Friday, August 16, 2013

2014 IndyCar Schedule Update #1

It took two days for there to be the first update on the 2014 IndyCar schedule and it came from Racer's Robin Miller. In the article, Miller hits on the following main points:

1. No new events in 2014 (so no Road America, Chicagoland, Austin, Michigan, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Watkins Glen, Kansas, Laguna Seca, European road trips, Australian vacations, sugar daddy races in the Mideast or India) but a total of 20-21 race, up from 2013.
2. Season ending by Labor Day.
3. Road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the beginning of May looking more and more likely.
4. São Paulo has not been completely killed off but, if it does happen, it will move to a new date.
5. With the season ending in September, Fontana could move to June so the Triple Crown races are three consecutive months. Houston to August. Nothing reported for the Labor Day weekend, especially  important now that it is open because the Baltimore race has to move due to a conflict in scheduling.
6. St. Petersburg requested to become a doubleheader and will still be the season opener.
7. Pocono likely to become five hundred miles.
8. Milwaukee looks likely to return despite reports.

After reading Miller's article and thinking about it and sleeping on it and going for a six mile run before sun rise, I feel now is the perfect time to respond to each point above.

1. It sucks but as I have said before, the goal for 2014 should be to retain all races from 2013. Miller says Mark Miles is still interested in adding dates for 2015. I feel like this is a broken record. Well "Track X" couldn't be added to the 2008 schedule because of reunification but there is interest in 2009. Well "Track X" couldn't be added to the 2009 schedule due to (insert problem here) but there is interest in 2010 and so on and so on. It's another year of, "we'll get them next year." Now, would I rather the series rush and sloppily get three or four more tracks for 2014 or wait and work out the finer points for 2015? My answer would be wait but IndyCar has to be talking with tracks now to tie up all loose ends for 2015.

2. I get ending the season by Labor Day. I am not necessarily for it but I get it. My question is, is if the season opener remains in late March, is a season that last a little over five months a good thing? Now if the season opener moves to the weekend after the Super Bowl in February or even January, than the season expands and covers a larger period of time and all is fine. Ending the season earlier unfortunately take dates away from the nice autumn weather but the series does not want to go head to head with American Football, which in my opinion is ridiculous but that's another story.

3. I am not for an IMS road course race. That's been stated before. Like I said before, it's wrong and not to the point it feels right. It's wrong. Now, I am all for Indianapolis Motor Speedway becoming a better home to all forms of motorsport. I like the MotoGP race at Indianapolis because A. They can race anywhere and put on a good show. B. They have great personalities that everyone can love. C. Motorcycles were a staple at the Speedway when the track first opened. D. It's another race in the United States. E. You get to see Valentino Rossi watching the AMA Flat Track race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I am ok with the NASCAR race at the Brickyard. It will never hold a candle to the Indianapolis 500. Nationwide Series I am less thrilled about because it took away a great race at Raceway Park and I am ok with sports cars.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a race track. Not an IndyCar track. A race track. Race tracks can be universal for all forms of racing, whether they be two-wheels or four but a second IndyCar race, regardless if it's on the road course or oval is not necessary and overkill. Apparently the owners are for it but it's wrong because IndyCar should have one and only one race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and that's the Indianapolis 500. I don't see how this race would make money for the Speedway. The track should be looking for ways they can make money through events that aren't racing related. Even Dario Franchitti has his opinion on it.

4. If São Paulo is to happen, it's going to have to move. I can only see it being earlier but the reason it was moved to May was so it did not interfere with Carnival, the festival held the Friday through Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. Carnival changes from year to year and having the race in February or March was difficult because of it possibly falling the weekend of Carnival, which the Sambadrome (the front straightaway) was purposely built for and requires time for preparations for the festivities. This year Carnival was February 9-12th. Next year it's February 28-March 4th. The year after that February 13-17th. They could find time after Carnival for the event. March 16th is open but that will lead to a conflict which you can see in point six.

