Count Me In For NOLA

Last weekend, word leaked out that Randy Bernard was involved in discussions to take the IZOD IndyCar Series to a new track that, quite frankly, I had never heard of – NOLA Motorsports Park, located just southwest of New Orleans. In fact, there is a possibility that the track may host the IndyCar season opener for 2013. For those not familiar with the New Orleans area, NOLA is the common acronym used locally to denote New Orleans, LA. (N.O.L.A. – get it?)

As it turns out, there is a brand new facility being built in Avondale, LA – only about fifteen miles from the French Quarter. NOLA Motorsports Park is set to open for major events this fall when they host an AMA Pro-Road Racing motorcycle race the weekend of October 7th. When finished, the venue will have become quite a showplace and versatile motorsports facility. There will be two separate tracks adjacent to each other. The first to be completed will be the North Course – a 2.75 mile, sixteen turn course. The second course still under construction is the south course, which will be 2.8 miles in length with thirteen turns. Both of these courses will be able to be combined for up to 5.5 miles in length – a mile and a half longer than Road America.

NOLA Motorsports Park was designed by Alan Wilson – the man who designed Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Wilson is the husband of Desiré Wilson, who was a former IndyCar driver. Wilson actually tried to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 three times between 1982 and 1984, missing the race each time. She had only one start in CART – finishing thirteenth at Phoenix in 1983, but she was still an accomplished driver in her day.

Randy Bernard is anxious to open next season at NOLA, trying to capitalize on the local excitement of Super Bowl XLVII, which will be played on Sunday Feb 3. Mardi Gras will take place barely a week after the Super Bowl. I’m not sure I understand the logic of riding the wave of the Super Bowl, but Randy Bernard is a lot smarter about such things than I am so I’ll defer to his judgment.

I can tell you right now that if there is a race in New Orleans next season, Susan and I will be there – no matter where it ends up on the schedule. For the past several seasons, I’ve made two races per year. First it was Nashville and Indianapolis. Then, Barber replaced Nashville on my personal schedule. Susan and I have decided that next year, we plan to make at least three races and possibly four. Barber and Indianapolis are fixtures, but we’re undecided on our other destinations. If this race happens, that will carve one slot in stone for us.

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit. I cannot count how many times I’ve been to the Crescent City, but it’s been a lot. I’ve been there as a kid with my parents, as a single young adult following my Vols to the 1985 Sugar Bowl, as a married couple escaping young kids for the weekend and most recently – on trips there within the last ten years, although I haven’t been there since Katrina hit in 2005.

The one thing I always say about New Orleans is that I’m always very happy to get there and I am always equally excited to leave. Three to four nights at a time is about all I can take. Most nights have all been spent in the fabled French Quarter, but I once stayed in the calmer Garden District which made me feel a little separated from everything. The entire city is so different from any other US city you’ll visit. It’s almost like visiting a foreign country – for the right and wrong reasons. The culture is so different from anywhere else that you’ll never be bored, but the smell of the streets being hosed down every morning is something you’ll never forget.

Those that know me know that other than IndyCar racing, my favorite passion is eating. Most people think of the plethora of adult beverages they can consume in New Orleans. While I’ll have my share of that, when I think of New Orleans I mostly think of the food. It’s phenomenal! Most restaurants outside of Louisiana think that in order to serve authentic Cajun or Creole cooking, you just need to throw in a lot of tobasco. The more you put in, the more authentic the dish is, right? Wrong. Granted, there is a little spice to New Orleans cuisine, but it is much more than that. The blending of favors in that area is like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. While I like gumbo, my favorite dishes down there include turtle soup, Oysters Bienville and crawfish etouffee. My mouth is watering as I type.

This isn’t a food blog, so back to racing. The track may not be the best for IndyCars. The width varies from forty to a maximum of fifty feet, which is quite narrow. Based on the track map available on their website, I’m not sure that there will be a surplus of passing. But as Curt Cavin pointed out the other day, Barber didn’t offer many passing opportunities in the first couple of races held there, but this year’s race was one of the best of the season. One thing you can be assured of – there will be little, if any, elevation changes at this course. New Orleans actually sits below sea level and the entire area is extremely flat.

