By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Author’s note: This is part of a 10-part series discussing tracks around the world that I feel would be a good fit for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The opinions here are expressed solely of the author and not necessarily of the Motorsports Tribune.
With this list nearing the end, there we have discussed nine tracks that could be a good fit for IndyCar to give a try. Before we reveal number one, here are a few tracks that are up for consideration.
1.) Milwaukee – Before there was an Indianapolis Motor Speedway or a 24 Hours of Le Mans, there was the Milwaukee Mile. The country’s oldest oval track is by nature a staple in American Open Wheel Racing, having hosted races under the USAC, CART, Champ Car and IndyCar banners.
The track was one of the great short ovals on the schedule and produced countless memorable moments throughout its existence. Several drivers got their first wins there, including Indy great Rick Mears (1978), fellow Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe (2008) and the late Greg Moore (1997).
The track fell on tough times in 2009 as the Wisconsin State Fair withdrew their support and the track closed up shot.
IndyCar returned in 2011 with an unknown greenhorn promoter which only lasted about a year before Andretti Sports Marketing took the reigns in 2012. Even with a formidable promoter at the helm, attendance was still low with only around 18,000 people showing up at the most – far short of the track’s 37,000 capacity.
The local support for the race was mostly nonexistent throughout the race’s final years, and rumors swirled around in 2015 indicating that it would be the last race at the famed mile.
ASM soon dissolved following the 2015 season which left Milwaukee without a promoter. Road America track president George Bruggenthies expressed some interest in promoting the race but nothing materialized.
Ultimately, while Milwaukee has a very deep history with IndyCar, the lack of interest from the local public made the race a lost cause in its final years. Reports indicate that the track will sadly become developed with something other than a racetrack.
2.) Kentucky – Kentucky Speedway in terms of race attendance was probably one of the most successful events during its tenure with IndyCar.
The race consistently sold out during its early years and fans were greeted to IndyCar’s close 1.5-mile racing. The track’s notorious rough surface added a unique element to the event and made it stand out a bit over the majority of similar ovals on the schedule.
Come 2011, the race featured a fantastic battle between underdog Ed Carpenter and the ever-dominant Dario Franchitti – with the former prevailing by 0.010 of a second. Despite the thrilling finish, the fan turnout was a massive drop, roughly around the order of around 35,000 people, which made the sellout days look like a distant memory.
The track’s grandstand upgrade designed for their long anticipated NASCAR Cup Series race also dwarfed the already minuscule crowd.
Talks quietly ceased between both parties and Kentucky was dropped
When the track was repaved earlier this year, Kentucky Speedway’s general manager Mark Simendinger told radio station 840 WHAS that there was interest in bringing IndyCar back but nothing has materialized yet.
3.) Baltimore – The Baltimore Grand Prix had a brief but somewhat memorable three year run.
IndyCar’s first foray on Charm City’s 2.04-mile street circuit in 2011 was not the most memorable, but both the 2012 and 2013 events were worth the price of admission. 2012 saw Ryan Hunter-Reay save his championship hopes with a win against title rival Will Power, while 2013 was half race, half demolition derby with several drivers having crashed out on late restarts – including Scott Dixon, who nearly saw his championship hopes vanish in a crash with Will Power.
The finish saw Simon Pagenaud claim his second career win after holding off a hungry charge from Sebastien Bourdais and his future Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden.
Even with the thrilling finish, the even bigger drama behind the scenes hindered the event. The race’s initial promoter, Baltimore Racing Development, did not meet the city’s financial expectations and was cut after the race’s 2011 running. A new promoter, Downforce Racing, moved in early in 2012 but they also ran out of money just three months into the deal, throwing the race into jeopardy.
Andretti Sports Marketing saved the race alongside local promoter Race On LLP. IndyCar’s schedule shakeup in 2014 meant that Baltimore needed to find a new date for 2014. Labor Day was unavailable due to a college football game in the city, and 2015 was dead in the water because of an American Legion Convention.
Unable to find a new date, the 2014 and 2015 races were canceled just less than two weeks after the 2013 race.