IndyCar president Jay Frye flew to Elmira, N.Y., last Thursday to honor team owner and former IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal, who was presented with the Cameron Argetsinger Award for outstanding contributions to motorsports.
But Frye’s public thank you to Watkins Glen president Michael Printup and subsequent comments about IndyCar returning to the iconic road course had Twitter and text messages blowing up all night with speculation that open-wheel racing was headed back to upstate New York.
If only it was that easy. Despite the positive message from Frye, his warm reception from the local businessmen, and the optimistic predictions from fans, it’s only wishful thinking at this point.
“I hadn’t been back since we left, and the main purpose of my talk was to publicly thank Michael for bailing us out when Boston didn’t happen,” said Frye, referring to The Glen filling in for the phantom race in Beantown in 2016 and 2017.
“And then I said there are a lot of smart people in this room, and we should figure out a way to make this happen because it’s a world-class facility and IndyCar belongs here.”
Despite having two good races, the Labor Day weekend attendance was abysmal both years, and since IndyCar was basically renting the track, it was a financial flop.
“It’s frustrating and confusing. What are we missing?” continued Frye. “We don’t know. There are places you go with high expectations, and that was one of them; but it didn’t work. But I’m not saying it can’t, and Michael would love to make it work. There was a big [turnout] of local business leaders there the other night, and they said, ‘We gotta get you guys back here’, so that was very cool.
“We give up on things too quickly sometimes. Watkins Glen is historic and everything IndyCar is, the drivers love it, we love going there and they want us there. There is nothing imminent and we’re not even talking about it – it might be five years, and it might never happen. But I was just making sure the door was open again.”
The NASCAR Cup Series race at The Glen draws a monster crowd, yet the IMSA 6-hour race held on Sunday got a similar turnout to IndyCar, so it seems natural that the two could stage a doubleheader like they do at Long Beach and Detroit and just have IndyCar run on Saturday, with races being shown on NBC or NBCSN.
“I know IMSA sees how well it works at Long Beach, so how to we do that more often? It’s like Laguna Seca this year: IMSA runs there the week before we do, so wouldn’t it be better for both of us to have one, big weekend?” reasoned Frye.
As for the 2020 schedule, IndyCar’s boss is hopeful it’s going to be finalized in the next few weeks, and the speculation is that Richmond’s racy short oval stands a good chance of returning after an 11-year absence.
But RACER.com has learned that doesn’t necessarily mean Pocono is going away, so stay turned.