IndyCar talking possible finale at TMS

Updated: June 13, 2012, 5:07 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

One week ago, Texas Motor Speedway was a place some people in the IndyCar Series were criticizing. Now, TMS may become IndyCar's savior in 2012.

Despite the contentious nature of their relationship with TMS in the past few months, IndyCar Series officials have contacted TMS president Eddie Gossage about the possibility of ending the 2012 season at the Fort Worth track.

IndyCar announced Wednesday that the Qingdao, China race, scheduled for Aug. 19, was canceled because of a scheduling conflict in Qingdao.

"We were informed that the promoter was trying to move the event to a different date and location,'' IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard started in a statement Wednesday. "After ongoing discussions regarding alternative dates, the promoter canceled the event. A decision had to be made to allow IndyCar to plan accordingly for the second half of the season."

IndyCar's contracts with sponsors guarantee a 16-race schedule this season. The series has 15 events without China, so it needs to add a race to meet contract obligations.

One possibility is Oct. 7 at TMS, which would make Texas the season finale.

"We have been approached about it," Gossage said Wednesday. "It just came up (Tuesday), so I really haven't had much time to think about it. I just don't know the answer right now.

"We are going to discuss it internally this week. I know IndyCar needs to firm up its plans and have us respond quickly."

If it happens, the event would come three weeks after the scheduled season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. ACS president Gillian Zucker hopes IndyCar doesn't schedule a race after the one on the 2-mile Fontana oval.

"I know that having a race after ours is not Randy's first choice," Zucker said Wednesday. "His first choice is to add a race before ours. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

"Randy has a challenge on his hands. It may not be possible. If we aren't the finale, it will be extremely disappointing, but it won't change everything we are doing here to promote the event."

Zucker was asked if she will seek a reduction in the sanctioning fee if ACS isn't the circuit's finale.

"I'm not going to get into that,'' Zucker said. "Randy is trying to find the best business solution possible. I'm not going to add to his frustration right now."

What about fans who bought tickets expecting to see the season finale?

"If we have any fans who are upset about it, we would work with them," Zucker said. "I believe fans will come here because there is no better place in the world to watch these cars race than Auto Club Speedway. And it still could end up that the next-to-last race decides the championship."

The Oct. 7 weekend would work well for TMS. The Cowboys are off and the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas is the following weekend. One possible conflict would be a Texas Rangers playoff game.

"The (IndyCar) event would take place one month before our NASCAR tripleheader weekend," Gossage said. "So I'm not sure how it might impact that event."

All this talk of a season-ending race at TMS comes only two days after Gossage said he was giving IndyCar a two-week deadline to reach an agreement of racing at TMS in 2013.

"If they want to race here, let's race," Gossage said Monday. "If they don't, that's fine. We'll announce it tomorrow. No hard feelings. But I want to make a deal within a couple of weeks.

"I'm not going to let this linger like we did last year. My desire is for IndyCar to stay, but we have a plan in place either way."

IndyCar had another successful event -- a crowd of 69,000 Saturday night -- at TMS. Some drivers had concerns about racing in Texas this time, the first event on a high-banked, 1.5-mile oval since Dan Wheldon was killed in a crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October.

But the drivers were praising TMS after Saturday's event, saying aerodynamic changes made to the new DW12 chassis eliminated pack racing and made them more comfortable on the high-speed track.

Bernard told the Indianapolis Star that he wants to be the promoter at Texas if the series is going to return, a proposal Gossage said is out of the question. If IndyCar ends the season at TMS, it would be a greatly reduced rate for the sanctioning fee, sources confirmed Wednesday.

A story in the Star listed three other tracks as possible sites to end the IndyCar season. Two are road courses -- Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, Calif. The other is Pocono Raceway, a 2.5-mile oval in Long Pond, Pa.

Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who was critical of TMS before Saturday's race, tweeted Wednesday that his first choice as a replacement race is Road America. But Bernard previously said he didn't want to cannibalize the oval-track event at Milwaukee, which takes place this weekend.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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