In the interim, IndyCar had already added a 16th race to its 2012 schedule – Milwaukee revived at the last minute (in February) thanks to the efforts of Michael Andretti and Andretti Sports Marketing. After the few months of planning, by the time race week in Milwaukee happen, Bernard's public line was that it was important to make Milwaukee a success before discussing the potential backup plan for China, if it fell through.
Interestingly, race morning at Milwaukee, Andretti was quoted in multiple outlets as saying he'd support a return to Road America – a race in the same state and basically the same market as the one he was promoting. It would be last minute, but hopes were raised that this could actually happen.
There was, as reported by the Indianapolis Star, a “Plan B” – and several potential options for what that might be. But when it became apparent China would fall through, and was announced – suddenly Road America became a popular would-be replacement. Still, much like nobody wants to be the last person picked to fill a team, Road America had every right to feel it had a chip on its shoulder as if to say, “Why do you only want us when you're desperate?”
An offer was placed – I first saw it on Twitter on June 20 from Lance Allan, my former colleague at the NBC broadcast affiliate in Milwaukee (WTMJ-TV) – that Road America had proposed a possible sanctioning fee to IndyCar for a 2012 race on the Sunday of ALMS weekend, Aug. 19.
With all the bargaining power, and with only half the time to produce a viable race as in Milwaukee – even with the built-in ALMS event on the weekend and a Corvette day on Sunday – Road America and IndyCar were reportedly far enough apart on the sanctioning fee to where it couldn't work for 2012.
Despite the media speculation, with reports and commentaries that had Road America moving from “possibility” to “likely” to “almost a done deal,” it was always going to be hard to pull something like this off at this juncture.
The bigger issue is that it even needed to come to this in the first place. There's no comprehensible reason that in June, you're still trying to figure out your schedule for the same year. If you know a race in China is potentially vulnerable, don't announce it as a confirmed race to begin with; instead, make sure all the ducks are in a row for the event to happen and don't announce it publicly. The ubiquitous “TBA” is a nicer way of approaching the situation, if anything at all is to be printed. It's fairly embarrassing needing to cancel an event at this stage of the year, rather than not having announced it to begin with if it wasn't a completely done deal.
A reasonable sanctioning fee in line with normal events could have been garnered at Road America if it hadn't been dismissed in the first place. It's hard not to salivate at the prospect of a potential big check from a sanctioning fee, but China, for American open-wheel racing, is essentially the carrot being dangled in front of a mule.
The next situation to watch now is what happens with series title sponsor IZOD. Publicly, the company has pledged support of the decision to remain at 15 races this season and not add anything at this late a date.
Still, considering the tenuous situation that China was an IZOD/Angstadt project, and the obvious reduction of IZOD marketing, promotion and advertising this season, this may be the “out clause” they need considering a 16-race schedule has been widely rumored, if never stated officially by either IndyCar or IZOD directly, to fulfill the contractual obligations.
As for Road America? Considering it would be a popular choice to rejoin the schedule after what would be a six-year hiatus (2007, Champ Car) in 2013, my only hope is the relationship between IndyCar and the track hasn't been damaged by how it's been handled this year. IndyCar is not operating in a position of strength from a fan standpoint, and races where an increased fan turnout or fan interest exists are not something to be so easily dismissed.
Given the frustration, IndyCar needs to learn from the would-be China race and the shortened schedule for 2012. For 2013 and beyond, if it hasn't done so already, IndyCar should attempt to work with either of the sports car series (ALMS and Grand-Am) to create more partnership/doubleheader rounds. It should avoid pursuing China, a market which has consistently proven difficult to break into, and instead work on reviving more American rounds – which it has already hinted at doing in Phoenix, Michigan and Pocono.
Most importantly, it should distinguish confirmed rounds from provisional rounds better on its initial release of the 2013 schedule. Formula 1 probably does the best job of indicating when a race is still subject to official confirmation, and if tentative, it's listed as such. TBAs, asterisks and new races announced after an initial schedule are far from a bad thing – not as bad as confirming, canceling and then creating an atmosphere where a circus occurs in trying to fill a calendar date at the eleventh hour.
As it is, the 2012 season is now truncated to where now, suddenly, it will be over in just six races. This year's schedule has been far from the best in planning terms, especially given the manic period just concluded of five races in as many weekends, with two in-week tests and two weeks practice at Indianapolis also included, that has no doubt stretched all participants very thin in terms of rest and family time away from the track. IndyCar's 2012 schedule organization has largely been a debacle, but it should serve as a wake-up call of what can be done better for 2013 and beyond.