Written by Gabe Perrin, Edited by Leah Brown
Just a few days after this year’s Indianapolis 500, reports started to come out that a group from Argentina was eyeing to bring the United States’ premier open-wheel series back to South America for the first time since IndyCar last visited São Paulo’s Sambadrome in 2013. Any move to contest a race beyond the United States and Canada would mark IndyCar’s first international race (besides Toronto) since that 2013 visit to Brazil.
RACER’s Marshall Pruett reported that if a deal were to be announced, the race would take place at the FIA Grade 2 Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, located in Argentina’s Santiago del Estero province. Bringing IndyCar and various other types of motorsports to Argentina has been a longtime goal of Ricardo Juncos, owner of IndyCar’s Juncos Hollinger Racing, who grew up racing karts as a teenager in his native Argentina.
Before we go any further into the Argentina news, let’s get one thing straight. IndyCar absolutely should look to expand internationally. Given the recent dip in IndyCar TV ratings over the past few races (including the Indianapolis 500), sticking an international race on the 2023 or 2024 calendar would at the very least pique the interest of both current IndyCar fans and non-Indycar fans alike.
However, this begs the question: Where does this race go?
South of the Border
If I were to give one recommendation to the guys in the big offices regarding these international races, it would be to take baby steps. What does that mean exactly? Well for starters, it means that you don’t go to an untested market like Argentina right away. While it is definitely an interesting and potentially viable option in the future (the proposed circuit currently hosts an annual MotoGP race), the last time IndyCar or any of its predecessors were in Argentina was over five decades ago in 1971. Simply put, there is no guarantee that a race in Argentina would be a success for IndyCar, its teams, and its sponsors.
However, there is a country that is a perfect fit that is a lot closer to the States, and that would be Mexico.
The last time any American open-wheel series competed in Mexico was in 2007 when Champ Car hosted its final race before being absorbed by IndyCar, ending its six-year run at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. In the meantime, however, motorsports gained ground in the country, with Formula One’s Mexican Grand Prix returning in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Mexican drivers have made a splash in various series, both in the United States and beyond, with stars such as Pato O’Ward in IndyCar, Daniel Suárez in NASCAR and Sergio Pérez grabbing wins in Formula One.
These drivers have had a clear effect on the popularity of motorsports, especially IndyCar, in Mexico. Last September, IndyCar announced that through the TV channels Multimedios and Canal 6.80 million Mexican households would be able to watch the final three races of the 2021 IndyCar season.
The reason? Monterrey native Pato O’Ward was one of three drivers in the championship fight. Yes, that is the lengths that not just the Mexican media, but the Mexican people will go to watch their driver race for a championship.
When and Where?
How about we go for the simple answer in the only track besides the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that has hosted Formula One, IndyCar, and NASCAR: The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The circuit is one that is used to big crowds and is unique with its 0.75-mile long front straight and one of a kind “Foro” baseball stadium section near the end of the track.
The last time the AHR hosted an event, the 2021 edition of Formula One’s Mexican Grand Prix, the circuit hosted 372,000 spectators throughout the weekend, ensuring without a doubt that it would be able to host fans for an IndyCar race (the Indianapolis 500 has a yearly attendance of about 300,000). Additionally, from 2002-2007, the circuit held the Gran Premio Tecate, a CART/Champ Car race. This fact alone shows that IndyCar can afford to take the slight risk by going to Mexico, because they have done it before.
So for Mexico, I say why not. Mexico is an up-and-coming country for international motorsports, and IndyCar could potentially be a key piece of that puzzle, should they so choose.