IndyCar commits to New Orleans race in 2015
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — IndyCar will race in the New Orleans area in 2015, Gov. Bobby Jindal confirmed through a spokeswoman Sunday.
The open-wheel race will come to the 2.75-mile road course at the private NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, about 14 miles southwest of downtown New Orleans.
Jindal’s office told The Associated Press that the governor plans to make a formal and detailed announcement at the track Monday.
The $60 million NOLA Motorsports Park was designed by Alan Wilson, who also designed Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, and Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City.
The New Orleans track opened in 2011 and hosted AMA motorcycle racing in 2012. Developmental levels of open-wheel racing have run at the road course as recently as February, when it host the Cooper Tires WinterFest, featuring the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series.
While work on the complex is expected in advance of the event, the track itself is basically ready to handle an IndyCar race, said Jeff Lail, the race series coordinator for Skip Barber Racing School, which has hosted events at NOLA Motorsports Park.
“It’s really good track for being a country-club-type track,” Lail said. “There’s a lot of runoff there, so it’s pretty safe. We love going there because there’s not a lot of crash damage. There’s plenty of runoff room. ... They thought it out and made sure they had a track you could go pro racing with.”
Proposed track changes for the IndyCar race include a new pit entrance and wider, longer pit lane, as well as adding perimeter fencing and straightaway enhancements.
No race date is expected to be announced Monday as IndyCar and track officials attempt to agree on which month to run the event. It is believed NOLA wants a June race date.
The track is owned by Dr. Laney Chouest, whose family founded and operates Edison Chouest Offshore, reputedly one of the world’s leading builders and operators of sea vessels specially designed to service the offshore oil and gas industries.
IndyCar, which includes the Indianapolis 500 as its marquee event, is the premier American-based open-wheel racing series.
Currently, the series’ drivers include Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, who are former Indy 500 winners, as well as Marco Andretti, the grandson of former racing great Mario Andretti, and Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal.
The series has never raced in New Orleans. The city last hosted a significant auto racing event in 1995, when the now-defunct IMSA GT Championship series held a GTS-2 race on a street circuit running through downtown and around the Superdome.
The race will add another road course to a schedule that is already packed with road and street courses. The 18-race schedule this year consists of 12 street and road courses and just six ovals.
The New Orleans race marks four consecutive years that IndyCar has added a new event to its schedule. Pocono and Houston both returned to the schedule last season, and the series will run the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday.
IndyCar this year signed Verizon as entitlement sponsor, and the wireless provider has promised increased activation and promotion of the series. Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar, is also actively looking for new venues in the Middle East and South America to create a “winter season” for the series.
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in Talladega, Alabama, contributed to this report.