New Hampshire added to 2011 schedule

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By Dave Lewandowski

LOUDON, N.H. – The Indy Racing League’s IZOD IndyCar Series marks its 200th race Sept. 4 at Kentucky Speedway. In 2011, it returns to one of its original venues.

The IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights will add New Hampshire Motor Speedway to their 2011 schedules, competing on the 1-mile oval July 30-31. The race weekend precedes another new event for both series – the Baltimore Grand Prix on Aug. 5-7. Tickets to the New Hampshire race go on sale June 28. CLICK HERE

“The fans had asked us to bring back Loudon and we’ll be here in 2011,” said Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, who was joined at a news conference at the track by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder, chairman and CEO O. Bruton Smith and New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive president and general manager Jerry Gappens.

“As evident last weekend in Iowa, our cars produce tremendous racing on short ovals and we’re pleased to restore an IndyCar short oval to the schedule to further increase our diversity of venues. As a newcomer into the sport, short tracks seem to lend themselves to great racing.

“(The Loudon-Baltimore swing) should be fun for us, and the great part of it is going to an oval and then to a street course. You’re going to reach two different demographics in the East.”

locator_mapThe facility played host to one of the five Indy Racing League events in its inaugural year (Aug. 8, 1996) with Scott Sharp taking the checkered flag. It also was the site of Robbie Buhl’s first victory (Aug. 17, 1997) and Tony Stewart’s third (June 28, 1998). CART sanctioned races on the variably-banked (2 to 7 degrees) oval from 1992 to ’95.

“I won when we raced there so it has good memories,” said Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner Buhl, who grabbed the lead from Eddie Cheever Jr. with three laps left and won by 0.064 of a second in the No. 3 Quaker State/Menards Special.

“I love the fact that of the short ovals it’s definitely challenging for the team and driver. It’s a tight oval; you have to work on getting the car balanced and working for you. As a series, in terms of how it rounds us out with road courses, street circuits and superspeedways, having a mile oval as part of that template is good. It’s a good market for us to be in, too.”

For 2010, the .875-mile Iowa Speedway is the only oval on the IZOD IndyCar Series less than 1.5 miles. The June 20 race produced 16 lead changes among seven drivers, including Tony Kanaan’s pass of Helio Castroneves with 10 laps left to secure his first victory since June 2008. Many drivers have lobbied to add more short ovals to future schedules.

“It will be a great track for us, similar to Milwaukee with those long straights and those tight corners,” reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti said. “I’m looking forward to racing here. You look at Iowa last week and that was one of the best races I’ve been involved with as a driver.

“To add another short oval to the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule is cool. Judging by the talk in the drivers’ meeting and the buzz at night in the motorcoach lot, everyone is very excited about it and looking forward to it. We’ll put on a helluva show. I think the cars and the race will sell themselves; the product at all tracks is fantastic.”

New Hampshire International Speedway, which opened in 1990, was purchased in 2008 by Smith from Bob and Gary Bahre and renamed New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It is about an hour north of Boston and, according to the most recent census, more than 18 million people live within two hours of the picturesque venue.

“It’s been my mission for three years to get IndyCar to New Hampshire on our schedule,” Gappens said. “As an Indiana native and a fan of open-wheeled racing, I strongly believe that the people of New Hampshire will embrace this new breed of speed much like they do NASCAR.

“It’s gratifying to see it finally on the schedule and now it’s sort of like the dog who chased the truck. I caught it, but now I have to do something with it. I promise I’m going to work hard to sell this new event to fans everywhere.”

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