Champ Car return next year is likely
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Event's not profitable, but series co-owner says good things about PIR
When the guy with the money speaks, Champ Car usually listens.
Power broker Kevin Kalkhoven, who helped rescue the racing series from bankruptcy court in 2004, says that the Champ Car World Series race at Portland International Raceway has displayed enough 'momentum' to be included on the 2007 schedule. His comments:
'As long as the trajectory is in the right direction …
'It's a track all the drivers love and all teams loving coming to …
'It's a great track and each year attendance has gone up …
'I'm hopeful we'll be back - we very much want to come back …
'I won't like to think Portland is in danger … it's not what I want.'
Champ Car has an out clause in its contract, which has only next year remaining, to dump the PIR race for another venue, if certain standards have not been met. Steve Johnson, the series' first-year president, says five venues have been considered for next year, including South Korea, which was on the 14-race schedule this season until the event got canceled. The other venues: Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Antonio and Zhuhai, China. A 16-race schedule is expected.
Champ Car has made overtures to other tracks before, to no avail, and officials often have made reference to Portland needing to shape up or possibly be shipped out. But it wasn't too long ago that Champ Car needed to secure venues to remain viable.
The Portland race had markedly better attendance this year, with the announced figures of 77,065 for the three-day weekend and 44,065 on Sunday. Promoter Mike Nealy of Global Events Group says paid ticket money and sponsorship money increased. Mark Wigginton, PIR track manager, says, 'We're all going in the right direction.'
Global and Champ Car co-promoted the event again, and they paid rent for PIR after getting last year's time for free. Johnson says he wants Global to ramp up promotions even more, even using some strong language, something along the lines of 'ramp up … or else.'
Nealy says the three-day party and 'festival of speed' concept adopted by Champ Car seems to be taking hold. But none of the parties will make a profit on the race - the Rose Festival doesn't have financial interest in the event anymore. 'We're real close to breaking even,' Nealy says.
Nealy will start talks with Champ Car on an extension, before city Commissioner Dan Saltzman gets involved. Nealy hopes to get confirmation of the race date, which could change, within 90 days.
Will Champ Car and the Indy Racing League merge? Kalkhoven doubts anything concrete will happen before next season. If they merge, it could hurt Portland's chances of keeping the race, because the two sides would have several venues to satisfy.