Indycar 2016, Phoenix and Road America return

The 2016 Verizon Indycar Series schedule was released today. Overall it is a positive schedule for the series with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 headlining an extended Verizon Indycar Series season, which will see the series return to fan favourites, Road America and Phoenix International Raceway.

Road America is a great addition to the series, as previously mentioned when the event was announced earlier this year. It is also great to see American open wheel series racing back at Phoenix International Raceway with a Saturday night race under the lights as the second round of the championship trail.

Whilst it is great to see both Road America and Phoenix back on the schedule. The longer term future of both events will ultimately come down to fan attendance at the events. Admittedly it wouldn’t be that large of a stretch to believe that of the two Phoenix is the one more at risk longer term. Particularly as this offseason saw the Milwaukee Mile and Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) disappear off the schedule.

I know you are saying right now, yes but Phoenix is historical for the series and we all have this great nostalgic feeling about its return. Well sure so do I and it is fantastic to have, but a few short years ago the Indycar faithful had the same ‘nostalgia’ burning bright for Milwaukee and the crowds didn’t come in the numbers required and whilst the promoter had issues outside of promoting Milwaukee he also lost patience and now the venue is off the schedule. The same as Fontana.

Putting on breathtakingly amazing races doesn’t keep races on the Indycar schedule. People turning up and supporting the events which claim to have a rightful place does keep the events going, so please support Phoenix and Road America if you can otherwise both will just join the never-ending list of recent losses to the Indycar Series calendar in a relatively short period of time.

Whilst NOLA’s unfortunate turn of circumstances saw the race effectively become an embarrassment as the rain continued to cause havoc, in addition to the subsequent legal battles. It’s return was highly unlikely and is now confirmed to be off the schedule.

The complete 2016 schedule, with television networks and times (all ET):

March 13  Streets of St. Petersburg    ABC    12:30 p.m.

April 2       Phoenix International Raceway    NBCSN    8 p.m.

April 17     Streets of Long Beach    NBCSN    4 p.m.

April 24     Barber Motorsports Park    NBCSN    3 p.m.

May 14     Grand Prix of Indianapolis    ABC    3:30 p.m.

May 29      Indianapolis 500    ABC    11 a.m.

June 4       Raceway at Belle Isle Park    ABC    3:30 p.m.

June 5       Raceway at Belle Isle Park    ABC    3:30 p.m.

June 11     Texas Motor Speedway    NBCSN    8 p.m.

June 26     Road America    NBCSN    12:30 p.m.

July 10      Iowa Speedway    NBCSN    5 p.m.

July 17      Streets of Toronto    NBCSN    3 p.m.

July 31      Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course    NBCSN    2 p.m.

Aug. 21     Pocono Raceway    NBCSN    3 p.m.

Sept. 4      Streets of Boston    NBCSN    2 p.m.

Sept. 18    Sonoma Raceway    NBCSN    7 p.m.

I have to admit whilst I like the venues on the schedule, I’m got a few mixed feelings on the format which the season takes. I’ve continuously disliked the idea of having an incredibly short Verizon Indycar series schedule, with the series over by the last weekend of August to avoid competition with the NFL so I’m glad we have an extended season ahead in 2016.

However the whole idea of avoiding the NFL was to allow Indycar to have more eyeballs on the series when it was on the air. The issue was with that format, that whilst the attention existed in the time Indycar was on air. It led to an extremely compressed schedule.

The people then switched off on lets say August 30th and switched back on Mid-March, which created a huge period of time in which stakeholders got virtually nothing in return for being a part of the product that is Indycar racing.

Whilst this season does see Indycar thankfully extend the calendar. The simple crux of the problem remains is that Indycar does not have enough venues to keep everyone happy. The championship either is compressed heavily and gets duly criticised for doing so ending on Labour day.

The alternative is that we get a schedule with a couple of weeks bolted onto the end of the season, with the compromise that we see additional gaps in the proceedings with a particular issue in only having one round in August this season. As it has to be a choice between going three weeks longer into September or ending on Labour day. I guess the gaps are the lesser of two evils for Indycar to deal with.

It’s far from ideal from the perspective of promoting the road to the championship showdown when you have several weeks of dead air in the closing four races of the season but at least it keeps the season alive for a few more weeks. Ultimately though it is not very difficult at all to come to the conclusion that INDYCAR is moving the problem of when you do, or do not get eyes on the series rather than directly addressing it.

As regards television. The mix between NBC SN and ABC is relatively similar to 2015 and with the exception of the season opener which is on ABC. The block format of having the month of May on ABC  and the remainder on NBC SN should help with TV numbers somewhat, in finding the broadcast.

Overall then Indycar has put together a strong calendar for 2016. Not everything planned or at least discussed made it into the calendar and some hoped for the season to start earlier. However the addition of two fan favourites and an extended season will be welcomed by fans of the series, coming off a particularly difficult 2015 season.

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@_canuck_

Would be nice if some other tracks came back like Cleaveland,Vancouver,Laguna seca.

吳澤銘

Especially with Laguna Seca, didn’t they race there a while ago? I don’t understand why they won’t take a chance and go to places like England’s Donnington Park or COTA, or even with road course section of Twin Ring Motegi either, and why can’t they simply scrap all the oval races since DW12 is not fit for ovals at all? Ovals and DW12 is just like water & electricity, THEY DON’T MIX.

Tom Firth

Nice ideas, but basically it all comes down to money, or politics. Donington – Without paying a substantial sanctioning fee to Indycar, the series will not come to the UK. Compound that with the fact that Indycars previous visits to the UK have not seen long term success, even in the height of the CART era, and that the interest in the series is tiny relatively, and has dropped since the early 00’s in the UK. The question comes of why pay Indycar a fortune to come, when the venue, be that Donington, Silverstone et al could have a plethora… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

While I’m not sure why IndyCar can’t hold onto those venues that they have, I do have to agree that there’s a fear of getting stomped on in terms of TV numbers when it goes up against the NFL or college football. However, I should point out that in the past two or three years when the USGP went up against a Uni-Texas Longhorns football game, it still did well. I suspect that the reason for this was the influx of the international audience, but it still proves that a race can happen when it competes against another popular major… Read more »

Tom Firth

It’s a fair point. The one thing I would say is that when F1 comes to a town, and the US is probably the anomaly here, but generally when F1 is in town, it’s the No.1 gig in that town, or at worse no.2 When Indycar turns up in town, it’s maybe the 5th or 6th event, with the exception of the Indy 500 and perhaps Long Beach for people to go to, and I suppose that is because more fear exists for them, equally on TV as well. It also doesn’t really have the international appeal, so you have… Read more »

The Sarcastic SOB

I miss seeing them run at Montreal. The old champ cars used to do times within the F1 107% qualy limit.
The only way I see for a longer season that avoids the giant NFL is to start earlier in someplace warm, perhaps in Mexico City.

Tom Firth

Yeah, the series did look and speak with Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez about an early 2016 date at the venue, unfortunately the deal didn’t materialise for this season, though Indycar’s Mark Miles did say a chance does exist for 2017. Whether it happens or not is of course yet to be seen. It’s not exactly the first venue Indycar hasn’t been able to do a deal with, despite its efforts. It does make a lot of sense for Indycar to pursue it though, Champ car has history at the venue, and with F1 having paved the way, and FIA WEC set… Read more »