About the only positive of the Brasilia IndyCar cancellation news thus far is that it dropped at roughly 5 p.m. ET on a Thursday, so at least a good 24 hours clear of the proverbial Friday night news dump.
Other than that, there have been more questions that have emerged as a result of the cancellation – which, although it looks bad for IndyCar, is not IndyCar’s fault.
Two key stories have come out on Friday to shed a little bit more light on the situation, the day after the race was announced as canceled by the Brazilian promoters before INDYCAR put out a statement of its own to confirm the news.
A Brazilian AP report put the story down to the single driving force that makes racing work: money.
Public prosecutors warned it would cost the local government too much and waste public funds, organizers said on Friday. Per the AP report, the government said track renovations and improvements would cost nearly $100 million.
The AP report also indicated that Brasilia is in the midst of a serious financial crisis, where some public workers’ salaries hadn’t been paid. A MotoGP race scheduled for Brazil in 2014 also was axed, because the aforementioned Brasilia circuit wouldn’t be completed in time.
The AP report also went into a potential breach of contract fine of $27 million, but said that was only valid between IndyCar and the Brazilian TV network promoter, Band TV.
A further report from FOXSports.com’s Bruce Martin added more details – Martin spoke to Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company. Miles told Martin the government funding issue cut deeper than just the IndyCar race.
“The government has a bigger issue than INDYCAR,” Miles said in that interview. “The government of Brasilia was not receiving all the funds it normally expects to receive from the national Brazilian government and there was any number of complications for the lack of national funds that were much more broad than our race. A number of cuts and cutbacks and changes and arrangements were made by the Brazilian government and we happened to be one of them.”
If your Portuguese and/or ability to read small print is strong, the full government report outlining the reasons for cancellation is linked here.
The common thread in the cancellation is surprise. Miles said drivers and teams were caught off guard; INDYCAR’s official statement was one of surprise; and several sources told MotorSportsTalk even in this week’s preseason meetings in Indianapolis, there was little to no idea this was coming.
Leave it to Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who was undoubtedly going to be one of the star attractions for this race, to sum up the feelings.
“I was caught by surprise, as far as I knew everything was going well,” Castroneves said in a statement released to media. “It’s a shame that the race was canceled, but I trust that a solution can be given to this problem in the future. I’m sorry for the fans, but things like that are beyond the control of the teams and drivers.”
Some questions immediately pop up as a result of this.
Could INDYCAR attempt a backup or replacement plan on short notice? Several sources have indicated to MST this could be a possibility. The most recent example occurred for the Milwaukee Mile in 2012, when Andretti Sports Marketing and INDYCAR worked together to revive the race in four months from February to June. Even so, that was a Herculean effort to pull off.
What does this do to Miles’ international hopes? Adding international races and shifting the schedule forward has been one of Miles’ big strategies – he even said “get your passports ready” at the 2014 championship banquet – but it appears Canada will be the only international event for 2015.
Lastly, what does this do from a reputation standpoint? Several times in Champ Car’s waning years of 2004 through 2007, the proposed Korea or China round never occurred – it became a running joke to insiders as to when the race would drop – and the Qingdao, China cancellation in 2012 also was a reminder of the peril of scheduling international events.
With this news, the cancellation isn’t even close to the end of the story. It’s merely the beginning of the next chapter in IndyCar’s “International Exploits” book that has featured a plethora of plot twists.