That is a lot to ask, especially of a racetrack in a market with so many professional and college sports, as well as Disneyland, Magic Mountain, the Santa Monica pier, Universal Studios and Hollywood. Still, Zucker said she doesn’t think weather delays would be a problem. “It doesn’t concern us,” Zucker said. “The chance of it happening is very, very slight.” Perhaps. The Indy 500 has only been postponed and moved to another day because of weather three times in its 89 years. The last time was in 1997. In Zucker’s defense, the track went 71 years between its first rainout in 1915 and its second in 1986. Weather has postponed or delayed the start of the race seven times. And it has been shortened because of rain five times, the latest coming in 2004, when not only rain and thunderstorms rolled in, but tornadoes touched down near the track. That year, Buddy Rice won the race, shortened to 180 laps because of the inclement weather. Brian Barnhart, the president and chief operating officer of the IRL, said it was likely that the series would return to California Speedway, maybe even as an addition to the 2006 schedule. Zucker was not as optimistic. “I don’t know that I would use the word likely,” she said. On a day when rain and bad weather altered the race-day schedule at California Speedway, an even darker cloud grew over Indy car racing fans in Southern California. California Speedway has produced some of the best open-wheel races in IRL and CART. Sam Hornish Jr. became the first driver to complete a race with an average speed of more than 200 mph here. Gil de Ferran set a closed-course world record with a qualifying lap at 240 mph. By comparison, Dario Franchitti won the pole for Sunday’s race at 219 mph. Casey Mears made his major open-wheel racing debut at this track, adding to the legacy of the Mears family. Adrian Fernandez put together two of the most impressive wins of his career at California Speedway. Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of people in the stands to watch those races and witness those achievements. That is probably the most telling reason to why the IRL is not returning to California Speedway. Race fans in Southern California love NASCAR. And it’s unlikely Indy cars can change their passion. Tim Haddock covers motor sports for the Daily News. He can be reached at (818) 713-3715 or [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! FONTANA – For all those wondering what it’s going to take for the Indy Racing League to return to California Speedway, track president Gillian Zucker has the answer. She wants the race after the Indianapolis 500. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Zucker has her reasons for her choice. Mainly, she said she thinks her team at the track can market and promote the race after the Indy 500 better than any other track on the IRL schedule. California Speedway has a history of hosting big races. NASCAR believes in California Speedway, putting the Labor Day race and the race after the Daytona 500 in Fontana. So why shouldn’t the IRL have the same faith? Zucker apparently wants to know the answer to that question as well. But hosting the race after the Indy 500 takes a track with a tremendous amount of flexibility and patience. If the Indy 500 is delayed by weather, the race after it is expected to be rescheduled. That could be a week later, the next available open weekend or the end of the year. The Indy 500 has priority over any other race on the IRL schedule. Even if California Speedway wants the second-most important date, it needs to take it with the understanding that it can be moved to any day in the season. That date on the 2006 schedule went to Watkins Glen in New York, one of the few road courses on the IRL schedule. California Speedway was left off the schedule, with no indication of it ever returning. It’s a sad day for fans of Indy car racing, even if they pale in comparison to the NASCAR throngs that converge on California Speedway twice a year.