China race won't be replaced
INDIANAPOLIS -- INDYCAR announced that it will not seek a replacement event for the cancelled race that was scheduled for August 19 in Qingdao, China.
INDYCAR had exploratory discussions with several different tracks, including Michigan International Speedway and Road America. But the IZOD IndyCar Series elected to reduce its championship from 16 to 15 rounds.
"After carefully considering all possible options for an additional race, we felt it was in our best interest to keep our schedule at its current 15-event lineup," INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said in a statement. "We want to make sure that when we add events to our roster they have long-term potential and are given every opportunity to be successfully promoted. The more we explored, the more we felt like we were rushing what could be good, long-lasting opportunities for the sport."
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Road America appeared to be the best fit for INDYCAR. The popular road course already has an American Le Mans Series event scheduled for the open China weekend, and Indy cars and ALMS sports cars have made for a compelling doubleheader combination in recent years at venues, including Long Beach and Mid-Ohio.
However, Bernard and Road America president George Bruggenthies were unable to come to financial terms to add an IndyCar Series race to the ALMS bill.
"What's hurting the IndyCar Series is the fee, and there's really no sharing and benefits to the promoter," Bruggenthies told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Most big series have some other benefits, whether it's TV revenue, hospitality, sponsorship sharing. Those things don't exist in Indy car racing anymore.
"There's a better understanding by all parties that the fans, drivers and teams all want to come to Road America, as far as I'm concerned," he added. "That was just reiterated by this whole activity, so we're going to work toward that end."
INDYCAR's expansion into China reportedly was heavily influenced by the IndyCar Series' title sponsor, PVH Corp. clothing brand IZOD. Chinese news reports indicated the newly-elected mayor of Qingdao chose to withdraw support of the IndyCar race because he feared it would have an adverse impact on the city's popular beer festival.
"As the entitlement partner of the series, we agree that it is in the best interest of the series to focus on a long-term strategy for the future schedule instead of a quick fix for this year," stated Mike Kelly, Executive Vice President, The PVH Marketing Group.
INDYCAR had a difficult time putting together its 2012 schedule. The original release was delayed until November 2011 to include news of the IndyCar Series proposed expansion into China.
In February, a June 16 race was added at the Milwaukee Mile, and Andretti Sports Marketing had to step in as promoter to keep the Baltimore Grand Prix on the schedule.
Early release of a 2013 schedule is a priority for Bernard and INDYCAR.
"I thank all of the promoters who entertained the possibility of hosting the IZOD IndyCar Series this season," Bernard said. "It certainly validated what we already knew: there's a lot of interest from venues across North America in hosting our sport."