Report: IndyCar Series may return to Road America in 2014

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As NASCAR’s Nationwide Series prepares for its fourth go-round on the challenging and twisting 4.05-mile, 14-turn road course at Road America in central Wisconsin this Saturday, a report Wednesday suggests that Indy cars may soon return there, perhaps as early as next season.

SpeedTV.com’s Robin Miller reported that the open-wheel series is considering hosting a return to two annual races in the Badger State, continuing its run at The Milwaukee Mile in suburban West Allis, Wisc., as well racing for the first time in its history at Road America.

Since 1956, there have been 89 open-wheel races at Milwaukee, spanning from USAC to CART/Champ Car to the Izod IndyCar Series, which has raced there for nine of the last 10 years, including last weekend.

Meanwhile, for 25 years Road America was the exclusive province of CART and the succeeding Champ Car World Series until the latter went out of business following the 2007 season. Open-wheel cars have not raced there since.

It was also during that 25-year reign at Road America that CART/Champ Car ran two races per year — one each at both tracks — oftentimes with sellout crowds at both venues, drawing tens of thousands of fans from throughout the Midwest and Canada.

Now a move is underway to bring the IndyCar series to Road America as early as next season.

Road America president George Bruggenthies told Miller, “I’ve reached out to IndyCar and had a meeting with (IndyCar CEO) Mark Miles back in April at Long Beach and we’d like to bring Indy cars back.”

But for as much as Bruggenthies would like to see open-wheel racing back at his bucolic track in the middle of America’s Dairyland, IndyCar has been non-committal. Part of the reason is the contract to promote the Milwaukee race, which has been held by team owner and former Indy car star driver Michael Andretti for the last two races there, expired after last weekend’s race.

“Bobby Rahal sat in on our meeting and expounded on the virtues of Road America to him (Miles) and we discussed possible dates but I haven’t heard from him since,” Bruggenthis said. “I reached out again last weekend because we were only an hour apart when (Miles) was in Milwaukee, but I never got a response. I know he’d like to end the season around Labor Day and we’d be fine with a September race.”

Miles told Miller in an email that he wants to see how things play out with Milwaukee and whether Andretti will extend his contract to promote the race before committing to adding a race at Road America.

But it appears Andretti Autosport wants to continue promoting the Milwaukee event, which drew around 25,000 fans on race day this past Sunday (although far below the crowds of 40,000-plus that flocked to CART races there in the past).

“A couple of things need to come together to extend this deal but we’re determined to get it done,” Kevin Healey, managing director of the Milwaukee race for Andretti, told Miller. “It was a two-year deal with the understanding of trying to make it long-term if it worked out.”

Hartley’s F1 grid penalty streak continues in Abu Dhabi

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Brendon Hartley’s record of receiving a grid penalty at every Formula 1 race he has started is set to continue in Abu Dhabi this weekend after Toro Rosso was forced to change part of his Renault power unit following the last race in Brazil.

Since making his F1 debut at the United States Grand Prix last month, Hartley has faced a grid drop at all three races he has started so far amid ongoing reliability difficulties for power unit supplier Renault.

After being forced to retire from the last race in Brazil two weeks ago due to an engine issue, Hartley has received a 10-place grid penalty for Abu Dhabi after it was confirmed Toro Rosso had changed the MGU-H on his power unit.

Hartley is yet to score any points in F1, having retired from two of his three races so far to make his debut run to P13 in Austin his best result to date.

The Toro Rosso driver finished 20th in FP1 and 19th in FP2 during Friday’s practice sessions in Abu Dhabi as he continued to get to grips with the Yas Marina Circuit.