IndyCar formalizes its site selection process
The Verizon IndyCar Series has formalized the way the sanctioning body determines new race locations amid heightened interest from prospective promoters.
The series began sending out information packets in recent months to groups and tracks that expressed interest in hosting a race in 2017, 2018 or both.
While IndyCar did due diligence in the past, the process was less formal and more relationship-based. But as the series tries to increase its efficiency and avoid the sort of headaches that befell it in Boston, where it’s suing promoters of the now-canceled street race, it created the new request-for-proposal process, which is being called “request for qualification,” or RFQ.
“We’re trying to grow our sport, that’s no secret … and we kept getting approached by folks interested in bringing events to their respective cities,” said Stephen Starks, IndyCar’s vice president of promoter relations. “We said to ourselves, ‘We’ve never had this formal process in the past, and it makes sense for us to be able to provide information to these people in order to make a determination of whether we can continue the conversation and potentially end up with a new event.’”
IndyCar’s 16-race schedule stretches from mid-March to mid-September, and the series thinks there’s an opportunity to add races.
While declining to identify potential sites, Starks said the number of groups that have received an RFQ packet in North America is nearly double digits and is easily into double digits when including prospective hosts outside of North America. Among the parties are groups from Houston and Portland as well as Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis. IndyCar also looked at racing in China this season, making it a likely international candidate for the future.
IndyCar operates under a system where promoters pay a race sanction fee, typically between $1 million and $2 million for domestic races and more than double that for international dates, according to sources. The promoters then get to keep the at-track revenue, such as money from tickets, merchandise, hospitality and corporate partners.
Given the new process, there’s no guarantee the series will add a race next year. IndyCar’s 2017 schedule is expected to be announced possibly as early as August. By comparison, the 2016 schedule was announced in late October 2015.