Vegas and Fontana fight for Indy slot

IndyCar Series chief Randy Bernard has confirmed that the currently vacant final slot on the 2011 calendar is a straight fight between Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Fontana's Auto Club Speedway

Vegas and Fontana fight for Indy slot

Both tracks would be potential returnees after several years without hosting major American single-seater racing. Fontana was a Champ Car venue from 1997 to 2002 and was used by IndyCar from 2002 to 2005, while Las Vegas was part of the original Indy Racing League schedule from 1996 to 2000 before holding Champ Car races in 2004 and 2005.

Bernard said Las Vegas was currently the frontrunner for the 17th date, but that Fontana was a tough competitor.

"I think Vegas is one of the greatest cities in the world," he said. "I don't think there's a better city in the world to culminate your championships than in Vegas.

"So right now we are doing our due diligence and hoping that we can come to an agreement here very shortly on that event.

"But we also have Fontana - it's very interested if we cannot get that done. So that's one of the key reasons we have not made the decision at this point yet, but I'm optimistic that we'll see some type of decision made within the next two weeks."

If Fontana gets the slot, it would be the only International Speedway Corporation-run circuit on the IndyCar schedule, as the championship has dropped fellow ISC tracks Kansas, Chicagoland, Watkins Glen and Homestead for 2011. Instead it has strengthened its ties with the rival Speedway Motorsports Inc group, which runs established IndyCar tracks Sears Point, Kentucky and Texas, as well as 2011 returnee Loudon and Fontana's rival Las Vegas.

Bernard denied that the calendar changes were part of a conscious move away from working with ISC in favour of SMI - but acknowledged that SMI chief Bruton Smith was demonstrating great enthusiasm for IndyCar, and that attendances at ISC tracks had proved disappointing.

"We have 100 per cent confidence in all of Bruton Smith's tracks," said Bernard. "Bruton has told us time and time again that he really, really likes open-wheel racing and IndyCar, and he wants to see it grow.

"So I think that those are the type of partners that we want to make sure that we are working with, because they are not only saying it; they are doing it.

"I think that we never want to close doors with any of our promoters, especially ISC. ISC has promoted almost 70 races; 66 races in their history with us, and I think that's very important to know.

"The scheduling was a major issue; sanction agreement and fees were another, and I think third would be marketing. Those would be the key factors most likely as to why we are not going back to any of those four [ISC] tracks.

"One of the primary factors we have to look at in going somewhere is the attendance, and if you can't deliver attendance, I'm not sure why any series would want to continue to go back.

"I don't want to play an SMI-better-than-ISC game, because I think, again, I'm trying to keep both doors open, because I think it's very important. But I will say I feel very comfortable with SMI. I think that Bruton and I talked extensively, and Bruton has great ideas, and he wants to see IndyCar grow.

"When you're dealing with the top and you know that the top all the way down to all of the track presidents are fully working toward building IndyCar, that's very important to us as a series."

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