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California Speedway gets left out of next IRL season

first_imgFONTANA — Gillian Zucker and her California Speedway staff heard the Indy Racing League announcement about the 2006 schedule on Wednesday, and they still can’t quite believe their ears. Even after months of discussions with the sanctioning body, the news — no IRL race at California Speedway — was stunning. “We disagree with the decision,” said Zucker, speedway president. “We aggressively went after a date. We are disappointed we are not on the schedule. “We think this market is phenomenal for open-wheel racing, and it was primed for the IRL to take off.” “As part of our compression process, we worked very hard to find a suitable date for Fontana and suggested a number of different dates,” Ungar said. “However, with the two Nextel Cup dates, the need to maintain separation between other dates at the California Speedway, and competing events not only in Los Angeles but throughout the southwest in the spring of the year, we couldn’t find a date that worked for everyone.” Zucker pressed the IRL for the June 4 date, a week after the Indianapolis 500, but lost it to another ISC-owned track, Watkins Glen, N.Y. Zucker said Wednesday’s announcement will not impact this year’s effort. And she asked for understanding from open-wheel fans. “We tried, but it just didn’t work out,” she said. “Who knows what the future will bring, but we definitely plan to stay in touch with the IRL.” Ungar said both sides worked hard at trying to find a date. “With the schedule that currently exists at Fontana, there were more than several dates proposed back and forth,” Ungar said. “Both ISC and the league worked very hard at trying to make something work. But if it can’t work, we can’t put a date, just any date, on the schedule that will hurt the track and the series, because that certainly doesn’t serve the market well.” “I just threw my hands up,” Zucker said. “I just didn’t understand. I mean, we asked a lot of questions. I don’t see how losing the country’s second-biggest market helps their TV partners.” Ungar said losing the market was painful but part of doing business. “Los Angeles is a great market for us. If you look just, for example, at the Indy 500 rating in Los Angeles, it was outstanding for the IndyCar Series on television,” Ungar said. “It’s not really a question of choosing to not be in a market so much as not being able to make a certain venue work with its particular schedule. “We have to take it as it’s presented to us. It’s not so much a decision on the market. That issue would have occurred no matter where that track was located. It just so happens it was located in the second-largest media market which we need to return to soon.” — Louis Brewster can be reached at (909) 386-3865. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Instead, the IRL shrunk its season by eight weeks and three races, also dropping events at Phoenix and Pikes Peak in Colorado. The compacted scheduled will feature 14 races in 25 weeks, including seven in an 11-week summertime stretch. “The primary reasons for the compacted schedule are momentum and consistency,” IRL president and chief operating officer Brian Barnhart said. “Scheduling our races on a consistent basis in a compacted time frame will give us momentum from the drop of the green flag in Miami into the month of May, right through the heart of our season and into the championship point battle.” There were other reasons for the change. “The tight lineup of races will make for increased fan interest, more sustained storylines from week to week and a more defined season,” said Ken Ungar, the IRL senior vice president for business affairs. “Finishing before the NFL and college football seasons get into full swing will definitely increase overall exposure for our sport. Our broadcast partners, ABC and ESPN, were the catalyst in moving in this direction and the prime mover in helping us get there.” In essence, the Fontana date was a victim of that decision. This year’s series season finale at California Speedway is set for Oct. 15-16, much later than next’s year Sept. 10 finale at Chicago. last_img read more