Houston axed from 2015 IndyCar calendar; CTMP likely per report

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FONTANA, Calif. – Two bits of news to report this Friday for the labyrinth that is the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

The first is one race weekend that is confirmed not to return for 2015 (Houston) and the second is one that may well be joining the schedule (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

INDYCAR confirmed Friday that the Houston race weekend, which ran in October in 2013 and June of this year for doubleheader race weekends, will not be back in 2015.

Neither the series nor event officials could come to grips on a date.

“INDYCAR is thankful to Mike Lanigan and his team for all their hard work and for the tremendous support of the Grand Prix of Houston that we received from Shell, Pennzoil and Honda,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said in a statement. “We look forward to a continued relationship with Mi-Jack Promotions and will always keep our options open when it comes to an important market like Houston.”

Meanwhile it appears forward momentum is occurring for CTMP to make at least a one-off appearance on an IndyCar calendar.

Per the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin, Green Savoree Promotions’ proposed June 5-7 date for the Toronto street race at Exhibition Place is now off because the IndyCar race date has gone to Texas Motor Speedway that weekend.

But CTMP and Green Savoree officials are working to find a suitable date for IndyCar to race there, and still have a Canadian race weekend.

In attempting to piece the schedule together, there are several race weekends that would seem to work for a CTMP date.

The first is June 12-14, which would fall the weekend after Texas on the calendar, but would be almost completely unrealistic from a logistics and timing standpoint following the month of May, the Detroit double weekend and Texas, and a potential June 20 race at Iowa Speedway.

Another option, is during Houston’s 2014 weekend, June 26-28. That falls two weekends before the IMSA weekend at CTMP, with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race occurring July 12.

Later in July, either on Toronto’s weekend this year could also be an option for IndyCar, following the IMSA weekend (July 17-19). The last weekend in July, July 24-26, is also feasible as it would be two weeks after.

In terms of an IMSA/IndyCar shared weekend, don’t bet on it. IMSA officials have said repeatedly they will only work with IndyCar on shared weekends when it is their only way onto the schedule. Additionally, in terms of the IMSA support content on an IMSA weekend, paddock space would be limited, and the pit lane with both sets of IndyCar/IMSA equipment would be very crowded.

The intriguing part for both races though, is that by the confirmed departure of one and the likely departure of the other (Toronto), is how IndyCar will fill the race number void.

Both Houston and Toronto were doubleheader weekends last year; it would remain to be seen whether a CTMP IndyCar race would be a doubleheader race.

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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