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MotoGP, organizers near deal for Indy race

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials want MotoGP back next season - and they hope to complete the deal this weekend.

On Friday, track President Doug Boles told The Associated Press the two sides are nearing an agreement to bring the world's premier motorcycle racing series back to one of the world's most renown racing venues for a seventh race. If all goes well, the race will be run again in the mid-August slot.

``Both sides want to continue the relationship, so what we need to do is figure out on what terms that continues,'' Boles said. ``Hopefully, this weekend or early next week we'll make that announcement. It's very important to do that for the fans and to do that sooner, rather than later, is better for us and for them (the fans).''

Boles said speedway officials and representatives of Dorna, the series' sanctioning body, already have met four or five times to continue racing on Indy's flat 2.621, 16-turn road course. Sunday's race could be the last one under the current contract because both sides hold an option for next year's race.

There have been continual questions about MotoGP's future at Indy.

After adding Austin, Texas, to this season's schedule, MotoGP now has three American stops - Texas in April, Laguna Seca in July and Indy in August.

But crowds at Indianapolis have steadily dwindled over the years. The inaugural event in 2008 drew an estimated 91,000 fans for race day. Last year, that number was down to an estimated 40,000. Boles said he expects a similar showing this weekend.

There also were concerns that one of Indy's largest non-sporting events, the GenCon video game convention, could impact crowd size, too. Instead, there has been an intriguing combination between bikers, who will take over one of the city's main streets this weekend, and the gamers, who like to dress up in costumes of their favorite characters.

``It turned out the motorcycle people enjoy seeing the GenCon folks,'' Boles said.

The riders enjoy coming to Indianapolis and racing at a tradition-rich venue like the Brickyard, but they have complained about the track's tough racing surface.

This time, things seem a little different.

Three weeks ago, track officials held a series of sports car races on the road course during NASCAR's Super Weekend, and with unseasonably cool temperatures and mostly dry weather, the cars seemed to have cut grooves into the track that the riders like.

``For practice one in the past, it was really bad,'' said Italy's Andrea Dovizioso, who finished third last year and competes on the Ducati Team. ``Now it was very similar to the race. We have to improve a little bit tomorrow. I love to make this weekend race here in America. I love the fans because they respect the riders a lot.''

Some riders have argued the track needs to be resurfaced - an expensive proposition for the speedway, which earlier this year received a $100 million loan from the state government for improvements.

Track officials have talked about using the money to add lights, update seating and provide better technological services for fans. It's unclear whether the Hulman family is willing to devote that much more money to changing the road course.

But Boles said one thing has become clear during negotiations: Both sides want to keep Indianapolis on the schedule.

``We love having the motorcycles here. It's a different crowd, and we've spent a lot of time and effort over the last couple of years trying to give fans activities inside the track other than just watching the races,'' Boles said. ``Dorna enjoys not only racing here, but coming to Indianapolis because the whole community has a two-wheel feel.''

Boles also urged fans to arrive early Sunday to avoid a repeat of what happened at May's Indianapolis 500.

Following the Boston Marathon bombing, the speedway tightened the security policies, allowing each fan to bring in one cooler no larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 14 inches. But the new security procedures created long, bottlenecked lines that drew the ire of race-day fans.

Boles later apologized, and when the Brickyard 400 returned to the track in July, speedway officials adapted by using more gates and adding additional people to screen fans. That eliminated the long lines.

This weekend, Boles said the track will use a scaled-back version of the procedures adopted last month because of the smaller crowd.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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