Richmond Raceway Hoping IndyCar Return Will Help Track's Evolution
Open wheel racing "will return" to Richmond Raceway for the first time since '09 with the '20 NTT Data IndyCar Series, and it will "continue the evolution" of the facility, according to Wayne Epps Jr. of the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH. Richmond "began discussing how it wanted more programming about two years ago," as the facility "desired additional events to align with track improvements." Richmond in September '18 cut the ribbon on a $30M infield redevelopment project. The track "began talking to IndyCar last year and tried to get on" the series’ '19 schedule. The sides "weren’t able to make things work in that time frame, but did secure the date for next year." In '09, the economic downturn, "dwindling attendance and expected loss of major sponsors led to the decision to cease IndyCar racing at the track" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 9/4). NBC's Robin Miller said the series' previous stint at Richmond saw "nice crowds every year" and despite being "in the heart of NASCAR country ... they embraced IndyCar racing." IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said Richmond "invested a lot of money" and is "working on totally transforming the fan experience." Miles: "They were our first short-track oval and we think they're going to put on a great show for us and a great crowd in the mid-Atlantic section of the country, which is important for us to get back to" ("IndyCar Series Pre-Race," NBC, 9/1).
KEEPING THE PEACE: Miller, in a piece for RACER.com, noted the original '20 IndyCar schedule had Circuit of the Americas "penciled in for March 22 -- which also happened to be the same weekend as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring" and would have left IndyCar regulars "unable to participate in IMSA's sports car endurance showcase." But COTA "did what was best for the overall landscape of North American motorsports and agreed to push back its second-ever IndyCar race to April 26." Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi "field teams in both series and reportedly lobbied hard to make sure they could participate in both races with their drivers" (RACER.com, 9/3).
TAKING A BREAK: Pocono Raceway is off the '20 IndyCar schedule, but Miles said that the track was on the schedule "as late as 'Thursday night'" and that IndyCar was "willing to have an 18-race schedule for next season." NBCSPORTS.com's Bruce Martin noted Miles and IndyCar VP/Promoter & Media Partner Relations Stephen Starks worked with Pocono officials "through late last week to try to find a way to keep the series" at the track. Miles said that there were a "variety of factors that led to the decision to not return." He emphasized that the two groups "could get together in the future, sooner, rather than later" (NBCSPORTS.com, 9/2). Miles on Sunday said "one of these days we'll get back" to the Northeast part of the country ("IndyCar Series Pre-Race," NBC, 9/1). In Pennsylvania, Keith Groller noted some drivers have "talked about the lack of attendance and the danger" of Pocono, which has "resulted in major incidents in three of the seven races, as primary causes of IndyCar’s departure" (Allentown MORNING CALL, 9/2).