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IndyCar sets April 12 New Orleans date

Sebastien Bourdais, (11), loses control and collides with Ryan Briscoe, (8), during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar series auto race, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Elijah Nouvelage)

AVONDALE, La. (AP) -- The IndyCar series has committed to an April 12 race date for next season's inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne joined IndyCar president Mark Miles and other government officials for a formal announcement of the date and other details about the event on Wednesday afternoon at NOLA Motorsports Park, which will host the race.

The IndyCar series confirmed in May that it planned to bring a race to the New Orleans area in 2015, but the race calendar for next season had not been set at that time.

The 2015 race -- the marquee event of three days of festivities and qualifying at the track beginning April 10 -- will take place on the same weekend as the French Quarter Festival, a popular music festival held in and around the historic neighborhood for which it is named.

"It's something that was discussed at length," Miles said. "All the feedback was that it would be fine and there will be ways to do some marketing together."

NOLA Motorsports Park had requested dates during either late March or in June, which are generally slower periods for the New Orleans tourism industry, but the racing series was unable to make those dates work for its 2015 season.

IndyCar, the top North American-based open wheel racing series, has an agreement to bring races to the track for at least the next three seasons, though the hope is to make it a long-term annual event.

Miles said the New Orleans area race will continue to be in the spring in future years, but the exact dates could be moved.

"We want to be in cities that are compelling for our sponsors and our fans and New Orleans has that kind of reputation," Miles said. "Everybody knows New Orleans is that kind of place and people want to be here for fun.

"Our objective is to get beyond the hardcore race fan and build the sport through acquiring more fans," Miles added. "So being in the right places and making sure people have a good time is part of the recipe."

NOLA Motorsports Park is a private, $60 million facility about 14 miles southwest of downtown New Orleans. It features a 13-turn, 2.67-mile road course that has already hosted AMA motorcycle racing and Indy Lights, as well as the Pro Mazda and USF2000 series. The track is also undergoing $2.6 million in improvements designed in part to increase the number of passing opportunities and also to meet the safety standards of high-spec racing, such as IndyCar or NASCAR.

The state has also committed 4.5 million from its tourism budget to help with marketing.

The track is owned by Dr. Laney Chouest, whose family owns Edison Chouest Offshore, a south Louisiana company which designs, builds and operates supply vessels for offshore oil and gas facilities around the world.

Chouest said the track will launch a smartphone application for the race which is expected to allow fans to do everything from finding rest rooms and concession stands to following along with telemetry from the track, such as cars' speeds, sector times and the G-forces they pull around turns.

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