IndyCar Notes: Edmonton’s History

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 4 2010

The IZOD IndyCar Series is leaving Edmonton, Alberta behind. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Disagreement over a multi-million-dollar repaving and site improvement project at the City Centre Airport circuit has prompted IZOD IndyCar Series officials to drop the Streets of Edmonton from the 2011 schedule.

The Honda Indy Edmonton was booked for July 24, 2011 as Race No. 10 of a 17-event schedule announced in September by Randy Bernard, the Indy Racing League’s CEO. Streets of Edmonton was one of nine non-oval events on the schedule, including the Honda Indy Toronto on a 1.755-mile street course on July 10, 2011.

Octane Motorsports Events Inc. – which reportedly received approval through a City Council vote days before the July 2010 race to take over promotion of the event for three years – and the City of Edmonton could not come to an agreement by an Oct. 29 deadline.

Octane sought to retain the original 1.96-mile, 14-turn temporary course at the airport located one mile from the city’s hub. But the city closed Runway 16-34 a week after the Honda Indy Edmonton and moved air traffic to Runway 12-30, which was repaved prior to the IndyCar Series’ initial visit in July 2008. Retaining the circuit would close the airport – primarily used for cargo, by the military and private pilots – during the three days of the event.

According to an unattributed news release issued by IndyCar Wednesday from Indianapolis, the sticking point is who would cover the financial obligation – projected at $3.2-million (Canadian) – for repaving and site improvements on the closed runway and taxi roads at the airport.

“We are disappointed that the city and the promoter were unable to reach an agreement on the venue changes,” IndyCar stated in the release. “It’s unfortunate that in a time when IndyCar is experiencing momentum and growth the city would want to miss out on the opportunity to be part of it. We’ve enjoyed our time at Edmonton as the fans there truly embraced Indy-car racing.

“We currently are examining options for our schedule to see if there are opportunities to replace the event.  As we move ahead into 2011, we are confident that our schedule will continue to produce the fastest and most versatile racing in the world, challenging both driver and team alike while providing exciting entertainment for fans.”

Four venues – all operated by the NASCAR France family’s International Speedway Corp. in Daytona Beach, Fla. – were dropped after the 2010 season. Included was the historic 3.4-mile Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International natural-terrain road-course. In addition, promotional contracts with ISC’s 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway were not renewed.

The third edition of the Edmonton race was won by Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing on July 25. Dixon also won the inaugural race on July 26, 2008 en route to claiming his second series championship. Will Power of Team Penske won the event on July 26, 2009.

IndyCar’s 2011 season-opener will be contested March 27 on a 1.8-mile temporary street course in St. Petersburg, Fla. The season-ender is scheduled for October on an oval that has yet to be announced, but most likely will be the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Dallara begins Safety Cell input process: IndyCar Series regular E.J. Viso recently became the first driver to be fitted in a mockup monocoque of the 2012 IndyCar Safety Cell at Dallara Automobili in Parma, Italy.

Drivers of different heights will provide feedback regarding comfort, pedal positions, sightlines, headrests, steering wheel positions and leg room as part of the development process. Viso, of Venezuela, is among the series’ shortest drivers at 5-foot-5. American Graham Rahal, among the taller series drivers at 6-foot-2, is scheduled to visit the facility in mid-November. Additionally, Dallara personnel will measure their upright position relative to each other.

“I spent some time sitting in the cockpit of a mockup made out of a material at the moment that can be changed quickly, and we definitely found some points that need to be addressed,” said Viso, who drove for KV Racing Technology last season. “They’re all simple ones, but details will make the car even better.”

The current Dallara chassis has been run since the 2003 season. Project manager Tony Cotman said driver input is invaluable in the process of designing the chassis that will roll onto the racetrack for the start of the 2012 season.

“Most of their comments are about how they fit in the current car, what they’d like to see different in the new car and what they’d like to see different in terms of technology,” Cotman said. “Drivers want all the gadgets but obviously safety is the No. 1 priority, and if we’re going to aim for slightly higher average lap speeds, safety will inevitably come up all the time. To be honest, they’ve had some of the best ideas.”

Series TV viewership up in 2010: IndyCar’s second season on the VERSUS cable network averaged 366,000 viewers for 12 telecasts, an increase of 16.2 percent over 2009.

The championship-deciding Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2, during which Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti clinched his third title at the expense of Will Power, saw a 34 percent jump in viewers from last year.

VERSUS aired the final seven races of the 2010 season, averaging 316,000 viewers. That was up 8.2 percent from 292,000 viewers for the network’s final seven telecasts last year.  ABC’s four telecasts, which included the Indianapolis 500, averaged 2.696-million viewers, up 2.3 percent from 2.636-million viewers in ’09.

Patrick, Mann, Fisher earn awards: Danica Patrick is getting used to being honored by fans of the IndyCar Series.

“Let me know what to do to get this again next year,” Patrick, of Andretti Autosport, joked as she accepted the Indy DownForce IZOD IndyCar Series Most Popular Driver Award via a taped video message.

Patrick and Pippa Mann were honored as the Most Popular Driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, respectively, during the INDY DownForce Banquet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.

It was the sixth-straight Most Popular Driver Award for Patrick, who has won the hardware every year since joining the series in 2005. Previous winners include three-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr. (2004), Fisher (2001-2003), Al Unser Jr. (2000), Scott Goodyear (1999) and Arie Luyendyk (1997-1998).

The awards were determined by a vote of the fans at all Indy Racing League events throughout the season and on indycar.com. INDY DownForce – the IRL’s official fan club – facilitated the balloting.

Meanwhile, IndyCar team-owner/driver Sarah Fisher won the “Risk Taker Award” at the 2010 Leading Light Awards Gala presented by Women and Hi-Tech in Indianapolis. The award was in recognition of Fisher’s efforts to successfully pursue innovation while creating and building Sarah Fisher Racing. Nominees for the award must have demonstrated courage in promoting purposeful change for which success was not guaranteed.

Fisher, 30, is a nine-time starter in the Indianapolis 500. A part-time driver in 2010, she is the fastest female driver in the history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” via her one-lap (229.675 mph) and four-lap (229.439 mph) qualifying speeds in 2002.

She formed Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008 to compete in the IndyCar Series. The team has fielded up to two cars at various series events, attracting sponsorship from Dollar General and Service Central, the service brand for Big O Tires; NTB, Tire Kingdom and Merchant Auto Centers across the United States.

Established in 2000, Women and Hi-Tech is an organization of women and men whose goal is to attract, develop, retain, support and promote women who are interested in technology through networking, role-modeling, education and professional development.

2011 Indy 500 tickets available: Tickets are on sale for the 2011 Indianapolis 500. The 100th anniversary of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is set for Sunday, May 29, at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be preceded by two weeks of practice and qualifications. Pole Day is May 21.

Race Day ticket prices start at $20. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com; by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. In addition, tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. For details, contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 4 2010
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