IndyCar adding Alabama track in 2010

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- IndyCar racing is coming to NASCAR country.

The Indy Racing League and promoters announced a deal Monday that will bring the open-wheeled cars to the Barber Motorsports Park track starting in April 2010.

"This will be the only IndyCar Series race in the Deep South, meaning it is a great tourist draw for the region," said Gene Hallman, a longtime area sports promoter who heads Zoom Motorsports, which will stage the race.

The Indy Racing League has 18 dates on its schedule each year, and the Alabama track is getting a spot that opened when Detroit lost its race. The rest of the 2010 IndyCar Series schedule will be announced July 31.

Officials estimate the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama could attract as many as 100,000 spectators from April 9-11. The track is about 40 miles west of the Talladega Superspeedway.

"It's a really interesting track," IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti said in a statement. "It's a fabulous facility -- the way it's built, the way it's kept. The track is a real commitment track, a lot of really, really fast corners."

The event is expected to pump about $30 million into the area economy, according to the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

More than 20,000 people turned out for IndyCar testing in March at the Barber track, a 2.38-mile, 17-turn track.

Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division, said officials worked for almost two years on bringing IndyCar racing to Birmingham.

Barber Motorsports Park was opened in 2003 by George Barber, former owner of Barber Dairies. Motorsports Park officials bill it as the largest philanthropic project in the history of Alabama with more than $70 million in private funds.

Indy racer Dan Wheldon said the track is both beautiful and challenging.

"It just has a little bit of everything," Wheldon said via conference call.