5. I get moving Fontana to June so the Triple Crown races can all be close together. The Triple Crown of  Thoroughbred Racing takes place over six weeks and there is a lot of buzz. But moving Fontana to June? Weren't teams just asking for time off during that month? Where are you going to put Fontana. Should dates hold serve, you have Belle Isle June 1st, Texas June 7th, Milwaukee June 14th, Iowa June 22nd. So June 29 for Fontana, a week before Pocono and extending a five consecutive weeks of racing to eight straight, from Indianapolis to Toronto including two doubleheaders. And seeing as how Fontana has to be a night race if it's going to be in June, it would make sense for it to be a Saturday night race but that open weekend in June, is the same weekend NASCAR ran a Saturday night race at Kentucky this year. Well why doesn't Fontana flip with Iowa? Well, NASCAR is at Sonoma that weekend. Fantastic.

To be honest, I think Miller will be wrong on that one (watch he'll be right). Fontana as the season finale Labor Day weekend makes more sense. What's going to be the season finale if it's not Fontana?

Houston is going to be just as hot and probably more humid in August than Fontana would be in June but Houston was run under the lights in 2006 and it would make sense if the race to be night races in August. Almost too much sense to happen.

My problem is, I think IndyCar is digging themselves into a hole by trying to end the season by Labor Day. With Baltimore moving to be in August and Houston potentially moving to August, that leaves no room for an IndyCar race at Road America, especially one during the same weekend as sports cars. Could Road America moved to July, which still has two weeks open? Sure but look at how jam-packed the schedule would be. Fort Lauderdale would be beautiful in late September but couldn't happen unless Labor Day moves (it isn't) and Fort Lauderdale in February, in my opinion, puts it too close to the Daytona 500 and the St. Petersburg race, which leads me to point six.

6. As I said in point #4, São Paulo moving up creates a conflict and a scenario of St. Petersburg moving up as well. Miller said St. Petersburg is going to be the season opener but São Paulo (if it ends up happening) has to be earlier. Should the St. Petersburg date hold serve in 2014, it would be March 23rd, the weekend after the date I threw out for São Paulo. Could St. Petersburg move up? Maybe but what works for St. Petersburg is it being held during spring break for most universities across the United States. Moving it from it's current date could hurt ticket sales.

As for the doubleheader format, great. I am all for it. I would be open to doubleheaders at all races except the Triple Crown races and any races that are run with sports cars san Belle Isle (so Long Beach and potentially Road America if it ever gets added to the schedule and Barber is they somehow get a USCR date).

7. Great news.

8. More good news.

With all these points covered, let's remember, Miller and others covering IndyCar can be wrong. Remember last year when people said Sonoma was going to be a doubleheader and Providence was going to happen? There is no doubleheader in a little over a week and how was that Providence race last Sunday? See my point.

But just to take a crack at it, what would the IndyCar schedule look like if Miller is accurate:

São Paulo March 16th (if at all.)
St. Petersburg March 22-23.
Barber April 6th.
Long Beach April 13th.
IMS road course May 4th.
Indianapolis 500 May 25.
Belle Isle May 31-June 1st.
Texas June 7th.
Milwaukee June 14th.
Iowa June 22nd.
Fontana June 28 or 29th.
Pocono July 6th.
Toronto July 12-13th.
Mid-Ohio August 3rd.
Baltimore August 10th.
Houston August 15-16th or 16-17th.
Sonoma August 24th.

I don't see Sonoma being the season finale, though it is in a great part of the country and a little under an hour from San Francisco. I think Fontana will be Labor Day weekend. Now, whether the race is a day race or Saturday, Sunday or Monday is beyond me. Saturday night makes sense. With that taken into account:


São Paulo March 16th (if at all.)
St. Petersburg March 22-23.
Barber April 6th.
Long Beach April 13th.
IMS road course May 4th.
Indianapolis 500 May 25.
Belle Isle May 31-June 1st.
Texas June 7th.
Milwaukee June 14th.
Iowa June 22nd.
Pocono July 6th.
Toronto July 12-13th.
Mid-Ohio August 3rd.
Baltimore August 10th.
Houston August 15-16th or 16-17th.
Sonoma August 24th.
Fontana August 30th.

And there you go. The season takes place across six months with at least another four months before the 2015 season opener. It's not pretty at all but maybe IndyCar has to take a flyer on yet another year in hopes the one following with materialize to something truly great.