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Financial showdown: Long Beach almost became a NASCAR event

NASCAR reportedly reached out to Long Beach race after death of businessman Kevin Kalkhoven – That was prevented

The Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, is to be demolished and the NASCAR track is to be converted into a short track in the future, but there is no timetable for the project yet. The market in California is very important for the US series, but the Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum was also held there for the last time in 2024. NASCAR is therefore said to have put out feelers for the Long Beach Grand Prix, but the shares have already gone elsewhere

According to Racer.com, the series has tried to buy 50 percent of the shares in order to stage a NASCAR race there. The race has been part of the IndyCar Series since 1984, but was founded in 1975 by Chris Pook and Dan Gurney as Formula 5000. Formula 1 was even a guest from 1976 to 1983, after which the CART series took over the race.

Since then, Long Beach has been one of the biggest events on the IndyCar scene after the legendary Indianapolis 500. Kalkhoven took over 50 percent of the shares in the 2000s and shared them with former Champ Car Series owner Gerald Forsythe. When Kalkhoven died, his 50 percent was put on the market

Many interested parties

NASCAR has never commented on the rumors of wanting to buy these shares. Ben Kennedy only tells Racer.com, “We are looking at different options in the region and will continue to do so. I’m not going to talk about a specific track in Southern California, but we want to have a race there every year.” Long Beach President Jim Michaelian is also reluctant to comment on a NASCAR entry.

IndyCar, in the shape of owner Roger Penske, would certainly like to see IndyCar as the headliner there and has won the bid thanks to Forsythe. After all, he took over Kalkhoven’s shares and thus secured 100 percent. So neither NASCAR nor IndyCar and certainly not Formula 1 have made an appearance.

The former Champ Car Series owner told Racer.com: “The estate has agreed to sell its 50 percent to me. So anyone with their eyes on Long Beach will have to look elsewhere. It remains an IndyCar event and will remain so in the future.” He now has full control of the Grand Prix, which also hosts the IMSA series with a supersprint alongside the IndyCar

IndyCar stays at Long Beach

More than 100,000 fans make the pilgrimage to the street circuit every year, turning the event into a major festival for motorsport enthusiasts. “I was not involved in the negotiations for the sale of the 50 percent,” says Forsythe. “Pierre Wildmon was Kevin’s right-hand man and he was in charge of the succession efforts.”

“And I know a lot of people were looking at it, because he came to me and said, ‘There are a few people who would like to look at it.’ And I think there were four or five. But the finances didn’t justify the amount they were asking for it. And frankly, I paid too much for it,” Forsythe continues.

“But to rule out all other options, I made it clear to everyone Pierre spoke to that I wasn’t interested in selling,” says Forsythe about his shares. “Who’s going to buy 50 percent if you can’t control anything? And I think that’s the reason why some people backed out.”

Forsythe wants to host an IndyCar event, despite interest from NASCAR, Penske with the IndyCar Series and even Liberty Media with Formula 1, for the 50th anniversary in 2025 and beyond: “It’s the right thing to do and it’s very important. It’s one of the top street circuits in the US and only the Indianapolis 500 has more spectators. Next year is the 50th anniversary and we’re going to do a lot to celebrate that. We have big plans for next year. “

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