IndyCar Back To Fontana, But Will Bernard Be Back To IndyCar?
The INDYCAR Series has announced that it will return to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. in 2012.
But unless this year’s season-ending race is a Nielsen Ratings success, the man who negotiated the open-wheel series’ return to Auto Club may not be around to see the race as Randy Bernard, the chief executive officer of INDYCAR, said Tuesday that he would resign from his position unless the LasVegas race reaches a certain ratings number.
“Why would I say something like this? First of all,” Bernard said of threatening to resign during a teleconference with the meida, “we’re on ABC, we’re not on Versus this year. Second of all, ABC has the Charlotte (Sprint Cup) race the night before on Saturday night live on ABC which means we’re not competing against NASCAR on Sunday, and, we should get some pretty good promotions during that race. There’s a lot of reasons why I’m banking on good ratings there.”
The race at the 2-mile Fontana oval is expected be held in the autumn and will be a night race. No specific date has been announced, but the race will be a 400-miler.
Indycars have not raced at Auto Club in seven years. They are being brought back to the track as a result of a campaign initiated by track president Gillian Zucker.
“This facility was built to host open-wheel racing and Auto Club Speedway has arguably hosted some of the most exciting races in Indy car history,” said Zucker in a press release issued on the Fourth of July. “We look forward to building on the area’s history and tradition of open-wheel racing with new records and new races beginning in 2012.”
IndyCar already has two races in California – a street race in Long Beach and a road race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma – but the addition of ACS will be its only oval race.
“We feel the time is right to bring IndyCar racing back to Auto Club Speedway,” Bernard said. “We want to maintain the diverse line-up of ovals on our schedule and the addition of Auto Club Speedway adds a great venue that was built for the high-speed, wheel-to-wheel excitement of IndyCar racing under the lights.”
Bernard said more additions and subtractions to his series’ 2012 schedule could be forthcoming.
Ideally, Bernard said, he would like to have a 20-race schedule in place for next season. This year’s schedule has 19 events on it. Eight are on ovals.
“If we got to 20 events, you’re going to see some new tracks on our schedule,” Bernard said. “There is a possibility that you are going to see a couple tracks that we make take off. Right now we’re in that time of renegotiating and seeing what makes the most sense to IndyCar.”
The return to Fontana also marks are return of International Speedway Corp. to INDYCAR. The Daytona Beach-based owner of American tracks had at one time hosted races at facilities they owned in Kansas, Homestead-Miami, Joliet, Watkins Glen and Michigan.
But this year, there are no ISC tracks on the schedule and rumors of a tiff between the company and IndyCar have been making the rounds for years.
Bernard said the parting of ISC from INDYCAR’s schedule was the result of several factors, including timing and the rearranging of NASCAR schedules.
But, he said, the possibility exists for more ISC tracks to be added back to future schedules.
“I think there could be more ISC tracks on our schedule next year,” Bernard said. “I have been talking to presidents of other tracks that want to be very aggressive and are laying out plans on how they can promote our series and that’s what’s important to me.
“It’s just a matter of time before you see one, two, three ISC tracks on our schedule.”
ISC’s Kansas Speedway had hosted INDYCAR from 2001, the year the track opened, until this year, when it added a second Sprint Cup weekend.
Kansas president Pat Warren said Tueday that he has not talked to INDYCAR about a return, but, he said, “Absolutely we would be interested” in have the Indycars back at his 1.5-mile oval.
Warren said that he doubted that his track would host INDYCAR next year.
The Kansas track is waiting for word from parent company ISC about repaving its oval.
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