IndyCar

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

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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