One day after revealing the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule to the world, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard met the media in a Monday afternoon teleconference to discuss the ins and outs of the expanded 19-race docket.
Bernard spent the morning at Pocono Raceway -- one of two new venues that the series will visit in 2013 – to promote the Pocono 400, which will go off on July 7, 2013 and serve as part of a revived Triple Crown that will also feature the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale on Oct. 19, 2013 at Auto Club Speedway in California. Pocono CEO Brandon Igdalsky, who was also a guest on the teleconference, confirmed that his track will be on the IndyCar schedule for the next three years.
The other new venue, Houston’s Reliant Park, will be one of three stops to feature doubleheader races next season. Detroit’s Belle Isle Park and Toronto will also have races on Saturday and Sunday at their events.
Here are some of the more interesting takeaways from this morning’s teleconference:
Bernard said that the fan will be the big winner with doubleheaders in 2013, saying that he expects the average race travel distance from fans to increase with Detroit, Toronto and Houston due to them having two races on the same weekend. He also said that the decision to go with doubleheaders was made "with the understanding of a long-term strategic move." In short, they’re staying.
But why did INDYCAR choose to stage all their doubleheaders on street circuits? Bernard cited these factors.
- Belle Isle got the nod due to Roger Penske and Bud Denker’s work in revitalizing the race there and the current, multi-million dollar project to repave and improve passing on the much-maligned track. Last year’s race on Belle Isle may be remembered as the worst of the 2012 campaign by everyone save winner Scott Dixon due to widespread track surface problems. That forced the race to stop at 60 laps instead of the original 90 after lengthy repairs.
- Toronto got its doubleheader in order for INDYCAR to maintain two races in Canada for the time being after the recent demise of the Edmonton Indy. Bernard also mentioned a new Canadian TV deal with Rogers Sportsnet (owned by Rogers Communications, which in turn owns MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays) as a reason of importance to keep the two races north of the border.
- The reasoning for Houston was simple enough: Its major-market status (4th-largest city in the United States) made it "imperative," in Bernard’s words, to add a doubleheader there for early October.---
The 2013 schedule features a very noticeable gap between the Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 1 and Houston on Oct. 5-6, but don’t expect INDYCAR to plug in a 20th race for that period as Bernard said that he didn't think that additional races for 2013 was in the series' best interest. He also said that the layoff of more than a month between Baltimore and Houston was “unavoidable,” but that it was important to end the season with the 500-miler at ACS.
That led into discussion for the 2014 campaign. Bernard mentioned Providence, R.I., New Orleans, and some Canadian markets as possible venues, but also stated how important it was for those groups to get their ducks in a row early.
Igdalsky said that he knew what kind of crowd the IZOD IndyCar Series would need in 2013 at his track to call the race a success, but wouldn’t reveal it to the press. That said, he expressed confidence that he would be able to bring in a good attendance. He also told of how he decided to bring the IndyCars back to Pocono, mentioning that he wasn’t looking to do so when he made an appearance at the 2012 season opener this past March at St. Petersburg.
An interesting piece on the TV side is Texas Motor Speedway netting a Saturday night spot on ABC for its Firestone 550 on June 8, 2013.
IndyCar racing at TMS has been known for pulse-pounding action, and Bernard revealed his excitement about having the ability to showcase his series in prime-time – a situation he said he wished for just a few years ago.
"Big things will happen," said Bernard, who also expressed his thanks to the Alphabet Network for the spot and said that TMS president Eddie Gossage was "elated" with the opportunity.