INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this month, the NTT INDYCAR Series announced that they would move the 2021 season opener back a full month. Instead of opening up on the streets of St. Pete on March 7, they’ll do so at the Barber Motorsports Park instead.
Now, the stop on the Leeds, Ala race track moves back a week too.
The 2021 season will officially kickoff on Sunday, April 18.
“The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans.”
Barber Motorsports Park became an instant hit among INDYCAR drivers when the series first tested on the fast and undulating circuit in 2007. A fan favorite, as well, this year marks the 11th time the series will race there, a tradition that started in 2010. Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest driver at Barber, with three wins. Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato is the most recent winner.
“Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park jumped at the opportunity to have our event showcased on NBC network television” said Gene Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports. “We are proud of the tremendous support that INDYCAR receives annually here in the heart of the deep south. The facility and museum are world class, and we look forward to highlighting George Barber’s vision in what has become a bucket list destination for all race fans.”
The biggest reason is obviously for TV. When you can buy a week during a pandemic, you have to take it. But when you buy a week and get a date on network TV in the process, it’s an even bigger step.
To move to NBC is huge for obvious reasons. But, by doing so you also get the first two races on network NBC and do so on back-to-back weeks as well.
Initially, the season has 35 days between the first race and second. Now, it’s down to just seven days.
That’s another win.
Plus, six of the first eight races and seven of the first nine will now air on NBC including nine now overall.
But, the only drawback to this is, it’s a very condensed schedule from there on for the drivers and teams.
They’ll now be in action all but one weekend from the start of the season through the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Factor in Barber and go through Toronto in July and you get 10 weekend’s of action, two of which being doubleheaders, in 13 weeks.
They’ll get a month off for the Olympics, if that even happens anymore. Then, after that things really ramp back up again with six races in an eight week span to close out the season.