Bad news for those Virginians, like me, who are fans of the Indianapolis Racing League. Today the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that, after nine straight seasons, there will be no IRL race in Richmond next year. Falling attendance, and Suntrust's decision not to sponsor the race were apparently significant factors preventing the IRL and the International Speedway Corporation, which owns the Richmond track, from reaching an agreement to hold the race in Richmond. Here is the story.
Why the falling attendance ? Two reasons, perhaps. First, the economy is quite weak, with Virginia' unemployment rate reaching its highest in years last month. Second, and as your humble blogger can confirm, the most recent IRL races at Richmond have not been particularly exciting. The oval track is relatively small --- about three quarters of a mile, compared to 2.5 miles at Indianapolis, and 1.5 miles at the Kentucky Speedway, for instance. The short straightaways at the track make it very difficult for one car to pass another or, for that matter, for the cars to run two wide. As the Times-Dispatch article puts it: "During the race, there were long stretches of uninterrupted racing with few lead changes."
For the sake of posterity, here, courtesy of the Times-Dispatch story, are the winners of the nine IRL races held in Richmond over the years.
• 2001: Buddy Lazier • 2002: Sam Hornish Jr. • 2003: Scott Dixon • 2004: Dan Wheldon • 2005: Helio Castroneves • 2006: Sam Hornish Jr. • 2007: Dario Franchitti • 2008: Tony Kanaan • 2009: Scott Dixon.
The Indy Racing League will unveil its 2010 schedule live, at 4:00 PM. Go to http://www.indycar.com/ to watch the broadcast.