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Sports Business

Tracks fight for spot on IRL slate

July 14, 2008
There will be a flurry of off-track activity in the next two weeks as the Indy Racing League finalizes its 2009 schedule. Series officials are expected to sit down with several track operators in the next few days to discuss their future with the IRL.

The IRL is trying to incorporate some of the former Champ Car’s most promising markets along with a handful of potential new markets while trying to determine which of its current venues it should retain. The 2009 schedule is expected to have 18 or 19 races.

“We’re not going to please everyone, so at the end of the day we do have to make a decision we’re charged with making, and that’s balancing all considerations and making the best call for our business,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL’s commercial division.

Nashville, where the IRL raced last weekend, could be on the outside looking in. Team officials complained that the track is not conducive to good racing, and spectators complained that there was far too little passing and side-by-side racing. IRL officials were upset by what they perceived as a lack of promotion by track and city officials for the event.

But Nashville does have some things going for it. It has hosted an IRL race going back to 2001 and it is the headquarter for the series’ tire manufacturer, Firestone.

Firestone routinely brings 2,000 to 4,000 people out for the race weekend for corporate entertaining. The tire company also helps promote the event. Officials for Nashville Superspeedway said they intend to fight to keep the event on the IRL calendar.

As part of the reunification earlier this year, Long Beach, Calif., Edmonton and Surfers Paradise in Australia were added to the mix. Another race in Toronto appears very likely to be on the 2009 schedule.

The merger also has produced interest from track owners from Mexico to Oregon and New Hampshire. Las Vegas is also said to be another strong candidate to host an IRL race in 2009. Miami, meanwhile, appears to be another current IRL market that will likely be cut from the 2009 schedule, league sources said.
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