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15-race IndyCar season recommended

The Hulman-George family should retain ownership of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to a report from a consulting group it hired to evaluate business operations, including running the Indianapolis 500.

The Boston Consulting Group offered a wide array of suggestions on how to better position the troubled open-wheel series and historic speedway in a 115-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Among the ideas: a 15-race IndyCar schedule in major American cities held over 19 weeks; a three-race playoff with a season finale on the road course at Indy; a new marketing strategy promoting IndyCar’s “daredevil drivers”; using just one U.S. television partner instead of both ABC/ESPN and NBC Sports Network; overhauling the ticket pricing at IMS in tiers that would raise the cost of the most expensive Indy 500 ticket from $150 to $200 and lower almost every ticket for the Brickyard 400 and Red Bull Grand Prix.

Hulman & Co. is under no obligation to follow the suggestions.

The consulting firm was hired at the end of last season.

Randy Bernard was ousted as CEO in late October in what many fans viewed as a coup by team owners and IndyCar founder Tony George, who made a late-season play to buy back the open-wheel series.

Since then, Mark Miles, who most recently led Indianapolis’ successful Super Bowl effort, has been brought in as CEO of Hulman & Co. and is charged with hiring Bernard’s replacement. Jeff Belskus, the former CEO, is filling in for Bernard in the interim.

Appreciative Patrick

Danica Patrick was bummed after fading on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Some kind words from owner Tony Stewart and race winner Jimmie Johnson picked up her spirits a little.

“To have somebody like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tell me that on some level I made good decisions out there at the very end was a really nice thing for them to say,” Patrick said Friday.

Coming around on the final lap, Patrick had Johnson and Greg Biffle in front, leaving her in position to make a run for the win.

Instead, Patrick got bogged down on the outside behind Biffle and was passed by drivers on the low side, fading from third to eighth.

Martin wins pole

In Avondale, Ariz., Mark Martin will be on the pole at Phoenix International Raceway for the second straight year after becoming the second-oldest pole-sitter in NASCAR history.

Martin went around PIR’s mile oval at a speed of 138.075 mph Friday to earn his 56th career pole.

Martin turned 54 in January, leaving him a few months short beating Harry Gant as the oldest driver to win a Sprint Cup pole. Gant was 54 when he won his last pole at Bristol in 1994.

Kasey Kahne will start on the front row with Martin for Sunday’s 312-mile race. Jimmie Johnson will take the green flag in third next to Kyle Busch.

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