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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.

March 29 in Motorsports History: Scott Dixon wins first race after reunification

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Reunited and it felt so good.

That’s what drivers likely thought before the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the first time since 1995, major-league open-wheel racing in the United States was under the banner of a sole sanctioning body as Champ Car and the Indy Racing Leauge had reunified just a month prior.

Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead. Photo: Jim Hines/IndyCar.

The first race after reunification also saw a reversal of fortunes for Scott Dixon, who won the race after losing the 2007 IRL championship in crushing fashion.

In the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Dixon ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of the race. The race victory – and championship – went to Dixon’s future teammate, Dario Franchitti.

But the tides turned for Dixon nearly seven months later, and the Kiwi was able to win with the help of another driver’s misfortune.

Tony Kanaan was leading with seven laps remaining when E.J. Viso spun and made contact with Kanaan’s car. Kanaan remained on track through the caution period despite suffering obvious damage to his right front suspension.

On the final restart with three laps remaining, Dixon and others cars easily passed Kanaan’s wounded car on the outside. Dixon then maintained his lead through the checkered flag to win at Homestead for the second time in his career.

“I think Marco (Andretti) and T.K. probably had a little bit better cars today, but we came through with the win, and that’s what counts,” Dixon told ESPN after his 12th career victory.

Following his victory at Homestead, Dixon continued to redeem himself through the course of the 2008 season. In May, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first (and so far only) time. Following Indy, he went on to win four more times in 2008 and won his second series championship.

Also on this date:

1998: Mika Hakkinen won the Grand Prix of Brazil, the first of eight victories in his first championship season.

2010: Will Power won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was held on a Monday morning because of rain postponing the race on Sunday.

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