Possible IndyCar road course race could re-energize sport

Race would likely be held before Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS - A buzz is generating at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as drivers, teams and fans are all excited about the possibility of racers not just using the oval track, but also using the road course inside the oval during the month of May.

Most Hoosiers are familiar with the Indianapolis 500, but the possibility of a second major IndyCar race at the IMS in May is taking another step forward.

Testing of a new 2.4-mile road course within the Speedway took place on Wednesday.

Racing legend and team owner Bobby Rahal called it a historic day at the IMS. Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal did the driving.

“Frankly, I was having a ball out there. It was a really good time," Graham Rahal said.

"Definitely strange coming off the wrong way on the front stretch. It's a good track actually. It's got a lot of high speed corners," Briscoe said.

Speedway executives were staging the tests to help determine whether to add a second IndyCar race, likely prior to the Indy 500.

“The subject isn't road race or not road race. We're looking at everything around May beginning next year. How can we ignite May and make it even more potent and powerful in this market and around the world than it already is?" Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, said.

A new road course at the epicenter of auto racing may also be part of a plan to turn around declining television ratings and attendance at IndyCar races.

Staging a road course race prior to the Indy 500 could fill a void left by shortened practice and qualifications.

“What was IndyCar 100 years ago isn't IndyCar today, and so we have to change with the times and we need more races and we know this is a place where we can put on a good show and have a good crowd, so why wouldn't we race here?" Rahal said.

While IndyCar executives won't say if they will greenlight a fourth race at the IMS, or if it will even happen in 2014, they said a decision will be made with a month.

They also said a road course race won't fill the massive property, but it could also be packaged with other weekend events.

“If you look at Daytona for example, there's a series of events that lead up to the 500, and this would be an opportunity to have the same kind of setup or schedule," Bobby Rahal said.

An IndyCar road course would be new to the IMS, but two-thirds of the IndyCar schedule is already run on courses or city streets.

Follow Chris Proffitt on Twitter: @chrisproffitt

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