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09/02 2018

CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS EXPECTED TO COMPLETE 2019 INDYCAR SCHEDULE

 

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is not denying the rumor that the series is poised to announce a 2019 race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.PHOTO BY MOTORSPORT IMAGES-LAT

IndyCar set to announce season lineup on Tuesday

BY:   BRUCE MARTIN

The 2019 IndyCar Series schedule is complete and will be officially announced on Tuesday. On Saturday, the buzz in the IndyCar paddock at Portland International Raceway focused on Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, being added to the schedule.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles would not confirm COTA when asked by Autoweek Saturday at Portland, nor did he deny it. He will reveal the addition in Tuesday’s announcement.

But Miles did tell Autoweek how attractive COTA would be to the 2019 IndyCar schedule.

“COTA is a fantastic facility,” Miles told Autoweek. “It’s a great track. Austin is a great market. It’s a young, up-and-coming, growing media market. It would be interesting for us on lots of different levels.”

 “We’ve been doing what we said we would do. We have worked with a number of different possibilities including ovals and street courses as well as road courses and see who got to the finish line.”

Miles admitted the short oval at Richmond was in the mix to 2019, as was a street course race at San Antonio, Texas. But it appears COTA is the presumptive choice that will be announced on Tuesday.

“At this moment, we aren’t looking to add to the total number of races that we have right now,” Miles said. “So, Tuesday’s announcement will reveal that new venue.”

Will it be a spring race?

“That’s a pretty good guess,” Miles said.

The ability to finally go to the 20-turn, 3.427-mile road course located outside of the capital city of Texas was paved when Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth agreed to give up a geographical exclusivity clause in its contract that covered a wide area that was “hands off” to IndyCar. By giving up that geographic exclusivity, TMS will be charged a discounted sanctioning fee.

COTA is the home to the United States Grand Prix Formula 1 race held every November. There is controversy to F1’s 2019 schedule because the USGP is scheduled for the same day as the NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, leading to some angry comments from TMS president and general manager Eddie Gossage on Friday.

As for IndyCar, there is an exclusive period of time that no other race will be held in the state of Texas 30-45 days before or after the traditional June night race, which will be held next year on June 8.

Word that COTA is presumably part of the 2019 IndyCar Schedule drew positive reviews in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock on Saturday.

“That’s awesome,” driver Graham Rahal told Autoweek. “COTA is bad-ass. It’s a great place. I’m excited that it is all coming together, and it looks good. It’s a good addition to the IndyCar schedule. There are huge straightaways with plenty of passing zones, long straights, great tows, I think it will be really good.

 “Other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s probably the best racing facility in the country. This is a big step for IndyCar because it’s a great opening that Formula One had the lock on for a long time, but clearly this sport is growing in this country. Hopefully it will keep growing and improving.”

IndyCar Series team owner Michael Shank has run IMSA Prototypes and GTP cars at COTA and is excited at the prospect of taking his IndyCar team to the Texas road course.

“COTA is super technical and super flowing, a high-speed course and it’s really technical,” Shank told Autoweek. “It will be really interesting to see what an IndyCar can do around there. It will be a lot of fun and it will be real daunting seeing what an IndyCar can do there.”

Shank said the best passing zones are into Turn 1, down into the hairpin and the back straightaway.

“I think we will race well there,” Shank said. “We’ll put on a hell of a show. And, it’s a great facility to boot. I think it’s going to be really good.”

Shank hopes to run 10 IndyCar races next season and the full 17-race schedule in 2020.

“If COTA is on the schedule, we’re going to be there,” he said. “We’ll put on a hell of a show. Anybody that loves racing should go to COTA. I hope they get the deal done.”

Former Formula 1 and CART driver turned agent Stefan Johansson has been a VIP at the Formula One races at COTA and believes it will be very good for IndyCar. Johansson is Scott Dixon’s agent and also represents, among others, Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden.

“Arguably, by far, it’s the best race track in North America in terms of facilities,” Johansson told Autoweek. “Austin is a great city and it’s a great race track. With these cars, it should present pretty interesting racing, I think.

“There are certainly passing opportunities. The way IndyCar is run with push-to-pass, there will be some interesting racing there. It’s a technical track. Whoever gets the car dialed in on the day will make the difference.”

IndyCar is becoming a headline attraction at glamour tracks and the addition of COTA will add to that luster.

“COTA is a proper race track,” Johansson said. “It’s great what is happening at the moment. IndyCar has tremendous momentum now and it’s trending in the right direction. The trajectory is in the right way. The car is good, the racing is terrific. It’s the best in the world, in fat.

“It doesn’t need a lot in my opinion to put itself on the map, not just in North America, but in the world.”