The news that the Grand Prix of Boston has been called off by event promoters marked the premature end of a rocky process in Boston and dealt a blow to the momentum enjoyed by the Verizon IndyCar Series of late.
Hot off one of its most memorable races in last weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and with the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil looming, so many fans and members of the paddock held a feeling of optimism.
Then the news came that so many IndyCar (and former Champ Car) fans grew accustomed to over the past decade or so. The unorthodox but racy-looking layout of the imagined Grand Prix of Boston looks to stay just that: imagined.
Those paying attention found its cancellation hardly a surprise. The organizers of the event frequently butted heads with city and state officials during the process of securing required permits and maintaining a proper timeline to keep things moving forward. Its problems grew into a dance that most fans knew all too well. Worse than the Macarena, this dance turned into the Chicken Dance: Even those who may not know the steps could reasonably infer the inevitable.
Nevertheless, Boston’s demise casts a long shadow on a time that the Verizon IndyCar Series should enjoy some of its brightest spotlight with all stories working in its favor.
Mark Miles indicated he plans to quickly and effectively search for a Plan B to avoid a blemished schedule. His quick reaction and indication to look for a replacement proved therapeutic for those impacted by Boston’s cancellation. It also gave rise to suggestions as to what venues could, should, or would agree to host a round of the Verizon IndyCar Series a mere three months before its green flag would be scheduled to fly.
Initial rumors mentioned a race on the streets of Providence, Rhode Island could be quickly thrown together. Providence might encourage and welcome IndyCar more than Boston, but the idea of planning a street course event through a state’s capital city seems improbable at best and impossible at worst.
The importance of a race in the nation’s Northeast is all too apparent. Past attempts to gain a successful foothold with an event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the streets of Baltimore, and now the failed event in Boston proves IndyCar’s commitment to the region.
A natural default falls on Watkins Glen. The scenic, natural-terrain road course in the Finger Lakes region of New York last hosted Indy car racing in 2010. Despite its fandom among drivers and racegoers alike, the International Speedway Corporation-owned track aligned with and made preference to NASCAR. As such, the relationship between IndyCar and the Glen turned frosty. Whether a relationship could thaw in such a brief time remains a question but the track currently holds an open Labor Day date.
Does anyone want to go to Laguna Seca for Labor Day?
— Townsend Bell (@townsendbell) April 30, 2016
Townsend Bell, a racing driver and commentator, teased the idea of moving to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Boston’s stead. While many love the concept of IndyCar tearing up the Corkscrew once again, the locals greatly restricted noise ordinances and similar motorsport-impacting regulations since Champ Car last competed at the Monterey, California track. What’s more, the season finale of the Verizon IndyCar Series takes place just two weeks later and is also in California at Sonoma Raceway.
The most reasonable suggestion calls for a race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. The oblong 1.25-mile oval hosted CART and Indy car events. Under new ownership, the track, located just outside St. Louis, expressed interest in securing a new Verizon IndyCar Series race. Its willingness to accommodate the series certainly helps its chances as series leaders look for an alternative. Additionally, the race sits outside the radius of other venues like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway. Gateway’s distance from those venues gives it the unique opportunity to tap race fans in the Great Plains.
— Zach Wenzel (@zachwenzel) April 30, 2016
Ultimately, the decision of if or where to replace Boston falls on Miles and his staff. This decision on INDYCAR’s part likely will have a trickle-down effect on the other series slated for track time on the streets of Boston (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, and SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks). Whether the supporting events of the defunct Boston race follow IndyCar to an alternative venues falls on their decision makers.
One thing is certain amidst a day of questions: Boston’s loss brings the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule down to just 15 races. Events on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and oval, along with the doubleheader at Detroit, means a laughable 13 venues for a series offering arguably the most competitive racing on the planet.
While Boston’s demise does not fall directly on Miles or INDYCAR, its loss must be used as a learning opportunity. When approaching new venues, planning must be completed and secured before its formal addition to the schedule.