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Series opts out of Vegas return in 2012

9 December 2011

The organisers of the IndyCar Series announced on Thursday that the scheduled 2012 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been withdrawn from the provisional season calendar.

According to track owner Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports Inc., quoted by the Associated Press, the series negotiated a buy-out with the circuit in order to remove Vegas from the 2012 season line-up. He added that the decision had been IndyCar's, and that the track owners had been prepared for and in favour of the series returning in 2012.

One official reason given for the decision to withdraw from Vegas was the introduction of the new DW12 IndyCar chassis next season, which is reportedly going through some development issues affecting performance on ovals.

"We feel we need to give our technical team ample time to conduct thorough testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, once we complete our ongoing investigation into the 15-car accident during the October 16 race at the track," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard in an official statement.

That multi-car accident included fatal injuries for Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, and a return to the venue in 2012 would have given rise to difficult emotions for all concerned within the sport.

The decision to run an IndyCar race on a high-banked 1.5-mile oval circuit which allows very high speeds to be reached by open wheel cars racing side-by-side in packs was one of the main factors being considered as contributing to the massive accident, and for the severity of some of the wrecks suffered by individual cars, including the #77 driven by Wheldon.

A number of analysts questioned the wisdom of attempting to run an IndyCar race on such a circuit in the first place. Other factors coming under scrutiny include the number of cars (at 34, exceeding even the allowed field for the Indianapolis 500 on a 2.5-mile track) and the wide variation in experience of and expertise in oval racing among the drivers.

With the investigation into the causes of the crash still ongoing and not expected to report until the New Year, the IndyCar organisers have decided to remove the possibility of a return to Vegas next year altogether ahead of announcing their finalised 2012 schedule in the coming weeks.

IndyCar is not saying at this stage what will happen in 2013, the final year of the three-race contract that the series struck with LVMS. "We're not guaranteeing we'll be back," said Bernard. "But we'll test there, and we'll see what we can learn."

The October accident may even have caused Bernard to rethink the series' future on ovals in general, with suggestions that he is holding off signing a new deal with Texas Motor Speedway - a venue popular with fans and with drivers and seemingly sufficiently different from the criticised LVMS configuration.

"We don't have a deal yet, but that's not to say we aren't going to get one done," said the president of Texas Motor Speedway, Eddie Gossage.

Without Texas, the 2012 IndyCar season would consist of only 14 races - and the event at Baltimore may also yet fall through because of problems with the current promoters being unable to cover their debts.

A truncated 2012 season would likely finish early (possibly in early September at Fontana's Auto Club Speedway) having originally been scheduled to conclude at Vegas on October 14, 2012. It could also mean that the balance of the series shifts sharply to road courses and away from ovals in the short term at least.

The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season is due to open on March 25 with the street race Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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