Photo from ap.org
In everyone’s excitement over the announcement of Road America returning to IndyCar’s schedule after a nearly decade long absence, a crucial and rather alarming fact was overlooked. The announced date for next year’s race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin coincides with Fontana’s late June date this year. Road America may be the greatest road course on the planet for all we care, but three of them couldn’t make up for the loss of the awe-inspiring Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. Famous for thrilling, edge of your seat oval racing, this year’s MAVTV 500 proved to be one of the greatest races many have ever witnessed. IndyCar refusing to race there next year would be the height of stupidity.
Photo from sports.usatoday.com
Not helping matters, the date of the Fontana race has been a moving target the last few years, going from season finale in 2014 to the solstice season this summer. Seems as though heat’s a huge factor for Californian race fans – as well as drought, earthquakes, wild fires & crime – though the racetrack does have lights the series has utilized to escape the heat of the day. Outgoing competition president Derrick Walker acknowledged Fontana’s issues when asked about its return recently. Although he called this year’s race one of the most entertaining races ever, his response wasn’t overly encouraging.
Photo from foxsports.com
Said Walker on indycar.com, “Fontana has its problems in the sense of the time of year, of when you have that event, temperature there. What we’re trying to do is keep Fontana on the schedule. But finding an available date and putting it in the best chance to succeed is what we’re working on right now. I’d say it’s still a work in progress.” Read as: not encouraging at all. He went to say, “I think IndyCar can work for it to still keep in on the schedule, which incidentally happened to be one of the most exciting races for someone as old as I am has ever seen, Fontana this year.”
Photo from wcnc.com
So while praising the racing at Fontana – which he’s required by the series to do – Walker’s also admitting it may not return and certainly won’t return on this year’s date. Of course Walker’s out the door in a couple of weeks, so it’s not really his problem, is it? Date consistency is extremely important for races to establish a fan following, race traditions and the rest. Fontana hasn’t enjoyed such consistency and won’t again next year, if it appears at all. The loss of another oval from the schedule would be bad enough, but walking away from one of the best tracks on the circuit would be unpardonable, simply stupid.
Photo from ap.org
On a brighter note for oval racing enthusiasts, Walker at least didn’t pronounce the Milwaukee Mile race dead, though like Fontana it isn’t guaranteed next year, either. Calling it a “classic track,” Walker was at least more upbeat about the country’s oldest major league sports facility. Again from indycar.com Walker stated, “We don’t see Milwaukee going off our schedule. We want it to be part of our schedule.”
Image from Indy Race Reviewer
He continued, “We’re not breaking any secrets, but George [Bruggentheis, President of Road America] has been looking at it with us to see how we can co-produce, co-promote both events. Because there’s a lot of fans in this region for IndyCar. We want to see it continue. The schedule is still being worked on. Milwaukee is still very much on the list.”
Photo from usatoday.com
It seems that Wisconsin may get a double dose of IndyCar next year and the nation’s oldest race track may live on, though sadly the chances of another breathless race for the ages in Southern California may be history. Juan Montoya foolishly called the racing at Fontana “too stupid” after the conclusion of this year’s MAVTV 500. We disagreed and contend that IndyCar failing to return to Fontana would be too stupid to stand.