IndyCar’s Mark Miles details pros, cons and difficulties of scheduling specific tracks

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles talked with media members Wednesday about the finer points of scheduling in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

He discussed many different tracks the series has raced on in the past, present and those it could return to in the future.

Auto Club Speedway (on schedule in some form off/on since 1997, IRL, CART and INDYCAR)

Scheduling – “For them to be successful, it really can’t be in the heat of the summer, and we get that.  So we gotta take that into account and look at the whole of those trade‑offs that we just talked about.  No one individual perspective is going to trump all the others.   

Attendance – “This is the third time I’ve been there for an IndyCar race, and I wasn’t wild about the crowd three years ago, but it was reduced, and I’m sure that the schedule and the weather contributed to that. So it is something that has to be taken into account and has to be worked through. It’s certainly not just about the weather, although I’m trying to be quite clear, we know the schedule had a lot to do with it.”

Phoenix International Raceway (not on schedule, last raced at in 2005, IRL)

“I don’t know that there are a lot of options. They’re not much different than Fontana for weather, so it ain’t gonna work in the summer, and they’ve got to work around, from their perspective, understandably, their other especially NASCAR events.

“So I think the focus has to be about them being so far away from their first Cup race as possible, which puts you in early February. So the judgments, or some of the considerations for them are what kind of space do they feel like they need to have between an IndyCar race and a Cup race to make them both successful.

“We would have been there before now if there were a bunch of options to choose from. I don’t think there are. By being willing to start earlier in the year, we talked about right after the Super Bowl, it does open up at least that option from our perspective … but there aren’t it’s not like there is two months between that and their first Cup race, so I think the judgments have to be made primarily by them about whether they can find a way to make ’em both work if that’s the set up. ”

Road America (not on schedule, last raced at in 2007, Champ Car)

“It’s a traditional track that’s had great history for us. We know that a lot of our fans and stakeholders, teams, would like to be there, we would like to be there. We think it’s important to talk with Milwaukee (The Milwaukee at State Fair Park) about that and we have and we do, and I think they understand that proximity can be a good thing, especially when there is cooperation between promoters and there can be a collaborative effort in effect, to build a fan base.

“From a Road America point of view, they don’t have a lot of flexibility on date. I think it’s pretty clear they would like, if we can do it, that they would like us to allow them to combine with their World Challenge event, which they just had, so they’re sort of a target on the board, and the question is, can we hit it? But it’s a focal point of our discussions, and we’re hopeful we can figure that out for next year.”

Milwaukee Mile Speedway (on schedule since 1946 under various sanctioning bodies)

Is Milwaukee a lame duck event?  – “We’re not drawing that line in the sand. I spoke to one of the senior officers of the company that promotes it today, even, and we’re both going to do what we can to see if we can continue to have Milwaukee on the schedule. Again, that’s going to take some, I think, sponsorship and it’s going to take we’re going to have to work on the date.

“This year the date is different and their time is different, and the date is different because, as I understand it, when Labor Day, by virtue of the way the calendar works, not our calendar, but “the calendar” when that moved Labor Day about a week later, the fair sort of moved with it, and our promoters believed that (the race) needed to be after the fair, and as you probably know there are lots of other goings on civically in the summer in Milwaukee as well. So we didn’t have a lot of choice as to where to put it, and they’re trying to combine the vintage car racing with IndyCar to make a terrific weekend, and that had something to do with the date. It also has something to do with the time.

“We know that the IndyCar race is a couple hours later than it has been, and we know that if you are traveling from Chicago or Indianapolis, and you’re trying to get home Sunday night, a couple of hours matters. On the other hand, the promoter definitely wanted to have the vintage racing Saturday. That means we could practice Saturday, and we got to put a lot into Sunday, including qualifying and practice, and that’s how it ended up being later. So as always, lots of moving parts. They’re not secrets, they’re not nefarious, and we hope that we can find ways to find a date where it works better for our promoter and primarily our fans.”

Importance of ovals like Fontana and Milwaukee to schedule

“Keeping the ovals on the schedule is really important to us. There are various ways we can consider helping, supporting them as you probably already know … to some extent we have showed a lot of what I will call ‘flexibility’ in sanction fee pricing in part because of that objective. Whether we can bring some sponsorship you know, there are a lot of points on the spectrum. I don’t believe that actually co-promoting when we are in their market selling tickets for them is our strength, so that seems like a bridge too far, but we care a lot about the ovals being part of the Series, along with the streets and the roads, and we’re going to do whatever we can to ensure that balance.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)