IZOD IndyCar Series officials announced that Auto Club Speedway will hold a night race in 2012, after not hosting a race for the past seven years.
“We feel the time is right to bring IndyCar racing back to Auto Club Speedway,” Randy Bernard, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO said. “We want to maintain the diverse line-up of ovals on our schedule and the addition of Auto Club Speedway adds a great venue that was built for the high-speed, wheel-to-wheel excitement of IndyCar racing under the lights.”
Bernard mentioned that there would be another date possibly added and for him, California made sense because of the protential ticket sales there.
“It’s one of the largest markets in the United States, number one,” he said. “We need more ovals. We’re trying to keep a balanced series. We also think a night race there will be very exciting. It has a lot of history with IndyCar. We think they’re some very solid partners that we can bring on to enhance the event. I will say on a personal event, Gillian and her team have been outstanding to work with, very aggressive on wanting this event.”
The 2-mile oval in Fontana, California played host to CART from 1997-2002 and the IZOD IndyCar Series from 2002 to 2005. It’s also the site of two major records for the series. Gil de Ferran set the world speed record for the fastest lap on a closed course at 241.426 mph during qualifying in 2000, while Sam Hornish Jr. averaged 207.151 mph in 2003, setting the record for the fastest race on a closed course.
“This facility was built to host open-wheel racing and Auto Club Speedway has arguably hosted some of the most exciting races in Indy car history,” Gilllian Zucker, president of Auto Club Speedway, said. “We look forward to building on the area’s history and tradition of open-wheel racing with new records and new races beginning in 2012.”
Auto Club Speedway has a lot of connections with the IndyCar Series as it was built by the Penskes with the idea to have the best open-wheel racing on it.
“In our minds, this is the most competitive place to see open-wheel racing in the country,” Zucker added. “We hold the world speed record for the fastest lap of 241 miles an hour. We know that the finishes here have been unlike any other. We feel like this is going to provide a really excellent opportunity to provide world class racing for our fans and diversify our schedule.”
The full 2012 schedule is set to be released later this year, however Bernard said that as a series, they’re looking for a balance between ovals and road courses.
“Well, we want to say we’re the fastest and most versatile race [media-credit id=2 align=”alignright” width=”213″][/media-credit]car drivers in the world,” he said. “That’s what will differentiate us from other forms of motorsports. So we need to try to live up to that. It’s very difficult sometimes when you’re trying to complement road, street and ovals. IndyCar, the tradition and history, is all about ovals. What we’re trying to do is make sure we can maintain some great racetracks for that.”
That diversity that Bernard and the fans want is partly why Zucker also wanted the California race to be a night race.
“One of the things that fans have been writing about, in addition to wanting the IndyCar Series back here at Auto Club Speedway, they also want to see racing under the lights,” Zucker said. “It provides an additional level of excitement to have a night event. So by being able to do both, we feel like we’re going to bring not only the excitement and speed of IndyCar racing but also the extra pizazz of watching them race under the lights.”
Bernard added that he is looking for a 20 race schedule for 2012 and if that happens, there will also be some more announcements coming about other tracks. However, one of the concerns in adding new dates to the schedule, though, has been the risk of having a lot of empty seats like Milwaukee had, though Zucker isn’t worried about that.
“I think, first of all, based on the timing of this announcement, it was really important for us that we were able to reach an agreement now because with the announcement coming this early we’re able to include the IZOD IndyCar Series in our renewals,” Zucker commented. “So fans who have season packages or club seat members will have an opportunity from the beginning to lock in their seats for IndyCar racing. That will help to enhance the crowd.
“In addition to that, this is something where there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t have fans asking for the return of open-wheel racing. As I know you recall, when the split happened with open-wheel racing, there were fans that were disappointed about what was going on in the industry. Some of them showed that disappointment by not attending events. Now that the series is so cohesive, has so much momentum behind it, with all the changes that Randy made in the past year, the excitement he’s bringing to the sport, I think the timing is just absolutely right.
“We’re prepared to aggressively promote it with more than a year to be able to do that. By bringing back a night event, we feel that will even enhance it more for fans. So we fully expect to have a big crowd.”
The ticket price so far that has been released is $30 for general admission with reserved seating being $50 and the club areas being $60. However, Zucker added that kids under 12 are free in the general admission sections.
“We have really seen a tremendous amount of growth in this season with families enjoying motorsports,” she added. “We want to really continue that by providing affordable pricing for people in this region who were really hit hard during this economic crisis.”