Given this information, I’m not sure that a season-opening race at NOLA will translate to “must see TV”, but for an on-site spectator – the whole weekend could be a blast. This is a city that knows how to host a sporting event. With a backdrop of fun, food and frivolity – it promises to be an unforgettable racing weekend for those that go. Count me in.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “Count Me In For NOLA”

  1. I haven’t been to New Jersey, St Louis is my 3rd home, I went to Detroit twice this year.

    Made my first trip to NOLA in May, yes the food was unique, but it is the worst city in America. (this coming from an admitted degenerate)

  2. I have always had a great time in New Orleans and I can’t see why a race wouldn’t work in the Crescent City. Lot’s to do and lot’s to see if you can pry yourself off of Bourbon Street. Do it!

  3. Make it wider.

  4. Damn twisty lover. Real men turn Left.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Having never seen Indycars at a permanent road course, and this one being relatively close, I’d most likely make the effort to go at least once.
    Probably at the immediate expense of Barber, which has been around the top of my list with Milwaukee and Iowa for some time now.

  6. I have been to New Orleans twice. Most recently for Ohio State’s victory over Arkansas (strangest fans I have encountered in the six bowl games I have been to) in the Sugar Bowl that never happened. I compare the city to Las Vegas. Sure NO is genuine and LV is phony, but the primary draw to both is gambling, strippers, and booze. I once went to the NASCAR race in Vegas and just felt like a moron at the track instead of the Strip. I could have just as easily stayed in a Casino, bet on the race, watch from a sportsbook, and not deal with the hours upon hours of waiting for outlr shuttle back to the Strip.

    I imagine I would feel the same way spending an entire day at NOLA and not the French Quarter or Jackson Square. I would love another race as a fan to watch on TV, but I would rather go to New Orleans for another Buckeye Sugar Bowl that lasts 3 hours than a day at the track that lasts 8-12 (plus wouldn’t you need a car to get there?)

    • I take it all back. Upon further review, this is the perfect cover (and cheaper alternative to F1 Montreal) for a bachelor party. Let’s do this Randy!

    • Spend the day at the track and then dinner at Antoine’s. The Big Easy.

  7. Being from New Orleans figured I’d jump in. Track isn’t 100% brand new, it used to be “No Problem Raceway” and was used to host club racing and even 24 Hours of Lemons, hah. New folks bought it and have been improving the track and adding stuff to it over the last few years or so to get it up to code. A lot of similarities with Barber, in that its a small venue with big dreams and willing to do what they need to get there. Its a perfect area, close to the city, not too far away, and N.O. is one of those cities that loves to have events and citizens all jump on board. People forget just how many things N.O. does and just how big the N.O. and Baton Rouge metro areas reach, it would be very well supported.

    • The Lapper Says:

      Thanks for your input and I am glad to hear it. Even though I don’t know much about this track I DO know INDYCAR and I DO know New Orleans AND Baton Rouge and that is where my delimma lies. Which one of those two fabulous cities do I, The Lapper, headquarter in for the weekend? I know that the track will do it’s all to bring the facilities up to speed and there is no doubt that this has all of the possibilities of great success.

  8. Allen Wedge Says:

    my mistake, its not the former no problem raceway, which it turns out is still operating as well, but located a little closer to baton rouge.

  9. NOLA….sorry, but I have very little nice to say about this idea. We’re talking an untested club race track that hosts a single major event (AMA Pro Racing’s first attempt at this track this year) and I just don’t think it’s a good plan or a decent facility to run at. In a few years it might be worth a look, but right now I just don’t see how racing at NOLA is a good plan.

  10. Do it! What a great city to be attached to.

  11. Late to the party here (as always), but I’m with Wedge. I’m the only one of the GBS crew that’s not from NO, but I’ll be happy to have the GBS branding on as a co-sponsor of the NOLA GP. We’d be in there at the $40 level, but we’d be in there all the same.

    As for the layout, I’m not sure what the deal is with the objections as to the lack of elevation change or supposed lack of passing opportunities. I’ve been to more than a couple pool-table-flat race tracks that were plenty good (Sebring, Roebling Road and West Palm Beach leap immediately to mind), and to my eye, there are enough straights followed by slow corners that there’d probably be at least one or two passing zones per lap minimum on any of the potential layouts. Couple that with a new, warm weather major market, and it’s basically a no brainer. If the track is up to spec, book it. I’ll split gas money with you (George), Susan and JohnMc.

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