Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Shortlist

It's that time of year again! Mark Miles will inevitably tell us the schedule for the 2015 Indycar season will be released on August 30th (which really means September 30th), meaning that chatter among fans about what tracks they'll want to see on the schedule next year will increase. Here are 17 tracks (in order) in North America that I want to see Indycars at! I would love to see at least 1-3 of these tracks host an Indycar race next year, but I know that it probably won't happen ever. Anyways, here's the list and let me know what you think of it!

17. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport)
Details: 2.459 mile, 10 turn natural road course
Maximum Capacity: No measured limit, open seating to public
Location: Bowmanville, Ontario

Mosport is a track that separates the men from the boys. It is a great track in Canada that currently hosts the United Sports Car Series, Craftsmen Truck Series, and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. It hosted Indycar way back in the day, with the last year being in 1979. It would be a great track for the series, but it would need some serious safety renovations. Indycars could be dangerous there, yet very entertaining.

Ricky Taylor The #10 Corvette DP of Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor during practice for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Mosport Park on July 11, 2014 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.
Photo: Brian Cleary / Getty Images North America

16. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Track: 1.058 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 96,000
Location: Loudon, New Hampshire

New Hampshire hosted Indycar in 2011 and did not return in 2012. It's just bad faith, political bullshit. Indycar put on hell of a show. There was great racing, passing everywhere, and a whole lot of drama. Those are three things that Indycar longs for. Better attendance would be required, but I think that starts with better marketing. Unfortunately, I don't see Indycar coming back, but it would be a great sight.

LOUDON, NH- AUGUST 14:   Oriol Servia, driver of the #2 Telemundo Newman Haas Racing Dallara Honda, on track during the IZOD IndyCar Series MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 14, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Photo: Donald Miralle / Getty Images North America

15. Providence
Track: Unknown specifications, street circuit
Maximum Capacity: Unknown
Location: Providence, Rhode Island

The only two tracks on my list to have never hosted a race is Providence and Canadian Motor Speedway (still under construction). Political figures in Providence have been in serious talks with Mark Miles and Indycar officials about hosting a race in 2015. The deal has been in the works since 2013, but will it come through? I want it because it is a chance for Indycar to race on a new venue in front of a new audience, which means expanding its reach. Hopefully the race comes through and the layout is sexy.

providence
No photo credit listed

14. Nashville Superspeedway
Track: 1.333 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 50,000
Location: Lebanon, Tennessee

I'm not sure what Nashville is being used for nowadays. Indycar stopped racing there in 2008. NASCAR Nationwide and Craftsmen Truck Series both stopped in 2011. Now it's just sitting empty. The track might be up for sale soon. I don't care what happens to the track, so long as it gets back up on its feet and starts hosting something against. NASCAR, Indycar, cycling, an egg-and-spoon race for three year olds, it doesn't matter. The track is great and I hate seeing it like this.

Scott Dixon - Firestone Indy 200
Photo: Gavin Lawrence / Getty Images Sport)

13. Gateway International Speedway
Track: 1.25 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 78,000
Location: Madison, Illinois

Indycar and Gateway have a short history. CART raced there from 1997-2000, and IRL 2001-2003, and.... Well that's it. A real shame too because the track has unique layout. Turns one and two and turns three and four are different by two degrees (doesn't sound like much. but it creates havoc with setups and drivers). The backstretch is also angled to create the difference in turns. While this is one of the few tracks that have 0% chance of ending up on the schedule, I would really love to see it back.

lots of room
Photo: Peter Burke

12. Kentucky Speedway
Track: 1.5 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 107,000
Location: Sparta, Kentucky

Some of the Indycar oval races I have ever seen have happened at Kentucky. Unfortunately, it all came to an end after 2011. I can't really blame whoever pulled the plug. The 2011 attendance was awful. Well, awful isn't the right word. The attendance is an insult to the word awful. Any chance for Indycar to return would need a sizeable improvement. However, Indycar produced some fantastic racing there. Hopefully it comes back soon!

Dario Franchitti - Kentucky Indy 300 - Day 3
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

11. Chicagoland Speedway
Track: 1.5 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 75,000
Location: Joliet, Illinois

Indycar put on some great shows at Chicagoland. After the 2010 season, the relationship ended. Since then, 1.5 mile ovals have become a stigma in the Indycar world (rightfully so after Las Vegas). But the DW12 has proven that pack racing is a thing of the past. I think Indycar coming back to Chicagoland would be safe for drivers and fans. Getting it to work on paper would be tough though, as politics and finances would have to go through. Hopefully it happens! Chicagoland is right in the heart of Indycar country.

Ryan Briscoe, driver of the #6 Team Penske Dallara Honda,  leads Marco Andretti, driver of the #26 Team Venom Energy Andretti Autosport Dallara Honda, during the IndyCar Series PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on August 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images North America

10. Circuit of the Americas
Track: 3.427, 20 turn natural road course
Maximum Capacity: 120,000
Location: Austin, Texas

COTA is one hell of a venue. It makes for a perfect spot for Indycar to race at. Unfortunately, (the state of) Texas already hosts two races (three if you can both races of the Houston doubleheader, two total venues), and adding a third venue would oversaturate the market. That's the only thing I see holding this up. Indycar would love to race at COTA, and COTA would love to have us. The brand new, state of the art facility launched into the public eye thanks to Formula 1. I wonder if Indycar can help capture more domestic attention to the venue.

Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren drives during the final practice session prior to qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on November 16, 2013 in Austin, United States.
Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images North America

9. Canadian Motor Speedway
Track: 0.75 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 65,000
Location: Fort Erie, Ontario

The other track on this list that has never been raced at is Canadian Motor Speedway. It has all the makings to be a track much like Iowa. And Canadians do love their racing! I think it is a great venue in a great location with the potential to put on one hell of a show. Once it is completed, the track should be hosting a handful of races. Hope Indycar makes the shortlist!

Photo courtesy of the CMS website

8. Portland International Raceway
Track: 1.967 mile, 12 turn asphalt-concrete road course
Maximum Capacity: 86,000
Location: Portland, Oregon

A track that is full of Indycar history is Portland. They hosted Indycar between the years 1984-2007, and some thrilling ones at that. It's not too often that you hear of photo finishes on a road course, but in 1997, Mark Blundell beat out Gil de Ferran by 0.027 seconds, making it the closest finish in Indycar history on a road course. To make this event even more exciting, Raul Boesel finished 0.055 seconds behind Mark for a thrilling three-wide finish. All-in-all, this track needs to be back on the schedule. A lot of loyal, passionate fans would flock back to this event.

two down
Photo: Peter Burke

7. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Track: 2.238 mile, 11 turn road course
Maximum Capacity: 11,000
Location: Monterey, California

The race makes sense in a lot of ways. For one, an Indycar race there would be an easy sellout given the small amount of seat available. Second, Mazda is a proud sponsor of the Mazda Road to Indy, which is heavily affiliated with Indycar. If Indycar came, then all of the MRTI series could come too. Third, Indycar has a rich history at Laguna Seca. The track is synonymous with Indycar. A comeback to the track, which hasn't hosted Indycar since 2004. Hopefully this changes soon.

Photo: Peter Burke

6. Phoenix International Raceway
Track: 1 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 67,000
Location: Avondale, Arizona

Phoenix would put on some great racing if Indycars hit the track. The 1 mile short track is a uniquely shaped oval. The D-shaped tri-oval separates Phoenix from other ovals. Seeing Indycars pedal their way around the track would be amazing. Indycar raced there from 1964-2005, and then like most tracks on this list, it just disappeared. Sad. I think a lot of fans would be behind Phoenix returning.

Jacques Villeneuve, Emerson Fittipaldi, Scott Pruett, Phoenix, 1995
Photo credit: Ford

5. Watkins Glen International
Track: 3.4 mile, 11 turn road course
Maximum Capacity: 41,000
Location: Watkins Glen, New York

Indycar did not return to Watkins Glen in 2011, after six years at the track between 2005-2010. It not returning in 2011 angered many people, including myself. Given that it is one of the gems of North America, Indycar should be heavily pursuing Watkins Glen to get a race back on track. The only change that I would make is using the short, 8-turn road course configuration  that NASCAR uses versus the 11-turn configuration that has "the boot." Using the other layout would increase the number of laps and make turn 7 one wicked passing zone. Still, I would just love to see the track back.

Ryan Briscoe driving the #6 Team Penske Dallara Honda and Scott Dixon in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda lead at the start of the IRL IndyCar Series Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 6, 2008 at the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.
Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America

4. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Track: 2.71 mile, 13 turn road course
Maximum Capacity: 100,000
Location: Montreal, Quebec

The Wall of Champions is hungry for a new crop of champions that have never raced at the track. It can choose from a host of drivers, like Scott DixonRyan Hunter-ReayTony Kanaan, or Juan Pablo Montoya. The track hosts a Formula 1 race, and gets a great turnout. The track used to host NASCAR Nationwide Series, but they have since parted ways. I see the potential for Indycar to fill the void that NASCAR left. A man can dream, right?

No photo credit given

3. Michigan International Speedway
Track: 2 mile oval
Maximum Capacity: 72,000
Location: Brooklyn, Michigan

Michigan is the best oval not on the Indycar schedule at the moment. It produced some fantastic racing given its high speeds and big banking. I love this track so much that I would go as far to see it replace Pocono on the schedule. The problem is that Pocono is loved by many, and Indycar already has two races in Detroit, thus the market is a bit saturated. I'm not sure the track would get good attendance for the race. Still, this oval needs to make a comeback.

Photo: Geoff Miller

2. Grand Prix of Baltimore
Track: 2.04 mile, 12 turn street course
Maximum Capacity: 130,000-160,000
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Go ahead and call me crazy, but I miss the hell out of Baltimore. Three years. That's all we had to enjoy Indycar in Baltimore. The races' tenure was more dramatic than a Sean Bean death scene in a movie. Financial turmoil and negotiations over the future of the race were always present. However, the course is fantastic, the city is amazing, and the fan turnout was unbelievable. People came in hoards to watch the cars race. Three straight years of high attendance shows that the race can be a long term success. Unfortunately, the race was cancelled in 2014 and 2015. Fingers crossed for 2016. The only change I would make is trying to find a solution for the bump on the front stretch, but other than that I wouldn't change a thing. A stunning course in a perfect location.

A general view of the track during the IZOD IndyCar Series Baltimore Grand Prix on September 1, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images North America

1. Road America
Track: 4.048 mile, 14 turn road course
Maximum Capacity: No fixed number
Location: Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

No brainer. The number one track in my list (and just about everyone's list) is Road America. The best road course in the Western Hemisphere is time and time again left off of the Indycar calendar, and it is a joke. Indycar and Road America can't agree on the finances to get a race back. I think it is time to make something happen. The fans would rejoice and flock to the venue if Indycar returned, as Indycar raced there from 1982-2007 (excluding 2005). CAN WE GET THIS TRACK BACK ALREADY?!

Photo: Peter Burke


Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of my list! Which tracks (in North America) am I missing?! Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

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