With Circuit of the America’s announcement, IndyCar’s Mark Miles keeps hitting it out of the park

IndyCar
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If we didn’t know better, one might guess that Mark Miles is in the baseball business, rather than IndyCar racing.

Over the last six months, the CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has been on a hot streak, hitting one home run after another.

First was the signing in March of NBC Sports Group to televise all IndyCar races for the next three seasons (2019-2021), including most notably, the Indianapolis 500.

Eight of the 2019 season’s races will be televised live over the air on NBC, while the other nine will be carried live on NBCSN.

Plus there’s an exciting additional component with NBC Sports Gold that will give race fans additional content they haven’t been able to get before.

Miles hit another home run in mid-July when it was announced that IndyCar would return to the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway for at least the next three seasons, starting with 2019.

We saw another bases-clearing round-tripper over the weekend with the near-sellout crowd as IndyCar returned to Portland International Raceway for the first time since 2007

Tuesday morning, Miles swung and connected again, putting another one over the fence, announcing that Circuit of the Americas will be added to the 2019 IndyCar schedule.

“I tell you, the effort that Mark and all of his staff put in to putting a great product together, giving the fans a great show, wanting the teams to have a great experience, is really impressive,” said COTA founder and chairman Bobby Epstein. “They really listen to the fans and drivers and sponsors, and they make I think perhaps an under-appreciated, under-recognized effort to put together and deliver a season of exciting racing and great venue experiences. They really wanted this to happen, and they really put together a great product.”

But wait, there may be another home run on the horizon, and this could potentially be a grand slam, arguably the biggest news to hit the IndyCar circuit since, well, since the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Only this time, it would be for keeps, rather than a one-off.

That’s right, if Fernando Alonso comes to race in IndyCar – he is testing Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park as a potential prelude to running full-time in IndyCar next season – Miles and the rest of the sport will absolutely hit it out of the park if they can lure the 2-time Formula One champ.

While NASCAR and Formula One continue to struggle, everything has been on the upswing in IndyCar, with Miles arguably the biggest force driving things.

During a Tuesday afternoon media teleconference, Miles readily admitted that Alonso would help take IndyCar to the next level on a global stage, not just increasing series popularity here in the U.S.

“We sure hope it happens,” Miles said of Alonso. “We’re trying to be helpful to that. If it happens, I think it will be another affirming step for IndyCar in its trajectory and growth. We’re hearing that right now in terms of additional interested parties, prospective international broadcasters. It might be bigger news than it might be in the States, his joining IndyCar.”

Who can forget the Fernando-mania during the month of May last year when Alonso made headlines everywhere from Indy to China to Russia to Brazil to his native Spain.

Never before had IndyCar been talked about so much on an international scale, picking up countless new fans across the Atlantic and Pacific ponds thanks to Alonso’s appearance in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

And if Alonso indeed comes to IndyCar next season – which is increasingly looking like it may happen – the circuit could give F1 a serious run for its money in terms of worldwide popularity and media attention.

Also during Tuesday’s teleconference, Miles also suggested that while he feels IndyCar is at the right balance in terms of number of races remaining the same for 2019 – 17, just like this season – he would also welcome adding perhaps one or two international races to the schedule in the future.

That would include potential venues such as Mexico, and maybe South America, where the weather and the racing could both be potentially hot in the month of February.

“You know our philosophy: we’re not looking to grow the number (17 races) at this point,” Miles said. As our economics improve that would be great, but for now I think this is about the right (number of races), we think it’s about the right length.

“Although we’re still of a view that if we could find one or two really strong international races that add value for the series and the competitors in February, that’s something we would look at. That would be an exception to the idea that we’re big enough as we’re sized right now. That would give us a reason to look at growing the number of events.

“Generally we don’t want to go too long in September. We’d like to start earlier in February if it was out of the U.S. I want to see more people in seats and more impact in the markets where we race. I think that’s generally happening and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve on that.”

And let’s not forget about Australia.

It would be awesome to see Indy cars once again return to the great down under, particularly when you have an Aussie like Will Power, who won this year’s Indianapolis 500, and also Scott Dixon, going for his fifth IndyCar championship next weekend, from nearby New Zealand.

Yes, these are good and exciting times for IndyCar, with the likely promise that they will only to continue to get better and more exciting as time moves forward.

But it makes you wonder, given all the home runs Mark Miles has hit of late, and if he gets Alonso to join the series next season, what does Miles do for an encore?

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to see what Miles has up his sleeve for the next potential homer he and IndyCar are going to hit.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)