WEST ALLIS, Wis. – IndyCar officials announced this week that the scheduled race in China for later in the year has been officially cancelled, opening speculation as to where a replacement event will be held. With the likelihood that the replacement race will become the 2012season finale, many drivers and team officials have listed the tracks they would like to see added to the IndyCar docket. On Thursday, Panther driver JR Hildebrand was asked for his thoughts on both road course and oval track alternatives for the IndyCar Series this season.
“I think the IndyCar Series absolutely needs to stay in North America as we look at replacement races for China,” JR stated. “I certainly understand the benefit of China from the business and sponsor standpoint of expanding the series’ horizons, but it’s certainly been my feeling that IndyCar is the premiere American open-wheel and needs to be successful in America first.”
With speculation centered on the replacement race possibly being an oval, Hildebrand pointed to two former IndyCar staples – Phoenix International Raceway and Pocono Raceway, with Pocono’s recently repaved “Tricky Triangle” as his ultimate preference.
“On the oval side, I think those two tracks (Phoenix & Pocono) would be two good places to go,” Hildebrand said. “I’ve already heard Pocono is off the docket for this year, but that is a place where IndyCar has a lot of history, and now that it’s been repaved it would be mega fast, and I think that it could be a great event for IndyCar.”
If this year’s schedule addition were to be a road course, JR was quick to point to three tracks: Wisconsin’s Road America; Road Atlanta, one of his personal favorites; and Laguna Seca, a track he visited frequently with his father John while growing up in northern California.
“In looking at road courses,” Hildebrand began. “Elkart Lake is a no brainer. I’ve always been a proponent of Road Atlanta – or at least to have somebody go down there and test to check out the safety situation. They run LMP cars there every year, and they’re just as fast as we would go so I think it would be worth looking into. I also think Laguna Seca is a first-class facility and they do well with the MotoGP race every year, and it’s just one of those places that would make sense.”