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08/11 2017

Long Beach IndyCar future secure after council vote

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Image by Perry Nelson/LAT
By Robin Miller

As RACER reported a couple weeks back, the long-term future of IndyCar racing at Long Beach has been all but a foregone conclusion, but although Kevin Kalkhoven already knew the final score, he still flew from Florida to California on Tuesday to hear the good news in person.

“When the city council accepted our proposal a few days ago it was a forgone conclusion that we were keeping the race but for something this important I wanted to be there and thank people for their recommendation,” said Kalkhoven, the co-owner of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association along with Gerry Forsythe.

“Jim Michaelian (the CEO of the LPGPA) has done an amazing job and we’ve got six years ahead of us with a five-year option. All is good.”

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Grand Prix, the second-most prestigious race on the IndyCar schedule and the longest-running street race in North America, has been an IndyCar staple since 1984. But founder Chris Pook attempted to regain control – presumably for Formula 1, although nobody from F1 has ever publicly stated its intention to return to the city street circuit it ran on from 1976-’83. So both groups had to submit proposals on why it was in Long Beach’s best interest to go with them and then financial firm KPMG was hired for $150,000 to go over all the numbers and determine the best candidate.

KPMG recommended LBGPA and on Aug. 1 the decision was made public. And while Tuesday night was a mere formality and a unanimous vote by the city council to stay with IndyCar, there was a tiny bit of trepidation from LBGPA.

“We had no idea what claims Mr. Pook was making and we didn’t know anything about KPMG, so we had no reason to be complacent,” said Kalkhoven, who also co-owns Cosworth with Forsythe (they also owned Champ Car before merging with the Indy Racing League in 2008). “We had every reason to feel confident and we also had every reason not to take any chances. The individual study was very positive and the council unanimously adopted the recommendation.”

Michaelian, who was Pook’s right-hand man before taking over operation of the Long Beach event in 2000, has worked hard at bringing back the crowds in the past few years and its format of IMSA sports cars on Saturday, a major concert on Saturday night, Robby Gordon’s trucks and the Toyota-sponsored GP is one of the biggest racing weekends of every year.

A couple of stipulations in the new contract will be that the race always must be in April and include at least 14 Indy cars, plus the city wants the time for construction and removal of the racetrack to be improved.

“We will work with the council,” said Kalkhoven. “But it’s been a good partnership and it’s going to continue for a long time.”