Daniel Incandela Photo - IndyCar Media
Fourth Turn - From Kentucky Speedway
by Paul Gohde
Sparta, KY - Hang on Wisconsin Indy Car fans, your wait is almost over. The Indy Racing League said in a weekend release that on next Friday, September 10th, the 2011 series schedule will be released. The schedule for next season is expected to show 17 dates including a change to October 1-2 for the Kentucky Speedway round. Races at Texas (a doubleheader counted as one of the 17), new events in Baltimore and New Hampshire, and the traditional Indy 500 date have previously been announced. Of interest to Wisconsin open wheel fans is whether Chicagoland Speedway will stay on the schedule, being as close to the Milwaukee market as it is. Many anticipate the removal of events from International Speedway Corp. Facilities, of which Chicago is one. Weak attendance at other ISC tracks such as Kansas, Watkins Glen and Miami-Homestead seems to be the culprit. IRL CEO Randy Bernard is thought to want Milwaukee's historic Mile on the schedule to help create a more favorable oval/ road course balance. But whether talks with the state of Wisconsin, or any potential promoters, bear any fruit is speculation at this point. If anything, a 2012 date might be a more realistic goal as adjustments to the series schedule should be further along by that time. Right now the 2011 schedule probably counts fifteen races; sixteen if Las Vegas lands the final series race. That leaves one date to be determined. Don't bet the house payment.
Beaming with pride, Kentucky Speedway is beginning to prepare for their recently announced 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Track Director of Communications Tim Bray confided that dirt is already being moved to make way for additional parking and camping facilities. The track, which sits adjacent to Interstate 71, has a listed capacity of 66,000, but is planning to expand to 100,000+ by next July's triple-header NASCAR weekend that will feature all three traveling series. Seating towers above the first and fourth turn stands are planned to accommodate the expanded turnout. With only one hotel very near the track, spectators will have to look to Cincinnati, Louisville or smaller Kentucky and Ohio towns away from the track area for places to stay. It is hoped that additional spectator amenities will spring up in the area as interest grows. The track also looks with optimism at the moving of its Indy Car race to early October in 2011. That would be closer to the end of that series' schedule, therefore making the race more meaningful in determining the series champion.
• Kentucky's 2011 schedule also shows a second Camping World Truck series event supporting the October Indy Car weekend.
• This weekend marks the 200th IRL series race dating back to its debut at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 27, 1996. Twenty varied car and driver combinations met the green flag that day including the likes of Tony Stewart, Eddie Cheever, Lyn St. James, Arie Luyendyk and Johnny O'Connell. Denver's Buzz Calkins took the win that day over Stewart and Robbie Buhl. Calkins'Victory Lane comments? "I think you're going to see the IRL take off after this In my very first (Indy car) race I wasn't expecting this."
• For those of you looking for the next wave of U. S. Drivers to move up to the Indy Car circuit- don't hold your breath. Of the fourteen drivers gridded for the Firestone Indy lights event Saturday, only two list hometowns in the States: Charlie Kimball (CA) and Brandon Wagner (IN).
• When Bruton Smith, Chairman of Speedway Motorsports, was asked in a Saturday press conference about whether the seasons' final Indy Car race should be held in Las Vegas (as he would like), or where it is now in Miami, Smith opined that "The final race doesn't deserve to be in 'North Cuba'. They should do it in a proper place. Sorry, I don't want to be outspoken."
• IRL CEO Randy Bernard, who is traveling in Europe to talk to racing entities regarding the 2012 IRL engine and chassis package, also confirmed that talks are "ongoing" with Las Vegas about hosting the final series event. Indy Car hasn't appeared in Vegas since Al Unser Jr. 's win in 2000.
• Indy Lights runner-up James Hinchcliffe is looking to move into the IZOD Indy car series in 2011, and has been working toward that for a while. "It's time to make that jump. I started in March laying plans for 2011, and for sure the goal is to move up to Indy Car. It's trying to secure that sponsorship. The conversations with Indy Car teams have been going on since May," said the Canadian. Likely series champ Vernay agreed, but says he needs to take care of business first. "I have the same goals as James. I want to go to Indy Car next year. We'll see. We wanted to be sure that we would win the championship because it's not finished yet," said the cautious Frenchman. "I'm confident for next year. I really want to go to Indy Cars. It's one of my dreams. You can have a lot more fun in America than in Europe."