AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 One thing is perfectly clear: Although the IRL compacted its schedule – trimming three races and eight weeks – there was no touching the golden goose. The Indianapolis 500 will remain a three-week circus, churning more dollars for the controlling Hulman and George families and their bank accounts. There’s no messing with tradition, but Southern California is a different matter. This is a market the IRL long coveted in light of the success of the Long Beach Grand Prix. When it finally made the move, the announcement was six months before the green flag. But rather than build date equity, the race has been moved every year. From March (2002), to September (2003) to October (2004). This year’s Toyota Indy 400 – come see the last IndyCar race ever on the world’s fastest oval – is set for Oct. 15-16, two weeks later than last year. Did we jump the gun and say it was the last ever? We know one should never say never, but what are the real chances this race will return? What’s going to change to create the separation that the IRL seeks from the two NASCAR events at Fontana? Perhaps dropping the Motegi race in Japan. Putting Fontana in front of the Indianapolis 500 would enhance both races. Placing Fontana after Indianapolis, followed by Texas, would create the very momentum the IRL seeks going into the summer months. Once the Fontana IRL race is gone, it would take everything short of a marketing miracle to make it a success again. Of course, the track has worked magic in building attendance, expanding the event by more than double in three years. And don’t buy the talk that the track didn’t want the race, which has produced a small profit in its short run at Fontana. President Gillian Zucker took three staff members to Michigan this summer with a 30-page plan for the future. Look for her to strongly promote the 2005 season finale, with more Danica Patrick on the horizon. That’s not a flag of surrender. California Speedway is going to go out fighting, unlike the IRL’s meek action. NASCAR will command the attention for the next 10 races with its Chase for the Cup. If the interest in the last two races – the Sony HD 500 at Fontana and the Richmond race – are indicators, the ratings will be killer. Here’s our view of it all: Winner: Is there a hotter driver than Matt Kenseth? Yet, that might work against him. We like Mark Martin. Hard-luck driver: Jeremy Mayfield. Just a hunch he’ll be collected on more than one occasion. Gaining points: Look for Jeff Gordon, with a new crew chief, to win two of the final 10 races. Biggest loser: Richard Childress Racing. Three cars, no Chase entries. Could be a new lineup in ’06. Biggest smile: Jack Roush. Another champion and the news that Martin will return for another farewell tour next season. Louis Brewster covers motor racing. His notebook appears Thursday. He can be reached at (909) 386-3936 or [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! So this is what the Indy Racing League is thinking: Let’s find a race date in Canada or Mexico, but forget about the one at California Speedway. Or perhaps: Why follow NASCAR’s lead in going from the biggest race of the year (Daytona 500) to Fontana? Four days isn’t enough time to travel from Indianapolis to Southern California. Whatever the IRL is thinking these days in terms of California Speedway and Southern California, it’s flawed. It is going to abandon its biggest market, its fastest track and a sponsor in place for a compacted 2006 schedule. A schedule that will take the IRL out of harm’s way, not having to compete against the NFL, the NASCAR Chase, the baseball playoffs or college football. Or is it just that ABC/ESPN don’t want to see their ratings take a hit? You have to wonder what the team owners are thinking. Or how Southern California sponsors such as Argent and Pioneer are taking this piece of news.