Reports: IndyCar closing on Watkins Glen race

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INDYCAR appears close to filling its vacant Boston gap on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with a race at Watkins Glen International for Labor Day weekend, per multiple reports.

Mid-last-week, Autosport contacted Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles – head of INDYCAR’s parent company – who said that Watkins Glen and Gateway were leading candidates to replace the canceled Boston round, although no race was yet confirmed. Miles did tell Autosport’s Bruce Martin that a decision would likely be due next week.

And in a matter of hours this evening, the Watkins Glen appearing closer if not quite at the finish line stories are emerging, with, and USA Today Sports (via Indianapolis Star) all offering some variation of the “it’s close and it isn’t yet announced but it’s moving to that point” report.

Miles’ optimism is there and it appears any deal would need to see some form of communication this week between Watkins Glen track president Michael Printup and INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye. There’s also the matter of a Ferrari event on the Labor Day weekend, which the track has held for years, and how that fits into the equation.

IndyCar last had a six-year run at the track from 2005 to 2010. Our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell tossed a poll out last week asking where you’d want to go, and Watkins Glen was the favorite among the fans.

Meanwhile, there’s been a fair bit of testing at the newly repaved track this week. Per the track, Chip Ganassi Racing (with its two Ford GTs), Stevenson Motorsports (Audi R8 LMS), and BMW Team RLL (BMW M6 GTLM) have all been testing there today in advance of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round the first weekend of June.

Richard Westbrook, who co-drove the No. 67 Ganassi Ford to victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Ryan Briscoe last week, as well as Andrew Davis, co-driver of the No. 6 Stevenson Audi with Robin Liddell, posted pics of the newly resurface tracks on Twitter.

As ever with INDYCAR, nothing is a done deal until the ink on the contract is signed, the check clears and the green flag drops, but there’s enough positive momentum emanating from these series of reports to where the likelihood of it happening is far higher than it was last week.

We ran a post last week suggesting possible Boston replacement options, and Simon Pagenaud also told NBC Sports during a conference call last week that he’d love to have Watkins Glen on the calendar.

“I hope we can replace the race. For sure, I’m thinking of Watkins Glen,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve never been there, but it looks like a beautiful track. It’s been repaved, as well, recently. That would be a good market and really cool track to go to.”

Alex Palou wins Detroit Grand Prix from pole


DETROIT – Alex Palou won the IndyCar Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix from the pole, fending off several challenges and three late restarts during a chaotic debut for a new downtown track.

After qualifying first, Palou won by 1.1843 seconds in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda over Will Power, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.

Kyle Kirkwood (who rebounded from falling to 26th in a massive shunt on the first lap) finished sixth, followed by Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Armstrong, Marcus Ericsson and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden to round out the top 10.

As expected, there was lots of action on the nine-turn, 1.645-mile layout that made its debut Sunday with seven caution flags chewing up 32 of 100 laps – and eliminating some contenders.

With 20 laps remaining, Romain Grosjean slammed the wall in Turn 4 while running seventh in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda, which had started third. He later attributed the problem to a suspension failure.

Pato O’Ward’s shot at a decent finish fell apart during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 35. The No. 5 Dallara-Chevy’s left rear wheel was loose as O’Ward left the stall, so he stopped to allow the crew to push him back.

He returned in 26th at the end of the lead lap but then slammed the wall in Turn 9 eight laps later after overshooting the corner.

“Honestly our race went upside down on that pit stop,” O’Ward said. “All downhill from there. It is what it is.”

The yellow flew again during the next restart on Lap 49 as Sting Ray Robb went into the tire barrier in Turn 3 while Christian Lundgaard and Santino Ferrucci (who was trying to fight back onto the lead lap) also were caught scrambling in traffic.

During the caution, Graham Rahal hit the Turn 1 wall and then was rear-ended by rookie Benjamin Pedersen.

“I got a lot of understeer,” Rahal said, struggling to process what had happened to lose control of his No. 15 Dallara-Honda. “It’s on me. I need to see the tape and understand. I’m just disappointed in myself with all the errors this weekend, just not driving well. It’s hard to figure out why, but ultimately it’s on me. I’ve got to perform a heck of a lot better than that, especially on a day like this.

“It’s just not typical of me. I know you’ve got to stay on the dance floor. I don’t know what to say. We weren’t good in the race. We were in pretty bad shape. It’s disappointing. I’ve got to be better. It’s been a really tough couple of months. We need a reset. I need a reset. We need to come back much, much stronger.”

The first incident occurred in the first corner as Callum Ilott rear-ended Kyle Kirkwood on the entry into the Turn 3 hairpin (starts and restarts for the race occurred on the longest straightaway off Turn 2).

Kirkwood, who was starting after clipping the wall in qualifying, was able to continue after pitting to change the rear wing of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda.

But Ilott’s day was over after failing to complete a lap.

“I didn’t have anywhere to really go, but it was my bad for kind of being a little bit on the late side,” the Juncos Hollinger Racing driver told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I was gaining bit of time, and they just checked up a little bit more than I anticipated the last bit. I wasn’t coming with that much more speed, but I just couldn’t slow it down on the last part, so sorry to the team and sorry to Kyle cause that didn’t help him, either. On to the next one.”

After four consecutive weeks of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and on the streets of Detroit, IndyCar will take a one-week break before returning June 18 at Road America.