IMSA President John Doonan believes the sanctioning body is in a “good place” in terms of its current schedules and does not currently anticipate any further changes for the remainder of the year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Ten events remain on the 2021 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule, with Mid-Ohio up next in mid-May followed by the Detroit Grand Prix in June.
The date of the Detroit race, along with the cancelation of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park event and its replacement at Watkins Glen International, were the two most recent changes made to the calendar.
It came after a pre-season shifting of the Long Beach and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca races to September, with the goal of having limited spectators at both events.
“I think we did eight schedule recasts in 2020,” said Doonan. “We’re on our third this season, which was primarily driven by quarantine requirements to go across the border.
“We want to be respectful of our teams and their budgets, keep everybody safe and participating. The flexibility comes with all our promoter partners.
“We will be racing at Watkins Glen International on July 1-2 (in place of CTMP).
“I feel like we are in a good place for the rest of the season with the stability we have with our provisional schedule.
“We have some unique highlights where our Lamborghini Super Trofeo series will be paired with the NASCAR races at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas (in May).
“That’s a neat mix as NASCAR adds more road course content to their schedule.
“The opportunity to bring along an IMSA single-make or challenge series to those weekends is something that delivers for our fan base and for NASCAR.”
Doonan said he’s seen a “great” collaboration within NASCAR and its government affairs group, which has been monitoring developments on a state-by-state and region-by-region level for all of its events.
“We have medical liaisons and safety folks who are keeping track of cases and vaccinations of places where we are headed and what we are heading into,” he added.
“We have a set of protocols that we continue to refine.
“Some of our biggest success stories in 2020, which has continued into 2021, is our ability to work with the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs to get our international travelers and participants into the country to participate in our events.
“Some 40 percent of our participants don’t live in the United States, so that’s been a big part of us being able to go back to racing.”
Doonan Pleased With Uptick in Car Counts, Quality of Competition
While the 2020 season brought challenges, Doonan said he’s been pleased with the small uptick in overall entries in the WeatherTech Championship, as well as the product on track.
“When you look at the car count, we enjoyed at the Rolex 24, when you look at the incredible racing at the Rolex 24 and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring across all of our series platforms, I can tell you we do have people on the edge of their seats when it comes to product on the track,” he said.
“It’s amazing to me that a race like the Twelve Hours of Sebring literally comes down to (the final) 12 minutes.
“We certainly saw that in the case of the overall win and in several of the classes. We saw every manufacturer lead laps.
“I thought it was really special that we saw a privateer team in Mustang Sampling (JDC-Miller Motorsports) take home the overall victory, and in the case of GTLM, we saw the same thing. It was a class dedicated to factory teams and you saw a privateer team (WeatherTech Racing) come in and win that class at Sebring.
“We have seen a lot of positives in that regard most recently.
“I’ve been really happy with the car counts when you think of the challenges based on the global economy, and really pleased that so many folks have entrusted their racing investments with us.
“We are going to keep delivering on our promise of a good experience for our participants and great competition for those who are watching us, whether it’s on NBC or streaming on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.”
Godwin Kelly/IMSA Wire Service contributed to this report