The IndyCar circuit will not be returning to Avondale in 2016, likely making April’s Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana a one-and-done affair.
NOLA Motorsports Park president Kristen Engeron said Thursday that IndyCar official had confirmed within the past week the race would be left off the 2016 calendar. The event was plagued by rain, and two different companies filed federal lawsuits against the Avondale racetrack alleging they had not been paid the full amount they had been promised.
“(IndyCar) didn’t go into a lot of details,” Engeron said before referring all other questions to Joe Bruno, a lawyer representing the NOLA Motorsports Host Committee, the subject of he lawsuit. “We are continuing to talk with them about getting us on the schedule for 2017 and the years after that.”
Bruno did not respond to a request for an interview Thursday, and neither did IndyCar officials.
NOLA Motorsports Park owner Laney Chouest, who opened the venue in 2012, admitted the big race did not work out as planned.
“We had a track rental agreement. I got nothing on it and the event did some damage to the facility,” he said. “It cost me a whole bunch of money, so that’s pretty much what I know. There was a whole lot of confusion, but I just supplied the venue. I’m not the promoter.”
Lousy weather wrecked hopes for a smooth inaugural edition. Rain canceled the qualifying session and shortened the main event. Although the race started on time after a heavy downpour earlier in the day, visibility was low, with a series of spin-outs and accidents on the slippery track forcing 26 of the last 32 laps to be run under a caution flag.
Only 47 laps were completed, and the green flag was out for barely half-an-hour. Race winner James Hinchcliffe coasted past the finish line under the fifth of five yellow flags that came almost consecutively.
Attendance was estimated at less than 10,000, far below projections when promoters announced a three-year plan to run the race at the Avondale track.
“The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is the next big tourism win for the State of Louisiana,” Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said when the 2015 date was announced in August of 2014. “Race fans are passionate about their rapidly growing sport. Once they experience our authentic culture, food and music during this professional IndyCar event, we’re sure they will fall in love with Louisiana.”
Instead, the crowds did not come, leading to multiple problems after the race.
A local subsidiary of Andretti Sports Marketing, the Indianapolis-based event promoter that agreed to organize the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana through 2017, filed a lawsuit claiming NOLA Motorsports Park owed it $645,000 under a signed contract plus another $206,000 for reimbursement for approved expenses.
Soon after, the company that installed the grandstands for the race filed a suit claiming it had not received any of the $358,600 it was owed.
The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana was the first auto race in the region since the Grand Prix Du Mardi Gras in downtown New Orleans in 1995.