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.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/