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Adieu to Boston and what’s next?

April 30, 2016

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30 April 2016 – Late Friday afternoon, the news started trickling in, beginning with postings of an online Boston Herald story that said INDYCAR’s Labor Day weekend race was off. The event had problems right from the announcement, as the city never put its weight behind the program.

Granted, that’s the way it was in Long Beach back in the 1970s before Chris Pook got Formula 1 champion Phil Hill and All American Racers’ owner Dan Gurney behind it, but why INDYCAR put its faith in a town that had already nixed the 2024 Olympics, none of us will ever know. When it comes to being a NIMBY, the city of Boston’s Seaport area rates No. 1.

Apparently, the cancellation threw the series for a loop. The statement that came from offices on 16th street in Indianapolis sure sounded like these deer were caught in bright LED headlights. The Herald’s story came late in the afternoon. It stated the organizers were caught out by the city’s demands and weren’t about to run in diverse routes all at once to meet the strictures imposed, new ones seemingly on a daily basis.

About an hour after the Herald’s story broke, the series stated: “INDYCAR was made aware of the news involving the Grand Prix of Boston this evening. We are obviously disappointed with these media reports and are in the process of gathering additional details and will respond accordingly at the appropriate time. At this stage it is premature for INDYCAR to comment further on the situation locally in Boston or the prospect of an alternate event.”

The race’s organizers went a bit further in their explanation of things: the city had asked for more and more money through a line of credit, making the racing “fiscally untenable,” the group run by John Casey, CEO and president, Grand Prix of Boston said. Casey recognized that “an event of this magnitude requires considerably city and state support.”

Although the race’s organizers did conquer many obstacles set for them by the city, “the most recent demands regarding the flood zone issues and requirements of additional expenditure on the line of credit with no guarantees of overcoming those issues,” left the group no option other than to cancel the race at Boston’s waterfront.

Casey and his group are looking for other options to have a Labor Day weekend event in the Northeast corridor of the United States. Providence, Rhode Island, which had been mentioned as a Boston alternate early in the going, is under consideration. After all, the race had secured a pile of commercial partners and many fans had already purchased tickets for the condemned contest. And Providence isn’t terribly far from Boston.

Casey lamented the hard work of his 50-plus person team, “as well as the city and state agency personnel who have been working tirelessly to find successful and viable solutions. Unfortunately,” he said, “we are at an impasse.”

This is not the first impasse for the Verizon IndyCar Series and comes 15 years – to the day – since CART failed to race on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway high banked oval when racers complained of – or suffered silently through – vertigo and other physical issues while practicing and qualifying in the mid 230-mph range. Sure these are different scenarios, but both speak to not listening to what’s being thrown at you, whether by a race organizer or by drivers and teams.

It comes a year after INDYCAR failed to secure a second race at NOLA after scheduling at the wrong time (kinda like Phoenix earlier this month?) at the wrong place (a recognized club circuit) for all the wrong reasons.

INDYCAR has made a practice of doing things wrong and failing to remember how and why they did so. There was great talk about the possibility of a Mexico City race as this season’s opener, but that didn’t come true. Qingdao, China was on the docket before Mark Miles came onboard and, thankfully, no one got their visas handled in time to cancel that one.

The series hasn’t had a race outside the USA since 2013 in Brazil. The series hasn’t had a race in the northeast corner of its home country since 2011 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s mile oval, when then president of competition/chief steward Brian Barnhart sent the troops out in a mist and everyone promptly crashed, throwing 2014 champion Will Power into a two-fingered rage.

The news set 10-fingered “experts” off on a wild rampage of suggestions where to race on Labor Day. Go to Kentucky, Kansas, Chicagoland they said. How about Watkins Glen? Cleveland? Many ideas, but the problem is time, as there sure isn’t sufficient time to put anything together properly, much less find a promoter who wants to expend money, time and energy.

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Co. who own the Verizon IndyCar Series, along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, all of its holdings and the commercial ventures that allow the Hulman-George family to conduct the racing all of us love, was definitely caught in crosshairs over this news. He did allude that the series has been looking to alternative plans but was not ready to share these with anyone until and unless they were set in stone.

Those kinds of statements make me wonder whether the sanctioning body has received any monies to date from the Boston organizers or whether they’re left to bleed through this cancellation as they likely have done with others. And once again I’m reminded of the adage that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Sure looks that way here.

By Anne Proffit

 

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