IndyCar Series: Is Belle Isle '09 the First Casualty of Troubled Economic Times?

Tiffany DaviesCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2008

Although the IndyCar Series has been spared from the current global economic meltdown thus far, it seems that the series has suffered its first casualty...Belle Isle in 2009.

Roger Penske, the current organizer of the Detroit Grand Prix, which has been located at Belle Isle since 2007, cited the poor economic conditions and high unemployment in Detroit as reasons for cancelling the race.

Sources also state that a lack of sponsorships and financial support can also be blamed, with obvious links to the deterioration of American auto manufacturers.

With Belle Isle off the schedule for 2009, a Birmingham, Ala., raceway is jockeying to fill the hole caused by the loss of Detroit.

Barber Motorsports Park, a race track that was vying for a position on the schedule for the 2009 season, would need a decision by January in order to line up sponsors and other logistical criteria.

IndyCar series officials have not yet decided if they will fill the gap or leave the weekend open for teams.

Although a race at Alabama would attract open-wheel fans from across the southern portion of the country, the Labor Day weekend race would be forced to compete with college football and a NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at nearby Atlanta Motor Speedway.

However, those associated with the raceway state that they would rather have a spring race date in the future, if the track became a permanent fixture on the schedule.

Although many believe the IndyCar series is in a much better position than NASCAR in terms of manufacturers, the current economic crisis is beginning to affect the series.

In recent weeks, Dallara has announced that it would provide chassis parts to teams at a reduced cost, potentially saving 11 percent on parts.

IndyCar series officials hope that other parts manufacturers will follow suit, further strengthening the series in tough economic times.

Despite these efforts, one cannot help but look at the long list of sponsors and wonder how many are experiencing tough times.

Major sponsors in 2008 include Target (Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon), Motorola (Danica Patrick), 7-Eleven (Tony Kanaan), McDonald's (Justin Wilson), and (Danica Patrick), and these sponsors seem to be solidly in the running to continue.

However, smaller sponsors and those in industries which have been hurt by the declining economy, such as Delphi (Vitor Miera 2008, Dan Wheldon 2009), may see problems if the current conditions continue.