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Report: Could IndyCar return to the Gold Coast in Australia?

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The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule features a number of welcome returns. Phoenix International Raceway was a decent return back in April, while Road America’s return last weekend was all sorts of warm and fuzzy. Watkins Glen International will have its chance on Labor Day weekend in September.

Could the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise in Australia, be next?

The Gold Coast Bulletin in Australia caught wind of some government talks that lock in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship – the series formerly known as V8 Supercars – through 2019 on the Gold Coast at the truncated Surfers Paradise street circuit.

And if a private consortium has its way, and can negotiate with the Supercars, IndyCars could return perhaps in 2017 with a greater likelihood in 2018.

“We are talking to TEQ and the US-based IndyCars,” a consortium spokesman told the Bulletin.

“All our concern at the moment is on securing the approval through government to hold the event with IndyCars as the major attraction — 2017 is a possibility, 2018 is more than possible,” the spokesman added.

INDYCAR later added a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“INDYCAR is in the process of investigating potential venues for the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, which includes a number of conversations with international parties interested in hosting an event. INDYCAR has an extended history at Surfers Paradise and many of its teams and drivers fondly recall the great events and large crowds in Australia. However, at this time, we are not going to comment on specifics as it pertains to the status of any prospective venue.”

IndyCar – in its prior guise as CART or Champ Car – raced points events at Surfers Paradise from 1991 through 2007. It ran in March through 1997 before shifting to October in 1998. The race only had one repeat winner in Sebastien Bourdais, who won in both 2005 and 2007.

In 2008, Surfers Paradise was added as part of the Champ Car-IndyCar merger but as a non-points race following that year’s season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Ryan Briscoe won it for Team Penske, the Australian driver thus becoming the only local to have won in his home country in any prior open-wheel running.

Australia still has a heavy presence in IndyCar with Will Power running full-time in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, while Matthew Brabham made his series debut in the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet throughout the month of May. Brabham has been a regular fixture at tracks this year even though he hasn’t been driving in every event.

Scott Dixon hails from New Zealand and only had the opportunity to race on the Gold Coast three times, in 2001 with PacWest Racing and in 2002 and 2008 with his current team, Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

A number of IndyCar stars also moonlighted in the Gold Coast 600 Supercars race as guest co-drivers within the last decade.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?