LEEDS, Ala – If the NTT IndyCar Series was ever going to make a return trip to Japan, there would be no better time than now. The series is growing rapidly in increasing their TV numbers 34-percent so far this season. Attendance is up too. Really, all most, if not all, metrics that the series uses to gauge growth are year in and out trending in the right direction.
Plus, with a new TV partner, a new international broadcasting deal, a Japanese driver who won the 2017 Indy 500 and several Japanese companies investing into the sport, now would be wise to entertain a trip to Japan to host a race.
I mean, the new entitlement sponsor in NTT Data is a Japanese company. Honda, one of the two engine manufacturers is a Japanese automaker. Bridgestone is the sole tire provider of the series now through 2025.
Despite that, Mark Miles doesn’t see a return trip to the country for the first time since 2011 on the horizon. He’s got good reason too.
“I think philosophically all of our Japanese partners would like to see us there, whether that’s NTT or Bridgestone, Honda, obviously, and more,” said IndyCar’s CEO. “It’s tough for us because generally speaking, we think the racing that’s international, outside of North America, for the most part, we think it should be before the beginning of the championship. And that means January, February, probably February. Difficult in Japan to find a time when the climate works. But we’ll keep thinking about that, and maybe there’s some way to do some kind of an event that isn’t necessarily a championship event that’s every year a part of the series.
“Our philosophy I just sort of mentioned about in terms of international expansion. We think we’re fundamentally a North American series, but that there are a lot of choices for us to race in February in North America, especially in the States, and so I think that’s an attractive time when it might be possible to race outside North America. So it’s going to be one or two, and we have been actively looking for some time. We’re trying to understand how to create a great value proposition and how to be in a place that won’t be a one-off. If we do that, we wanted it to be part of the tradition or to sustain a tradition or to start one. There are some places we can imagine being. Everything has to line up. Their economy has to be good. They have to put all the economics and sponsorship and the like together. But I think it’ll happen eventually.”
He’s right too. The series has no desire to end much past Labor Day. For the foreseeable future, the series will end at some point in September. Then, when you start in North America is March, find a date between then and September that makes sense.
The only one that would could be in April between Long Beach and Indy, but do you really want to run the race leading up to Indy be outside of the country? After that, it’s a grueling stretch where you go from the IndyCar Grand Prix, to Indy 500 quals, to the ‘500, to a doubleheader in Belle Isle to Texas. Then, it’s just one week off before heading to Road America.
July has Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio. August, currently has Pocono and Gateway. Find a gap where you can travel overseas and return.
February, isn’t ideal to host a race in Japan either.
For now, while there may be an influx of Japanese supporters in the series, the currently philosophy isn’t ideal for a return trip to the great country.