IndyCar: Fontana out; Phoenix closer to return
The relationship between IndyCar and International Speedway Corporations has either been rock solid, fractured or non-existent during much of the past 20 years. But, at least for the immediate future, it appears only one ISC oval track will be joining Iowa on the 2016 schedule, and another will be going away.
RACER.com has learned that Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, will not be returning next year but there’s a good chance it will be replaced by Phoenix International Raceway. Fontana’s departure has since been confirmed by IndyCar.
A season-ticket holder from Fontana informed RACER Friday morning that he would be receiving a refund because the IndyCar race wasn’t going to happen in 2016.
After three different dates in three years, including a Saturday afternoon show in late June this year, Auto Club Speedway president Dave Allen had sought a late Sept. or Oct. date. Despite a record 80 lead changes by 14 drivers in the MavTV 500, only a few thousand spectators turned out and Allen (who couldn’t be reached for comment) sought a fall date at night, which would also be the season finale.
As first reported by RACER.com earlier this month, Phoenix is interested in bringing Indy cars back in 2016 and it’s got a date in mind but it remains a work in progress.
"We’re excited about the possibilities and we are working diligently to make it happen," said Jay Frye, the chief revenue officer for IndyCar and Hulman Motorpsorts who initiated the conversations with International Speedway Corporation.
"Our sponsors, teams and fans are enthused about the possibility of going back to one of IndyCar’s best tracks and I’m confident that Bryan Sperber (PIR president) can make this a great event. Both sides want it to happen but it’s not done yet."
The desired date would be April 2, 2016, which is a Saturday night, and it would open IndyCar’s west coast swing since Long Beach is already set for April 15-17.
"It would be PIR’s only night race since both NASCAR shows are during the day and IndyCars never ran there before at night so we like that option," said Frye, a former NASCAR team owner whose ties with IndyCar go back to the Valvoline days.
"Phoenix has been re-configured since IndyCar last ran there so that’s also another exciting prospect to this scenario."
PIR was built for Indy cars, opened in 1964 and became a bastion for USAC and then CART until The Split with the Indy Racing League in 1996. The crowds, which topped 55,000 from 1993-1995, dwindled to a few thousand in the IRL days before being dropped after 2005.
Frye called ISC president John Saunders to explore the possibilities of returning to ex-IndyCar venues like Richmond, Homestead, Watkins Glen and Phoenix.
"I just said how can we work together better and what can we do? We need to get X number of events locked down for three or four years and get some consistency in our schedule."