Unpacking the 2017 IndyCar schedule

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The 2017 race schedule for the Verizon IndyCar Series was released this morning, and there are a couple of exciting additions to the slate of venues. It is refreshing to see the schedule sorted so early in the year. In years past, we have waited until after the first of the year for the race schedule to be finalized. This early release bodes well for the health of the premier North American open-wheel series.

One of the complaints about INDYCAR’s choice of venues in the past has been the abundance of temporary street courses at the expense of natural terrain road courses and ovals, especially short ovals. There are two major issues with temporary street courses: they tend to be rough and difficult racing surfaces providing little passing opportunities, and they tend not to enjoy any longevity. The Houston, Baltimore, and ill-fated Boston races are excellent examples of the tenuous nature of these types of venues. In 2016, the series added one of the premier natural terrain road courses in the US, Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. When the Boston Grand Prix deal fell through, the series was fortunate enough to secure a date at the historic Watkins Glen International, site of the first truly successful Formula 1 Grand Prix in North America.

Not long after this year’s race at Road America, an agreement was reached with INDYCAR to continue hosting an event through 2018. This morning, Watkins Glen International has also signed up with the series for two more years. This is fantastic news as both venues offer great racing action and have a very rich history of open-wheel racing.

“In the end, this was the goal of both Watkins Glen International and INDYCAR – to announce a multi-year agreement. We are very much looking forward to next weekend’s Grand Prix at The Glen, and can’t wait to get started with our efforts to grow this event moving into the 2017 season. Of course, this would not be possible without the outstanding support that we receive from New York State and Governor Cuomo. It’s just a great day and a very exciting announcement for our fans and partners.” — Michael Printup, President of Watkins Glen International

The other big addition to next year’s race schedule is the return to the shallow-banked 1.25-mile oval at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, IL, just on the other side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO. This is right in the backyard of Formula1Blog.com’s world headquarters, and it’s a race that we’ll definitely be attending next year. The venue has hosted top-level open-wheel racing from 1997 through 2003, first with CART and then with the IRL. The venue has since seen a change in ownership and with it’s revival in 2013 it has returned to being a racing destination for NASCAR, USAC, the NHRA, and the SCCA.

“Today is a monumental day for the people of the St. Louis region. I am proud of the progress we’ve made at my hometown track. I knew someday we would be making an announcement like this because I have such confidence in the people of this region and their commitment to great sporting events. More than a dozen track operators around the country sought this INDYCAR race for their communities. I firmly believe we came out on top because of the energy, loyalty and commitment to great sports that sports fans of all kinds demonstrate each day in this community.” — Curtis Francois, owner of Gateway Motorsports Park

In my opinion, this is one of the most balanced IndyCar schedules in several seasons, even if it is still street-course heavy. There are a total of five street races, including the double-header race at Belle Isle in Detroit, six distinctly different oval tracks, and five natural terrain road courses. Hopefully, we will see the series continue the growth in race attendance and TV ratings that it enjoyed this year. A schedule like this certainly doesn’t hurt.

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule

Date Venue Type
March 12 Streets of St. Petersburg Street
April 9 Streets of Long Beach Street
April 23 Barber Motorsports Park Road
April 29 Phoenix International Raceway Oval
May 13 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Road
May 28 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Oval
June 3 Raceway at Belle Isle Park Street
June 4 Raceway at Belle Isle Park Street
June 10 Texas Motor Speedway Oval
June 25 Road America Road
July 9 Iowa Speedway Oval
July 16 Streets of Toronto Street
July 30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Road
Aug. 20 Pocono Raceway Oval
Aug. 26 Gateway Motorsports Park Oval
Sept. 3 Watkins Glen International Road
Sept. 17 Sonoma Raceway Road

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oregonwings
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oregonwings

Good progression in the schedule yes, however there is work to be done. First and foremost we see once again how compressed the schedule is. This is a massive strain on the teams and mechanics, especially the smaller ones. Being essentially unemployed from mid September until pre-season testing the next year could cause some fantastic engineering talent to leave the series. Then there is the stresses of back, to back, to back weekends with long hauls in between. This isn’t F1 money, so I wonder how sustainable this is in the long run for the smaller teams. Hopefully the steady… Read more »

J. Doug Patterson
Editor

I’m not sure that I’d count DFW as the Desert SW, but I get your point. The PNW is a grossly underserved market, and an event at PIR would be fantastic to see. You’re too right about the affects of schedule compression. It’s not only a challenge for teams, it’s also a challenge for media and fans for whom the travel budget is easier if the expenses are spread out over a longer period of time. There are a number of races I’d like to get to, but with the schedule being so tight, I have to pick and choose.… Read more »

Coji
Guest

If you live in the PNW, we can carpool to Sonoma! But yes, one event would be successful up here. PIR is decrepit for a major series, but it’s a fun track. While most of Eastern Oregon and Northern California is not densely populated, driving from Seattle and Vancouver is doable, and being in Oortland would allow for an easier drive for the rest of the PNW.

Member

I’ve seen the series race in Houston 3 times(once at the old downtown 1 mile circuit) and I do wish Indycar would return to Houston(it was a rough track) with a new layout. I don’t want to go all the way to Denton/Texas Motor Speedway.

Ncrdbl1
Guest
Ncrdbl1

Then go outside city limits and build an actual race facility. These POS temporary circuits lose money hand over fist and get drivers hurt. There is not a single street course which makes money and that includes St Pee and Long Beach.

Member

FYI, there is a short road course many miles outside the city. Can I come to you for a $500million(estimated cost of COTA) to build a proper track facility?

Kelly O
Guest

I will add that having it in the parking lot of Reliant/NRG in the middle of summer is just about the daftest thing I’ve ever heard. If Houston were successful, it would need to be earlier in the season, preferably not in a parking lot (however nice that parking lot might be.) Houston is a major city, true, but it’s also got some problems from a purely track-building and sustaining perspective, not the least of which is the bayou/flooding situation. Add in that it’s not really that far to DFW for the existing race at TMS, and it may not… Read more »

Member

The CART race on the old downtown circuit used to be in late September and the weather was milder than mid-June. I thought the race at NRG Park should had been a either a night race or dusk to night race.

Ncrdbl1
Guest
Ncrdbl1

Know the series is hurting for event s but rehashing old failed venues is not the answer.

#F1 'o^°o-
Guest
#F1 'o^°o-

Good schedual, would be nice if the Pacific NW could get a race back.
I got back into racing when i went to the first few Indy races in Vancouver and i went to the 94 Portland race which was very fan friendly! Van will not get a race back because of noise bylaws and they are trying to save the planet ect… there was some talk of Calgary but nothing lately. If only they could build a Spa like track in the mountains by Seattle or Van.one can dream.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Will IndyCar ever consider Austin (CotA)?

Member

Once F1 leaves the facility…

Coji
Guest

I’m thinking once the F1 contract is over, they won’t have the money to renew, being that they’re already struggling and sanctioning fees are always rising. They will have to come for IC for sustainability.

Coji
Guest

Ah, Gateway. US’s Twin Ring.

One change I’d like to see are eliminating the long breaks between races. I think the series needs momentum for newcoming viewers’ interests. Breaks result in the series being forgotten by really casual fans.

Honestly, the variety of ovals is fantastic. It’s not like NASCAR where they jump between the very similar 1.5 mile tracks or visiting the same track multiple times. I’d like to swap Belle Isle for a road course if it were up to me, also add more tracks. I’m not complaining much though. Give me racing and I’ll watch it.