Mark Miles provides latest update on 2016 schedule, 100th Indy 500 plans with IMS Radio

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company, has provided a handful of updates in an interview with IMS Radio’s Paul Page and Mark Jaynes on Saturday at Pocono Raceway.

While Auto Club Speedway track president Dave Allen had expanded on why ACS would not be on the 2016 schedule in an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Miles hadn’t expanded beyond the quote issued in INDYCAR’s press release confirming the track’s absence.

Miles did take the opportunity to do so during the interview with IMS Radio this morning.

“Fontana is a difficult situation. We think it’s a great track. But the one that we couldn’t collectively get over is that they would like to be the finale,” Miles told IMS Radio.

“We’d love to be on a super speedway. But they also need to be at night. And that was true if we put them late – like late September. We are not comfortable with an event ending at 1 a.m. on the East Coast. Our paddock understands that.

“In the end, we need to reach more people and it’s hard to do early in the morning.”

The race ended late in the first three night races back on the schedule in mid-September 2012, mid-October 2013 and late August 2014, as the season finale.

Asked whether the race could be run live at a good time for locals and a better time for TV, Miles said that was not feasible.

“I was just talking with a fan earlier, run the race for local purposes and delay it. You can’t do that,” Miles said. “It’s not something we love happening. I hope people understand for the growth of the series, we need to crown our champion with a lot of people watching.”

Miles also provided a more general update on the 2016 schedule, which should be out ideally within the next month, although is unlikely to be out by the Sonoma season finale next week.

“Let’s start with the calendar. It’ll start a little earlier, I don’t know exactly how much yet, but at least by middle of March (which is when St. Petersburg is currently scheduled, March 11-13), to at least middle of September,” Miles said.

“About the same total number of races. I expect there’s a race or two like Fontana that won’t be with us. We announced Boston on the Labor Day weekend. A lot of talk about Phoenix and it’s no secret we’re close to the finish line to get it back on the calendar. And a couple other events we’re still working on.”

Miles also spoke about goals of increasing attendance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on an annual basis, and what that entails for the Verizon IndyCar Series on the whole.

“The last couple years have shown that the race would go again. We had a total of 400,000 for the year in 2013. We need to get that to 600,000 for ’18. We’re well on our way after two years,” Miles said.

“The 500 is growing. The Grand Prix is now there. It’s because of concerts like Rolling Stones, although not many like that. There are more during races. We brought back Vintage Racing. There will be more announcements for IndyCar fans.

“We are determined as we can be to make sure the success Speedway in May radiates out to help the IndyCar series. You can’t have a great 500 without a great league.”

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar practice and qualifying at Laguna Seca

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For the first time in 15 years, Indy cars will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Monterey is the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and with four drivers mathematically eligible for the series championship, there will be plenty of story lines to follow.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden enters this weekend with a 41-point lead over second-place Alexander Rossi.

A California native, Rossi attended his first IndyCar race with his father as child at Laguna Seca when he was three years old.

He now hopes to win his first IndyCar championship at the track where he fell in love with the sport, but after suffering a broken bolt in practice 1 yesterday, he will need to find speed in P3 and qualifying today in order to put himself in the best position to fight for the title.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are also in contention to win the championship this weekend, and another title would only add to their already illustrious IndyCar careers.

Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell will call today’s on-track action from the booth, while Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET, IndyCar Practice 3, NBC Sports Gold 

Saturday 9/21, 4:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar Qualifying, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday 9/21, 6 p.m. ET, Indy Lights Race 1, NBC Sports Gold 

 

For sessions on NBC Sports Gold, be sure to have your username and password handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.