The Izod IndyCar Series will race in China in 2012, choosing a street circuit in the seaport city of Qingdao to replace its traditional trip to Japan.
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The Thursday announcement of the Aug. 19 race in China comes as IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is trying to fill the 2012 schedule.
The schedule had gaps even before two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas. Bernard is waiting for the results of that accident investigation to determine whether IndyCar can continue to race on high-banked ovals such as Las Vegas and Texas.
China gives Bernard one new venue on the 2012 schedule and the return to two previous IndyCar tracks. Bernard previously announced a return to Detroit’s Belle Isle Park next June and to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in September.
IndyCar traveled to Asia the last nine years to race at the Twin Ring Motegi Superspeedway in Motegi City, Japan. But that contract has ended, and a stop in China will be IndyCar’s fourth international venue in 2012. The series also will visit Toronto, Edmonton and Sao Paulo.
”As the world global economy continues to grow and evolve, China, the world’s second-largest economy, has become a top priority with most American businesses and the sponsors that are committed to IndyCar,” Bernard said in a statement.
”Last year, at our sponsorship summit, China was the No. 1 place our sponsors wanted to go outside of the United States.”
The track for the inaugural race will be a temporary 3.87-mile street circuit in Qingdao, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics sailing competition. The long-term objective for race organizers will be constructing a permanent racing and entertainment venue.
The entire 2012 schedule has yet to be announced. The season is set to begin March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla.