Sep 19, 2010
As we predicted last week in this space, the gloves are beginning to come off in the potential dust-up between IndyCar and NASCAR. When IndyCar unveiled its 2011 schedule, it became very obvious that it wasn’t going to be business as usual between IndyCar and the International Speedway Corp. (ISC), which has very close ties with NASCAR. As we foresaw, IndyCar bumped races it had previously held at Watkins Glen, Homestead-Miami and Chicagoland Speedway -- all ISC tracks -- from its schedule. To make it a clean sweep, it also ditched its Kansas Speedway event, meaning IndyCar won’t compete on any ISC tracks next year.
To take the place of the Chicagoland race, the IZOD IndyCar series will return to the historic Milwaukee Mile, which has a rich tradition as an open-wheel venue. The switch is such a linchpin of IndyCar’s strategy that it announced its 2011 schedule in Milwaukee (or more precisely West Allis, Wis.) instead of Indianapolis. The series also added new events in New Hampshire International Speedway (August 14) and a street course in Baltimore on Labor Day weekend. What it failed to announce is the racetrack that will host its season finale. Hmmmm, maybe Homestead-Miami has an open date.In yet another move, IndyCar announced that it was dropping the Indy Racing League moniker that it adopted after Tony George split with the team owners of CART and decided to create his own racing series -- using the Indianapolis 500 as the linchpin. Current IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, who is George’s successor, says that the Indy Racing League name gained relatively little recognition, while the term IndyCar is better-known. All of which leads many observers to speculate that Bernard is spoiling to take on NASCAR to re-win the hearts and minds of American racing fans. He’s betting that other tracks will be more aggressive than ISC in promoting IndyCar series races. At the same time, he doesn’t want to come out slugging against NASCAR since the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup series race is such a big-time money-maker. Certainly there will be additional chapters as this tale unfolds, and we’ll keep you posted.
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