IndyCar mulls potential replacements for Phoenix race, including Homestead-Miami Speedway

The last INDYCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was in 2010. Photo: Getty Images
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ISM Raceway officials announced two weeks ago they would not extend its three-year contract with INDYCAR, which expired after this past April’s race at the one-mile track in suburban Phoenix.

However, track president Bryan Sperber left the door open for INDYCAR to return at some unspecified point in the future.

Sperber also revealed that officials of International Speedway Corporation – parent company of ISM Raceway – are actively talking with officials of INDYCAR about potentially finding another ISC track to replace Phoenix on the schedule.

Since Sperber’s announcement, rumors and speculation have begun to build on what track could potentially take ISM’s place on the INDYCAR schedule.

MORE: Phoenix will not be on IndyCar schedule in 2019

During the NASCAR weekend this past Friday through Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, MotorSportsTalk asked an International Speedway Corporation official about reports that the top contenders to replace Phoenix in 2019 – all that have previously hosted INDYCAR races in the past – are:

* The .750-mile Richmond Raceway, which hosted nine prior INDYCAR races from 2001 through 2009.

* The 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, which hosted 10 INDYCAR races from 2001 through 2010.

* The 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, which hosted 14 INDYCAR races from 1997 through 2005 and again from 2012 through 2015.

The ISC official, who asked to not be named for this story, quickly discounted Chicagoland and Auto Club Speedway, but then threw out a curve ball, telling MotorSportsTalk, “you might want to look south, like maybe Homestead.”

That’s right, the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, which previously hosted CART and IndyCar for a combined 15 races from 1996 through 2010.

In response, an INDYCAR official — who also requested anonymity — told MotorSportsTalk, “ISC said when they announced the ISM situation that they were talking to INDYCAR about other venues, and at this point, that’s all there is.

“We don’t have any signed deals yet with anybody, and we’re talking to more than just ISC, as we always do. … At this stage, we don’t have anything concrete to say because it’s all still in talks.”

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After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

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“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”