitted. "It also takes strong and professional promoters, and we can never take them for granted."
The series maintains a 17-race schedule, split into four distinct quarters. The first four races are on road and street circuits, the next four on ovals, the following five on road and streets, and the final four on ovals. It produces a cleaner slate where car transition on the aging Dallara-Honda-Firestone package between an oval and road and street course setup can be minimized to just a few times.
Brazil opens the calendar on March 14, and runs through Homestead to finish the season on October 2. In-between are races at St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach, Kansas, the Indianapolis 500, Texas, Iowa, Watkins Glen, Toronto, Edmonton, Mid-Ohio, Infineon, Chicagoland, Kentucky, and Japan.
"I think we have a good schedule and a balanced one, with 9 street and road races, and 8 ovals," Angstadt said. "We have strived, historically, to find the balance between those two."
The Brazilian race site was not specified. Angstadt confirmed discussions with three potential sites but could not reach a decision in time to coincide with the schedule release. He did say they would confirm the site within seven to 10 days.
"We had a very successful trip down there a week ago," Angstadt said. "We have three interested cities, and an MOU signed with two of them. We will begin signing down the details with Grupo Bandeirantes (the series' Brazilian television partner). The president has publicly proclaimed his support for racing in Brazil. We were more than comfortable enough to announce we're opening in Brazil."
On the series' other new event for 2010, Jeff Ewing of Zoom Motorsports (promoters) said the series is "alive" in the Deep South and excited for the opportunity to host the series at Barber.
"We have been working with league and staff for about two years to make this happen," Ewing said. "The test in March exceeded everyone's expectations, we had over 20,000 people for 3 days. Open-wheel racing is alive in the Deep South; we're excited about the next three years and many more to come after that."
Although Brazil has hosted open-wheel races before, most recently CART events at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro from 1996 to 2000, no other circuit can hold a candle to Milwaukee in terms of open-wheel tradition. Events at the one-mile oval have been held annually since 1933 and the circuit itself has been open since 1904, five years earlier than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Angstadt, who usually left room for "open dialogue" on a lot of fronts with regard to potential schedule additions, seemed definitive about the future at Milwaukee. And it's not pretty.
"We are not planning on adding Milwaukee this year," Angstadt said, bluntly. "It has been well-documented, when I tell you we worked late into last night and this morning to allow a formula to possibly race there in 2010. We are continuing an open dialogue and hope to find something in the near future for Milwaukee, but it was not in time for this announcement and this schedule."
The track is facing a highly doubtful future unless a new promoter can be found. The Mile owes upwards of $1.9 million in sanctioning fees for its NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events ran in June. IndyCar has not said whether it was paid in full for its event held earlier this year.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the State Fair Board held discussions with three potential new promoters and one has tentatively been chosen to be announced next week.
Regardless, IndyCar racing at the Mile looks unlikely at best for 2010, and that is a shame to anyone who has ever followed the sport or has any sense of history.
Milwaukee wasn't the only casualty, so too was Richmond. The series' race this year very much underachieved, with passing all but impossible on the 0.75-mile oval. It ends a partnership that dates to 2001.
"Richmond was also a venue we enjoyed, but the business model wasn't working for ISC (International Speedway Corp.) in that regard," Angstadt said. "So we're not racing there even though we've been there a lot of years. We respect the business decision made."
The rest of the schedule is more or less unchanged. Kentucky moves to the Labor Day weekend slot formerly held by Detroit and left open this year.
Questions about Loudon, Las Vegas, Cleveland, and Road America as potential events all ended relatively in the same manner. Angstadt said he and the series had respect for the promoters and potential of the events, but could not make it work financially or with enough support for next year.
Loudon was more or less dismissed due to the challenges of the region, weather-wise, and also having two NASCAR Sprint Cup races in relatively close proximity to each other. Angstadt seemed most open on Cleveland and admitted to a lot of discussions to make it happen for 2010, but didn't quite have the backing necessary.