IndyCar should be able to announce this week that the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Watkins Glen International in September, for its first race there since 2010.
Motorsport.com has learned that the classic road course venue, which was recently repaved, is now heavy favorite to replace the Grand Prix of Boston on the 2016 schedule, following the latter’s demise before it had even held a race.
President of Watkins Glen, Michael Printup, told Motorsport.com a deal was not yet done with IndyCar, but he remains hopeful it will happen this week.
“I have spoken to Jay Frye [IndyCar’s President of Competition and Operations], and although we haven’t gotten back on the phone this week yet, it's no secret that I would love to see them come back,” said Printup.
“I’m sure Jay’s spoken to other venues – he’s doing his due diligence – but Indy cars are very fast and very enjoyable at Watkins Glen…
“Like I say, we haven’t spoken this week, but it’s only Monday.”
Watkins Glen, in upstate New York, first held an Indy car race in 1979 but the event lasted just three years with Bobby Unser claiming two wins and Rick Mears the third.
When the Indy Racing League added road courses to its schedule, WGI returned to the Indy car calendar in 2005 for six years, with the victories being taken by Scott Dixon (three wins), Ryan Hunter-Reay, the late Justin Wilson and at the last race, Will Power.
Printup admitted that being a direct replacement for the failed Boston event, with an event being held on Labor Day Weekend, was not ideal for the scenic 3.4-mile track on the south tip of Seneca Lake. However, he felt date issues could be resolved.
“For one thing, Labor Day Weekend only really gives us June, July and August to promote the event,” said Printup. “But I know how hard it is to put a schedule together, so I understand why that's IndyCar’s preferred choice of dates.
“We already have our traditional Ferrari event here that weekend – they own the weekend with a closed private event, so there’s some negotiation that would need to be done.
“I think we could put a schedule together that would give both Ferrari and IndyCar enough track time. But Ferrari is a longstanding and honorable client and so we have to be sensitive to their needs, and I’ve made Jay aware of that.”
With Sonoma Raceway guaranteed as Verizon IndyCar Series’ season finale on September 16-18, and Pocono Raceway set for August 20-21, IndyCar would appear to have limited alternatives to Labor Day Weekend.
On the weekend between LDW and Sonoma, Watkins Glen plays host to the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Vintage Grand Prix, the size of which demands track action all weekend.
Hosting a race before Pocono is also unlikely to appeal to Watkins Glen, as NASCAR occupies the Aug. 4-7 slot, and gives promoters even less time to publicize the event.
“That is the difficult nut to crack,” said Printup. “If we can confirm the deal with IndyCar, we only really have three weeks to prepare for it after our NASCAR weekend. But with our Formula 1 history, we have a very stout open-wheel fanbase here, and I think we’d see the fruits of our labor.”
Asked if he thought a race this year could lead to a renewal of a long-term relationship with IndyCar, Printup said, “I would hope so. I think this is a great facility for IndyCar racing, I love IndyCar, and so long as the business model is right for the series and for us, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t continue.”