Surfers Paradise, a classic, a fan favorite, and a possible addition to the 2020 IndyCar schedule. In recent months there has been rising speculation that the series will return to the Gold Coast sometime soon, and per Hulman and Co. CEO Mark Miles, 2020 is possible.
The speculation all started with a visit to Australia by 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power where he met with the Gold Coast government about the possibility returning the American based series down under. Since that initial meeting, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk invited Miles to that region to discuss a possible return, and those talks have paid dividends, with it looking more and more likely that the series will return for the first time since 2008.
IndyCar held a press conference on Wednesday, January 9th, where Miles again confirmed that talks had still been going on, and have also been progressing, which in today’s day in age for motorsport, can only be a good thing. He stated that “We are working hard, and it was made public by the premier of Queensland in Australia on the possibility of having a return to Surfers Paradise in Queensland on the Gold Coast”, he finished by saying if it could be done, then the race would return to a February date after the conclusion of the 2019 season.
The history between Surfers Paradise and IndyCar goes all the way back to 1991 where the race served as the season opener for CART in March where John Andretti earned his lone victory. Fast forward a few years and there are names like Andretti, Fittipaldi, and Mansell who all laid claim to the top step of the podium. Move on to the late 90s and Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser also added their names to the list. The event was a hit up until about 2004, where CART teams decided to join the IRL sanctioned race, and cause a confusion with politics that led to the event taking an eventual downtown in popularity. After 2008, the race was secured via contract to be run through 2013, however it was dropped from the IndyCar calendar after Ryan Briscoe won in a 2008 exhibition event.
IndyCar since the reunification in 2008 has been on an upswing, not necessarily a fast one, but an upswing that proves the series in a good spot. The races from 2012 - present have been some of the most entertaining on record and have featured more lead changes and passes throughout the field than ever. Anyone can win, and that isn’t really an overstatement as is shown by Carlos Huertas’ win at Houston in 2014 in a season where Dale Coyne Racing wasn’t really a contender and Huertas only had two top 10s outside of his win. And with more and more teams joining the series every year, who knows what kind of possibilities the future holds.
A recent deal between NBC and IndyCar is another primary example of the shape the series is in. With an agreement that will show eight races on network television, including the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. Running eight races on network is three more than what was shown on ABC, and NBC seems to have a goal in mind to advertise the Indy 500 as apart of their championship season which includes the Triple Crown (horse racing), the Stanley Cup playoffs (National Hockey League), and other events that take place during that time. The increase in trust between a broadcast partner a series that is nowhere near new to the game, but is seen as “up and coming” by many, can mean nothing but good things going forward and could benefit the talks that Mark Miles has been having in Queensland.
What would the return of Surfers Paradise mean for the IndyCar Series, and the answer is something that is yet to be given. However, here is what the answer should be, prospectively. Surfers Paradise would increase the international footprint of the series by a number that IndyCar hasn’t seen in a long time in terms of an event, whether that is for years or even a few months, that remains to be seen. If IndyCar and the Gold Coast come to an agreement, it should be years to come, and a return to paradise for America’s fastest form of motorsport.
You can catch the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg live on March 10th, 2019 at 1 p.m. EST on NBCSN.