Future Of INDYCAR In Loudon In Doubt

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 14 2011

Will Power and Danica Patrick spin on the final attempt at a restart at New Hampshire on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

LOUDON, N.H. – The first IndyCar race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 12 years could also be the last.

Race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay hopes that is not the case.

“This is a very challenging and fun racetrack and I hope we come back here for many years to come,’’ he said after the rain-shortened MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 on Sunday.

The race was run under a one-year agreement between the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Loudon track.

Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of NHMS, said earlier in the week that he hoped for a crowd of perhaps 35,000 in the facility that seats 95,000 and often sells out for the track’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

But Gappens said that was predicated on good walk-up sales on race day. With rain threatening throughout Sunday, the crowd remained sparse.

Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar, said before the race that he hopes the event continues.

“Jerry Gappens and (track owner) Bruton Smith, I think the world of,’’ Bernard said. “And when we decided to have an event here, we knew we were going to have to build on it. The last time they had a (IndyCar) race here I believe there was (a crowd of) 7,500 and the race before that there was 8,000.’’

Bernard added that former track owner Bob Bahre, who was running the facility when the open-wheel

New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Jerry Gappens presents race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay with a lobster. Will it be the final lobster for IndyCar? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

cars first raced here, said there never were more than 40,000 paid for an IndyCar race here.

“So I think that we knew from day one that it was an area we were going to have to work on, but it’s an area that we like and a track that we really like,’’ Bernard said. “And, I think that sometimes you have to invest in your future, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

“After this is over, Bruton and Jerry and I will sit down and determine if there is a way to put a deal together because I think that it’s going to take a couple of years to continue to build this. The team owners and drivers and everybody is very excited to race today. They love this track.’’

Gappens estimated there were about 30,000 fans on hand Sunday.

“The weather kicked us in the butt, but I don’t apologize to for any event that draws 30,000 people,’’ he said. “Having said that, there’s room for improvement and we need to do that.’’

He said a decision has to be made by Sept. 1 and that track officials will study the numbers before talking with Bernard about the future.

“The thing that impressed me is how many fans were having fun here today,’’ he added.  “I’d like to see us selling 50,000 tickets and, if we can get it up there, it will be a very special event.’’

Barnard said the 2012 IndyCar schedule is expected to be released sometime in Mid-September.<

WHO WON?: While Ryan Hunter-Reay was awarded the victory Sunday, runner-up Oriol Servia was trying to make a case that he actually won the race.

On the final aborted restart, Servia said he was ahead of Hunter-Reay after the green flag waved and before the yellow caution flag came back out.

“I think it was really wet out there and we shouldn’t have gone out, but they threw the green and I was ahead when the yellow went out,’’ the Spaniard said. “Any racing, even here, when you call the leader, that is the way it stands. They called me the leader and then they decide to reverse it. I am very upset.

“Race control called ‘Leader car No. 2’ (on the radio) and is when the yellow (flag) came out.’’

Third-place Scott Dixon also disputed the finish, saying he agreed that Servia won and he should have been scored in second.

“In my eyes, I should have been second right behind Oriol Servia because Ryan didn’t go,’’ Dixon said. “I think that Ryan deserved to win today because he had the better car and he was out front. But it went green.

“We aren’t racing USAC on dirt so why did they go back a lap and include no pace car laps and invert the order of how it actually played out?’’

Hunter-Reay obviously disagreed with those arguments.

“He led for maybe 20 feet, but there is a rule that the leader has to take the green flag first. And there is another rule that the second-place car cannot go around the leader before the (start-finish) line. I think both of those rules were broken.

“We won that race.’’

OUTDATED CARS: The IndyCar series will have all new cars next season and there is a question what can be done with the current cars that are being obsoleted.

Tony Cotman, who is heading up the new car project, said a lot of thought is being put into what to do with the old cars.

“We’ve thought a lot about what we can do, how to provide an outlet for the current cars and the current team owners,’’ Cotman said. “But I think we have to realize that the current car is so old now, technology has moved so far down the road that we just need to be smart about what direction we decide.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about whether it should be the next indy Lights car or whether it should be retired completely or whether it can be updated to show cars maybe through body work. Two or three things are on the table, but I think we need to understand that (the car) is nine years old now and technology has passed it by. Whatever we do, we need to take that into account.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 14 2011
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