The Verizon IndyCar Series put on another good show at what is becoming one of its marquee tracks, Iowa Speedway, on Saturday night for the Iowa Corn 300.
New track president Jimmy Small told the Cedar Rapids (Ia.) Gazette he is working towards a deal to make sure the series continues to race at the NASCAR-owned and operated track for 2016 and beyond.
“IndyCar is, hands down, the best race here. We want to keep it here. It’s a part of our vision to raise the overall profile of motorsports. I can’t imagine it not being here,” Small told the Gazette.
“This race, this series is really important to have here for a number of reasons.”
Iowa’s date was moved back a week this year and while it has still had a number of different dates since its first running in 2007, it has traditionally been in the same spot on the overall IndyCar calendar.
The race was held after June 20 each of the first seven runnings through 2013 before it shifted to July last year, a week before the Toronto round.
Thinking ahead to 2016, Toronto would be due to move back to its mid-July date after a one-year exception to move to June this year, because of the Pan-Am Games.
That would likely affect Iowa’s date, but not by much. It could fall in mid-July as this year, or, if the Auto Club Speedway date was moved back to the fall, Iowa could go back to its traditional late June date.
Either way, this is an event INDYCAR needs to keep, and the track wants to keep, provided it makes business sense.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.
It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.