PIR lays plans to get IRL race next year

by: , POWER

The Indy Racing League season starts Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. And for the first time since 1983, Portland International Raceway won’t be the site of an open-wheel race, thanks to the recent merger of the Champ Car World Series (formerly CART) and the IRL. But Mark Wigginton, PIR track manager, has been in continued conversations with the IRL to bring the series here next year. “I’ve made sure the IRL knows that Portland would be a great place for them in ’09,” Wigginton says. “We’re looking for a promoter with the resources to bring an IRL event to the track.” Bob Ames, who helped lure CART here in 1984, says he and Wigginton hope to head a group to bring the IRL to Portland. “What we need is to come up with the money to do it,” Ames says. Joe’s, formerly G.I. Joe’s, sponsored the Portland race for all but one year, but its contribution had become smaller, and the company had not been the title sponsor in recent years. The IRL is expected to start this year with eight to 12 former Champ Car racers and five former Champ Car teams. Nine drivers are on the current list of 29; the list includes Will Power of KV Racing Technology and Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car winner, bolted to Formula One. It’ll be interesting to see how former Champ Car entries perform against IRL stars like Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick. The other formidable former Champ Car team, Forsythe Racing, owned by Gerald Forsythe, a former stakeholder in Champ Car, has elected to field cars only in the nonunified developmental Atlantic Series. The team reportedly wasn’t able to secure sponsorship except for the IRL’s April 20 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. That means Paul Tracy, the most notable former Champ Car driver, with 31 wins, doesn’t have an IRL ride except for Long Beach and still has to settle a contract with Forsythe. The IRL clearly will be a stronger and deeper series and a destination for aspiring open-wheel drivers, teams and sponsors in the United States. It features the Indy 500, after all. Honda has been a driving force behind the IRL’s success since 1995, and Ames says the league and its top sponsor might consider racing in the Northwest. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.