INDIANAPOLIS — NASCAR unveiled their 2021 Cup Series schedule on Wednesday. But, if you’re paying close attention, you’d notice that a few of the NTT IndyCar Series races for next season were also accompanied in these announcements too.
First off, we know that the Texas Motor Speedway will move from a June date, which has been there since the races’ inception in 1997, to the first weekend of May now. It will be the first early May race outside of a Indy since Brazil in 2013.
Also, the race weekend will be a pair of races in a doubleheader format too. It’s dubbed “Racing’s Fastest Doubleheader.”
The two races will take place on May 1-2 in a pair of 300 mile events.
Then, the Brickyard 400 was announced to be moving from the oval to the road course and will take place on Aug. 15. It’s being paired with an INDYCAR race on Aug. 14 too.
A few weeks ago, Nashville announced an Aug. 8 race in the first of a three year deal.
You also already know that the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be on Sunday, May 30. Doug Boles confirmed to me on Tuesday that the annual GMR Grand Prix should be back in May again which would likely run on Saturday, May 15. Belle Isle should be back post Indy 500 again (June 5-6). The track officials signed a new deal in 2018 to last through 2021 but there’s an option for two additional years to possibly get tacked on through 2023 though as well. Long Beach has also already stated this past spring that they’ll be back in 2021 with a race date of April 18. They extended their deal in 2017 to last through 2023.
World Wide Technology Raceway will be back and should be back on a Saturday night slot on Aug. 21. Portland has already signed a deal to put them on the schedule for Sept. 12 while Laguna Seca will be in the final year of their initial contract. I would expect for them to be Sept. 19 or Sept. 26 as the season finale again barring any last minute tracks being added.
If you follow the dots, the schedule is almost done. I spoke to a couple of different people in the know and they expect the final schedule to come out in the next week or two.
Here’s where we fully sit with their contract situations too.
St Pete’s date next year is March 14 in terms of a race date according to their contract. The remaining dates of the terms are March 13, March 12 and March 10 respectively.
What about Barber Motor Sports Park and COTA? These have typically been with St. Pete and Long Beach as your spring races.
Barber’s new extension was originally set to last through 2022, but with the cancellation of this years race due to COVID, the year was tacked on to the end for 2023. They have always been in April and with Easter on the 4th and Long Beach the 18th, would they run there the on the 11th or 25th?
COTA’s future could be bleak. NASCAR is going to be there in May, but will INDYCAR return?
Road America has a deal signed in 2018 that lasts through 2021. Do they remain in June still with NASCAR coming on the Fourth of July weekend? That’s their only question is where do they go on the schedule?
Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Iowa need new contracts. I’m hearing Toronto and Mid-Ohio which are promoted by the same business as Portland, are close. The new thing I’m hearing now is that Mid-Ohio will run on July 4 instead of a packed August schedule like previous years. The big thing holding up that contract was they had to first finalize when the Brickyard would be moved to. IMS had three potential dates for the Brickyard — one for June, one for July and one in August. If they were housed in June or July, then Mid-Ohio could stay put in August. If the Brickyard was moved to August, which it was, then Mid-Ohio would have to move.
Now that the direction is clear, Mid-Ohio can get their deal done with an all likely July 4 date for 2021.
Toronto, if they come back, will likely be in July again.
Iowa’s fate is all up to INDYCAR. NASCAR doesn’t want them anymore, so does INDYCAR rent the track out again and if they do, whom do they rent it from? One hot topic was that Iowa was wanting INDYCAR to buy them outright. No word yet on that being done, but I’ve been told Iowa is closer to coming back than falling off the schedule all together.
One track falling off is Richmond. They unfortunately are going to be cut. Richmond signed a multi year deal but that contract looks to be void now.
So, where does that leave us?
Speculated 2021 schedule by me (not counting if any new tracks or doubleheader’s are added)
March 14 – St. Pete
April 18 – Long Beach
April 25 – Barber (or April 11)
May 1 – Texas
May 2 – Texas
May 15 – Indy GP
May 30 – Indy 500
June 5 – Belle Isle
June 6 – Belle Isle
June 20 – Road America (does this move up or back now?
July 4 – Mid-Ohio
July 23-Aug. 5 – Olympic Break
Aug 8 – Nashville
Aug 15 – Indianapolis (road course)
Aug. 21 – World Wide Technology Raceway
Sept. 12 – Portland
Sept. 19 – Laguna Seca
That’s 16 races not counting Iowa, COTA and Toronto, if they come back. Yes, the schedule is light on ovals. But, with Chicagoland and Kentucky opening up from the NASCAR side, does INDYCAR give them a look? I talked to Kentucky Speedway’s GM just two years ago about the idea of INDYCAR making a comeback and he said that he wants them back. He’d love to have them come down and race again and said that he’s kind of surprised that they haven’t in that Indy Lights tests a lot down there.
Could we see expansion still in the future still? Nashville joined Gateway, Portland, Laguna Seca and Richmond (before COVID hit) as the most recent tracks joining the schedule. Gateway came in 2017, Portland in 2018, Laguna Seca in 2019 and Richmond in 2020. That’s five straight years.
Penske has made it clear he wants to remain in the 16-20 race wheel house for a season. Mark Miles has made it clear in the past that it’s wise to end before football season really gets going too deep. Did Mid-Ohio’s strong showing against the NFL a couple of Sunday’s ago help maybe push the season back further for 2022?
Either way, March-late September/early October is a great season.