LEXINGTON —Sometimes in this business you ask a stupid question, and last week was one of those times.So Craig, anything new at Mid-Ohio this year?“Uhh, the Nationwide race,” track president Craig Rust said.
Oh yeah, that thing.
It was announced late last fall NASCAR would be coming to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time ever. It will be only the second time stock cars have been featured at the permanent road course as a professional stand-alone event since ARCA raced in Lexington once in 1965.So that’s something new for 2013, for those who forgot it’s coming.
“We’ve got some new partners on board,” Rust said after good-naturedly laughing at my first question. “Diamond Cellar, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Coca-Cola, Sunoco, we’re real excited about that. Obviously the new event with Nationwide and the partnership with NASCAR we’re excited about.”
Fans can see some new signage around the track, including a Sunoco sign at the inside of the Carousel turn and another on the outside of the first turn next to the cross-over bridge. They also will find every inch of wood fence stained brown, the track walls painted white and the guardrails red.
Coke products replaced Pepsi. Mechanics Bank re-upped as the title sponsor for the upcoming vintage sports car weekend. Also, Columbus-based jeweler Diamond Cellar came aboard as the title sponsor for last weekend’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event.“I think we’ve done a lot over the offseason, kind of getting back to promoting,” Rust said. “Diamond Cellar has been a great partner in helping us get the word out about this race and has done some different things in Dublin which is a new market for us.”The jeweler and the track teamed up to have a weekend event in May, which centered around men’s watches and sports cars
. Given that Rolex is the title sponsor of Grand-Am’s top sports car series, it seemed a natural fit and a good lead-in to the June race.Last weekend during the Diamond Cellar Classic executives and officials from the merged Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series came to Mid-Ohio to observe and meet with the track’s brass. The hope is Mid-Ohio can land one of the few coveted spots on the schedule for the newly formed United SportsCar Racing series which will debut in 2014.
“We’re already starting to talk about 2014 and how the schedule might look and what’s going on with the series,” Rust said. But before 2014 gets here, 2013 has to play out. It promises to be the biggest blockbuster of a schedule since the track was built in 1962.
The season kicked off with the final year of Grand-Am racing as we know it and then goes to the Mechanics Bank Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio set for June 28 to 30.
July gets turned over to the two-wheelers again as the Buckeye SuperBike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire
will be July 12 to 14, featuring the top riders of AMA Pro Road Racing. The AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days takes over the grounds the following weekend.Business picks up in August with the track’s two highest profile events of the season slated. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be a stand-alone event, as the Izod IndyCar Series no longer shares the bill with ALMS, and it’s set for Aug. 2 to 4. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 closes the season with the highly anticipated and never-to-be-forgotten NASCAR Nationwide Series race Aug. 16 and 17.
“We’re excited to get it underway,” Rust said.
Rob McCurdy covers motor sports for the News Journal and can be reached at email@example.com or 419-521-7241. On Twitter follow @McMotorsport.