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INDYCAR Heading To China

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 10 2011

INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard says his series has a future in China. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

A culturally and economically historic summertime IZOD IndyCar Series race in China is among four international destinations announced Thursday by INDYCAR officials for the 2012 season.

The IndyCar Series will race on a 3.87-mile street circuit in Qingdao, China – the Yellow Sea coastal city of 8.7-million between Beijing and Shanghai that played host to the 2008 Summer Olympics sailing competition. INDYCAR also will sanction 2012 events in Toronto, Ontario; São Paulo, Brazil and Edmonton, Alberta.

“As the world global economy continues to grow and evolve, China, the world’s second-largest economy, has become a top priority with most American businesses and the sponsors that are committed to INDYCAR,” said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. “Last year, at our sponsorship summit, China was the No. 1 place our sponsors wanted to go outside of the United States.

“We are very excited and truly grateful for the full support of the Chinese Government, Qingdao City Government and related Government Bureaus in providing the opportunity to bring the IZOD IndyCar Series to China. We are committed to doing our part in making this a fantastic race event weekend to be seen on the world stage.”

The race will be contested on a temporary street circuit, with the long-term objective of constructing a permanent racing and entertainment venue. The race is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 19, which coincides with the popular Qingdao International Beer Festival.

“The China automotive industry is experiencing explosive growth and it is just smart to begin establishing our brand and business roots in the China marketplace,” said Terry Angstadt, commercial division president, INDYCAR. “Over the last three years – with full support of the Chinese Government, Qingdao City Government and related Government Bureaus – U.S.-based INDYCAR representative ARD, China race promoter Yinxin Investment, as well as major sponsor Qingdao City Construction Investment Group have worked with our team in the realization of this historic race event. We couldn’t be happier for future Chinese race fans and the extended INDYCAR family.”

INDYCAR previously competed in the Far East at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan from 2003 through September 2011. The first eight events were contested on TRW’s oval, with this year’s race moved to the facility’s road-course because of damage suffered by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation in March.

The event in Qingdao complements two other venues returning to the series calendar for 2012 – the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on Sunday, June 3, and the Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif., for a race under the lights Saturday, Sept. 15.

The 2012 season – featuring the return of engine manufacturer competition and an updated chassis –kicks off Sunday, March 25, with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla. The Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 27, with Pole Day on Saturday, May 19.

Remainder of the 2012 IndyCar schedule, and the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights schedule, will be announced soon.

Team Penske driver Will Power has been cleared to test the 2012 Chevrolet-powered Dallara IndyCar next week as he continues to recover from injuries suffered in the final race of the 2011 season.

Power was diagnosed with two small compression fractures of his thoracic vertebrae following the multiple-car accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that claimed the life of two-time/reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon on Oct. 16.

After further evaluation, series orthopedic specialist Dr. Terry Trammell determined that Power is cleared to participate in a previously-scheduled two-day test of the 2012 Chevy IndyCar at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 14-15.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon entry. “I actually haven’t had any pain in my back in the last couple of weeks, and I’m excited to continue testing the new Chevy IndyCar.”

Power will return to a track where he has had his share of success. Power won the IndyCar Series race from the pole at Barber Motorsports Park on April 10 after finishing fourth in the inaugural race at the venue in 2010.

Open-wheel icon A.J. Foyt Jr. will be seen around his native Houston a bit more in the coming days. Foyt is part of an initiative at St Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in which heart surgery patients share their stories.

Foyt, 76, is featured in a 30-second commercial airing locally, and a photo of him will be prominently displayed on a wall adjacent to the Cath lab where he underwent his procedure. The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and a current IZOD IndyCar Series team-owner, Foyt also is featured on seven billboards in the area carrying the tagline: “A.J. Foyt still has the heart of a champion.”

Foyt’s story actually began with his wife, Lucy, undergoing open-heart surgery last winter, an operation from which she has made a full recovery. When doctors asked Foyt the last time he’d had the stents he had installed in 2000 checked, they didn’t like his answer. A subsequent examination found a blockage.

Foyt underwent a procedure to install another stent to open the blockage _ complicated by the fact his doctor had to go through an existing stent to reach it. With an open-heart surgery team standing by in case the procedure didn’t work, the operation was successful.

When asked if he would “share” his story, Foyt didn’t hesitate to express his gratitude to the staff of the Texas Heart ® Institute’s cardiology team. After a full day of shooting at his race shop, a 30-second commercial was produced that is slated to continue running in 2012 after this holiday season.

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

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 10 2011
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