Last week, we looked at two of the more unlikely candidates to fill the void left by ISM Raceway on the Indycar schedule. This week, we look at two more viable options, as well as two that are a little bit out there.
On paper, Richmond raceway may be the most equivalent track to ISM, out of those that have been put out there. The .75 mile D-Oval features 14 degree banking in the turns and a 8 degree bank along the curved front stretch.
While those close confines may promote a bit of the dreaded 'pack race' the sheer short nature of Richmond traditionally prevents Indycar's from running at outright speed and especially with the newest round of aerokits afixed to the cars, downforce will be at a premium, requiring breaking and lifting heading into corners.
All in all Richmond is very similar to Iowa Speedway, which produced one of this year's most exciting races. Indeed, Iowa was actually fashioned after Richmond when initially designed.
But therein lies the biggest drawback of the track. It is so similar to Iowa. In 2018, Indycar had a perfect mix of short ovals. Phoenix with its dogleg, short and tight Iowa, and the paperclip of Gateway. By adding Richmond into that mix, the series would essentially be adding a second Iowa.
There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but for a series that touts its diversity of racing, having two nearly identical short ovals would be counter-intuititve and, dare I say, NASCAR-ish.
One other drawback of Richmond is the level of attendance needed to to fill the place. While no Indianapolis, Richmond still holds 60,000 people within its walls and those people are piled on top of each other. Bleachers fill the entire circuit, start to finish. That may sound well and good, until numbers stop dropping. And at that point the glaring silver of the empty seats becomes far more noticeable than anything taking place on track.
Perhaps the biggest advantage Richmond has going for it, however, is its location. Nestled deep in what many would consider NASCAR country, Richmond lies in a relatively untapped area for Indycar. The closest races to the tracks Virginia location would be Pocono to the north and Barber to the Southwest, both far enough away to not create conflicting markets.
That said, it IS NASCAR country, and fans may be wary to jump on board the Indycar train. They certainly were leery of the sport in the waning years of its run under IRL management, but perhaps the new pedigree of Indycar could sway them and bring Indycar to a proper oval home in the south.
Chances of a race at Richmond: 15/1
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
One of the least talked about, and perhaps most depressing losses of The Split was Indycar's presence at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. The 1.058 mile short oval held its first open wheel race back in 1992 (a race won by Bobby Rahal, by the way). With its 12 degree banking around the corners, New Hampshire provided a unique test for drivers, giving them plenty of straightaway to set up a pass, but just barely enough grip and traction to make a move stick through the corners.
It was track that required talent and a hell of a lot of guts to win at and produced some fascinating races from 1992-1995. But, like most things with The Split, New Hampshire. But, starting in 1998, New Hampshire fell off the schedule, opting instead to run NASCAR and Motorcycle racing.
Indycar tried to bring the track back after reunifying, in 2011, but that race ended under the worst conditions with race control bringing out a green flag on a still damp track and causing a truly massive low speed crash that took out many of the top drives and provoked the ire of more than a few drivers (see below).
Indianapolis 500 winner none to pleased with Indycar Race Control after the 2011 race. Photo Credit: ABC Sports.
Seriously, you can't talk about Indycar at New Hampshire and not show this picture.
Jokes and birds aside, New Hampshire remains an exciting track. It is unlike any other short oval presently on the Indycar circuit. It's long straights and tight turns create real opportunity for passing and reduce the risk of flat out pack racing.
Its New England is a location not really tapped by Indycar, especially since the departure of Watkins Glen off the schedule and it is an interesting track.
Obviously, there are many ducks to be put in a row for a race to happen at NHMS, but from what I am hearing from paddock insiders, it just may be the newest short track for Indycar in 2019.
Chances of a race at New Hampshire: 8/1.
Yes, there are a few wild cards out there.
Depending on the outcome of negotiations with Texas Motor Speedway, namely if Indycar can find a way for Texas to drop the clause in its contract forbidding a race within a certain proximity of TMS, a street race in San Antonio has been thrown around as a possible replacement for Phoenix. Nothing is solidified, it is doubtful if there is even a track map drawn up, but San Antonio is certainly on the cards and, if not in 2019, it is a place that Indycar would like to visit in the future.
But perhaps the biggest wild card now being thrown into the mix is a street race in Nashville. Around this time last year, the rumor mill was in full swing that the race would materialize, only to be shot down by Nashville's Metro Council. However, organizers are taking another track and trying to put the race on.
While initially targeting a 2020 entry, Indycar is reportedly pushing the city to try and approve a 2019 race. Track details are sketchy at this point in time, but the circuit would most likely be down on the city's waterfront area, around the Tennesse Titan's Nissan Arena.
Bruno Events, the group behind the now wildly successful Grand Prix of Alabama, are said to be behind the bid. They, along with Indycar themselves, are offering the city a sweetened deal to put the race in Music City sometime in August, so as not to conflict with the race at Barber. However, local organizers are attempting to hold the race in April so as to avoid the sweltering Nashville summer heat and humidity.
No news yet if this bid for a Nashville street race will materialize, but out of all the options presented, it certainly seems like it is the most far along.
Don't Turn Right will continue to update on the 2019 schedule as more information becomes available.