WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Open-wheel racing is set to return to Watkins Glen International on Labor Day weekend, and IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden is pumped. "It's very iconic for North American motorsports when it comes to road course races," Newgarden said Sunday in his first visit to the track. "F1 used to be here back in the day. A lot of rich history. Just excited. I always wanted to race here, so to have the opportunity is great."
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Open-wheel racing is set to return to Watkins Glen International on Labor Day weekend, and IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden is pumped.
"It's very iconic for North American motorsports when it comes to road course races," Newgarden said Sunday in his first visit to the track. "F1 used to be here back in the day. A lot of rich history. Just excited. I always wanted to race here, so to have the opportunity is great."
The race originally was scheduled to be staged in Boston and tickets for the event went on sale in March, but the race was canceled in April. Organizers said the city made unreasonable demands, while city officials said the race course group was disorganized.
"Boston was a really great market for us. It was a really cool opportunity," said Newgarden, currently fourth in the IndyCar standings with four races remaining. "But the city is a difficult place to crack, I think, for events. It's a shame it didn't get pulled off. But it's almost even more positive when we heard we were going to come here instead. This is one of the greatest tracks in North America. It's one of the places I wish we were already racing at."
IndyCar announced last month that it had agreed to refund $925,000 to fans who bought advance tickets to the Boston Grand Prix before it was canceled. The motorsports series and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the money represented less than half the nearly $2.1 million spent by about 4,000 fans. Healey said she has filed a lawsuit against Boston Grand Prix and chief executive officer John Casey, seeking full refunds for all ticket buyers.
Boston Grand Prix LLC had refunded customers approximately $400,000 before filing for bankruptcy protection in July.
The IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen is scheduled for Sept. 4 on the newly paved Watkins Glen International layout.
Open-wheel racing, once the mainstay of Watkins Glen International, returned in 2005 for the first time in 24 years when the IndyCar Series began a five-year run. Before that, Formula One had a two-decade run from 1961-80, and the annual race became a fall tradition in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
Financial difficulties helped lead to The Glen's departure from the Formula One calendar. After Alan Jones won the last F1 race in 1980, the CART Indy car series staged one event the next year — Mario Andretti started on the pole and Rick Mears won the race — and IndyCar's last stint at the natural terrain track ended in 2010.
WGI President Michael Printup said it was too early to say whether the track would host more IndyCar races in the future. While NASCAR regularly draws more than 90,000 to its August event and Sunday's NASCAR Cup race was the second straight sellout, the IndyCar Series struggled with attendance during its run at The Glen.
Newgarden, who drives the No. 21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, said the WGI repave is the biggest discussion in the IndyCar garage. Some teams have already tested and more testing is slated for the coming week.
"The grip level was so high (in testing) that they kind of couldn't believe it. It was like a video game. It didn't seem real," said Newgarden, who broke his right clavicle and right hand in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway two months ago. "Track speeds are going to be very, very impressive. They normally are, but they're going to be even more mind-blowing when we come here and actually race."
Although he still opts to shake hands left-handed, Newgarden said his recovery was nearly complete.
"I feel good. I'm doing great. It took longer than I thought it would," he said. "My hand still hurts. You would think eight weeks your hand should be healed."
Newgarden also spent time with the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team of Jimmie Johnson and said in the coming years that more NASCAR drivers would be doing the double on Memorial Day weekend — driving both the Indy 500 and NASCARS's 600-mile night race on the same day.
It's been done five times: John Andretti (1995), Robby Gordon (2000), Tony Stewart (1999 and 2001), and Kurt Busch (2014) pulled it off.
Newgarden said he expects more drivers to try soon, perhaps as early as 2017.
"I know a lot of guys that want to come run IndyCar," Newgarden said. "But in the last 10 or 15 years it's become less acceptable. People don't go into other people's territory. I'd love to see that change. I think it would be awesome.
"But you don't want to look silly," he added. "You want to have an opportunity to win. Nothing really matters outside of winning the 500. For those guys, it's really important that they have a shot to win it."
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