FONTANA, Calif. -- Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker has a message for campers and the seed of a grassroots tourism initiative for August 2014.
For the third consecutive year, the 2-mile oval will host the IndyCar Series finale. Next year's race will be on Aug. 30 -- Labor Day weekend -- six days after the 10th annual race at Sonoma Raceway.
"They really miss Labor Day," Zucker said of the zealous campers who enjoy the infield atmosphere. "Obviously, it gives them an extra travel day, some more time to spend in Southern California. They're really, really thrilled about it.
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"I think the other thing that's really great about this schedule is not just the last race, but the last two races both being in California. It really provides some opportunity for people to spend a vacation out in California and enjoy all the state has to offer. If you really think about what it's like to experience California from Sonoma to Southern California, here in Fontana, it's a pretty amazing vacation opportunity.
"I think we're going to see a lot of people come and enjoy the last two races of the season."
The IZOD IndyCar Series champion will be decided for the eighth consecutive year in the season finale -- MAVTV 500 (8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network) on Oct. 19 on the 2-mile oval.
"We are very excited not only about (the) MAVTV 500, but certainly being on the '14 schedule," Zucker said. "Fans in Southern California have most definitely proven that IndyCar racing is something that is important to them. We're excited it's here to stay.
"We feel we've brought a strong presence to the season finale and the racing here last year I think really delivered on our promise there is no better place, we believe, in the world to see IndyCar racing. We know the fans are thrilled about having the finale here. We've heard from them about how excited they are having the diverse schedule we've been able to bring."
Three consecutive weekends of racing, including the ABC Supply Wisconsin IndyFest at Milwaukee on Aug. 17, will highlight the drive to the 2014 championship. The events are part of the 18-race schedule announced Oct. 16 by INDYCAR. The season opener is March 30 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"We think that the changes in the schedule are meaningful for us and kind of portend a future direction," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR. "It's also kind of a schedule in transition toward where we expect to be more fully in 2015. The most conspicuous change is obviously at the end. We appreciate Gillian and her team's belief in the importance of this. We believe that we can have a fulsome, discernible schedule that makes it easier for fans to follow if we condense the schedule.
"That condensing, it's important to note, is not less. So the idea is essentially the same amount of racing in North America, but getting rid of these off times where we appear and went away for I thought too long and then came back. Frankly, we think we'll have a better opportunity to have more fans pay more attention to the culmination of the IndyCar championship if we do that on Labor Day before the NFL and college football get into full fury. That's the strategic rationale behind it.
"It also gives us the opportunity to investigate an international market. By 2015, I think it's likely we might start in North America earlier in March. That gives us the opportunity we think to take advantage of demand for IndyCar racing in any number of southern hemisphere countries. Our kind of pro forma at this point suggests we might be able to find three great places to race internationally in February, and be back in North America and stay here from March through Fontana of 2015.
"It's a seven-month season. It doesn't mean less racing. In fact, in total, if we can do that, it's more races to follow and essentially the same number of races here in North America. So we think that's important."