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Pocono CEO Igdalksy says IndyCar '50-50' to return in 2016 in wake of soft ticket sales

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LONG POND, Pennsylvania — Pocono Raceway CEO Brandon Igdalsky said it's "50-50" that IndyCar will return to the track next year.

IndyCar returned to Pocono in 2013 after a 24-year absence for the first race of a three-year contract. With the deal over, Igdalsky hopes to know within two weeks if the financial numbers justify another season.

IndyCar ticket sales at Pocono have been soft the last two years. Igdalsky said sales for Sunday's race are not where they were in 2013. While the track does not disclose attendance figures, about 30,000 to 35,000 fans were estimated at the 2013 race.

The race date was moved this season to August after two years around the July 4 weekend.

"The new date had a big effect early on," Igdalsky said Saturday. "We had a lot of people early that decided they wanted to come. Why that didn't continue and grow, I don't know."

Pocono Raceway, a 2 1/2-mile triangle track, has had two NASCAR weekends on the schedule for decades.

This isn't the first time Pocono and open-wheel racing have reached a crossroads. During the days of the dueling USAC and CART series in the late 1980s, Pocono track founder Joseph Mattioli wanted out. Mattioli, who died in 2012, chose not to seek a new deal after 1989.

"I don't know why the fans don't come," Igdalsky said. "I wish it would be better. It's a great series. Fans just don't get it yet."

IndyCar has added dates for 2016 for the road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and a street race in downtown Boston. But the series won't return to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, in a move that weakens the series' dwindling presence on oval tracks.

IndyCar, which was created as a series that would race on ovals in America, has just six on this year's 16-race schedule. Two of the ovals, Milwaukee and Pocono, could also vanish from the schedule next season because the facilities have struggled to make IndyCar a commercial success.

Three-time series champion Scott Dixon wants Pocono to remain on the schedule.

"We're trying to produce more people coming to the races and more awareness for that area and that demographic, so hopefully we can build on that," he said. "The worst-case scenario is that we go there for three years and then don't return. I hope that we return for many more years at Pocono. I think ovals are definitely a little light on the schedule right now."

PHOTO: Will Power, of Australia, (1) drives during practice for Sunday's Pocono IndyCar 500 auto race Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Will Power, of Australia, (1) drives during practice for Sunday's Pocono IndyCar 500 auto race Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

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