‘We haven’t given up’: Ric Peterson still hoping for IndyCar race in Calgary
IndyCar will not be making its return to Alberta in 2019, but 2020 isn’t off the table.
Ric Peterson, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, is still pushing for a return of the series in his home province but said progress has stalled.
“There hasn’t been a lot of movement, but we haven’t given up on it either,” the native of Hythe, Alta., said while supporting his SPM team at the Toronto Indy on Saturday.
“But it won’t be 2019 — that’s for sure.”
Peterson, whose team includes James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., and Robert Wickens of Guelph, Ont., said he has handed over promotion to Green Savoree, which runs a number of races, including the Toronto Indy.
Peterson added that Calgary took a back seat as the company worked to bring IndyCar back to Portland for this season after a 10-year absence.
“It’s kind of in their ballpark, so I’m not really involved in the day-to-day part of it,” he said.
“I think it’s just been busy schedules,” adding that the American city was an easier sell with the Portland International Raceway ready to go.
Green Savoree said it had no additional comments to make on the potential of a Calgary race.
Calgary councillor Joe Magliocca said he is expecting a proposal to come before council in the next six months and it should have the eight votes needed for approval.
He added that a street-track layout has been selected that would run on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede.
“Look at our Stampede, you know, millions of people go there and we just embrace sporting events,” said Magliocca.
“(Sports are) very supported at any level of football or hockey, whatever the case may be. We’ve got great, great people in Alberta.”
Magliocca said the latest figures show that a race in the city could generate about $40 million a year.
Peterson echoed Magliocca’s sentiments, noting Calgary would have both the corporate and fan support to build a successful IndyCar stop.
“It’s the right place to do it,” he said.
“After Toronto and Vancouver, there’s more head offices in Calgary than any place else in Canada.”
IndyCar previously had a race in Edmonton from 2005 until 2012 when its promoter, Octane Motorsports, hit the brakes citing attendance issues and a dearth of corporate dollars.
Former Canadian driver Paul Tracy said rumours of an IndyCar stop in Calgary were around when he was still racing.
“It never really materialized. We raced in Edmonton, that started off with really big crowds and it was really fun track to drive on. That kind of all fizzled away,” he said earlier this week.
Tracy said the costs associated with hosting a race on local streets can give cities like Calgary pause.
“I don’t know, they just don’t seem to be game to want to have the expense,” said Tracy, noting the costs associated with erecting temporary walls and grandstands.
“I mean, it’s an expensive proposition to put on a street race — it’s not a cheap endeavour.”
However, the prospect of another IndyCar track north of the border has the support of its current Canadian drivers, including Hinchcliffe and Wickens.
“That would be awesome. The more Canadian races the better,” Wickens said earlier this week.
American Josef Newgarden, a two-time champion at the Toronto Indy, agreed when asked on Thursday.
“Look, we have great Canadian fans. We used to have more races here in Canada. For me as a driver, I’d love to come back here more. Edmonton was always a strong event for us,” he said.
“Maybe we could go to Montreal at some point. I think that would be pretty cool. I’m not the guy to ask, but as a driver, I would support it 100 per cent.”
© 2018 The Canadian Press