INDYCAR schedule not out yet but a look at what should be coming

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series season finale is quickly approaching. Just 2 races remain beginning next weekend in Portland (Sept. 4) and the finale at Laguna Seca (Sept. 11) after. Then what?

Well, the 2023 schedule is a work in progress but by all accounts it should be unveiled here soon. Last year they released the 2022 schedule during the Portland race weekend but that weekend was pushed back a few weeks compared to this year’s.

It was Sept. 19 that the 2022 schedule came out. So the series isn’t behind at all in terms of releasing the 2023 one.

In terms of what may be on it, most people from what I’ve heard from say it will look almost identical to this year’s.

Here’s what we know.

IMSA provided a few clues in the fact that they’ll share a few race weekend’s with INDYCAR again. Long Beach will be April 16. Both INDYCAR and Long Beach announced last winter that they reached a new deal through 2028.

We also know that the inaugural street race in Detroit will be on June 5. That’s a week after the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 which will take place on May 28.

So what else will be there?

The season will likely once again start in St. Pete. They just signed a new deal last summer that runs through 2026. I’ve heard the race may be pushed back to March again. Per the initial agreement, the race weekend for 2023 was slated to be – March 9-12, 2023. However, the 2022 edition was supposed to be March 10-13, 2022 but they were able to move it up to the end of February. While that could definitely be an option again next season, I’m starting to hear they may run it back in March again to close the gap between the spring races.

IMS has already been promoting the GMR Grand Prix race weekend as well as the shared NASCAR weekend. The date for the NASCAR weekend is still TBA (NASCAR hasn’t released their schedule yet) but the GMR Grand Prix would be May 13.

Road America will be back as they last year announced a multi-year deal too. The thing for them is, do they stay in June or does their weekend move since NASCAR isn’t back on the Fourth of July weekend there? TransAm will be there on July 6-9. They won’t be a headliner so does INDYCAR move back or does the Xfinity or Truck Series return for that race weekend?

Iowa is back on a multi-year deal. Reports last year had also circulated too that World Wide Technology Raceway has reached a new multiyear deal to keep themselves in the series for at the very minimum the next two seasons as well. This track has been a hit since its return in 2017 and arguably one of the better events on the schedule each year.

Nashville is here through 2023 as the date per the TransAm schedule will be Aug. 6.

Portland’s date is though 2023.

That gets you St. Pete, Long Beach, GMR Grand Prix, Indy 500, Detroit, Road America, Iowa, NASCAR-INDYCAR shared weekend, World Wide Technology Raceway, Nashville and Portland.

That gets you to 11-12 races set depending on if Iowa stays as a doubleheader or not.

The rest is down to Barber, Texas, Mid-Ohio, Toronto and Laguna Seca.

INDYCAR’s deal with Barber was supposed to end in 2021 but due to missing last year due to COVID, the deal was extended through 2022 instead. They are up for a renewal with Texas. So is Laguna Seca.

Scott McLaughlin leads Alex Palou in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

The only two tracks left to renew also is Mid-Ohio and Toronto who both are with the same promoter (Green Savoree Racing). That group also has Portland and St. Pete too with Portland up for renewal next season. Do they just knock out all three at the same time to give Portland an early extension and line them up with St. Pete?

It’s essentially down to Texas, Barber, Mid-Ohio and Toronto for 2023. They’re not contractually on it now, but that can change.

Texas and INDYCAR have talked about plans for 2023 but the rumor is that Texas could get another reconfiguration between 2023 and 2024 and that it could cost INDYCAR a date for 2024 and beyond. If so, that brings up a need for another oval.

Could we see expansion still in the future too anyhow? Iowa joined Nashville who joined Gateway, Portland, Laguna Seca, COTA, Rod America and Richmond as the most recent tracks joining the schedule. Road America rejoined in 2016, Gateway came in 2017, Portland in 2018, COTA/Laguna Seca in 2019, Richmond in 2020, Nashville in 2021 and Iowa back for 2022. That’s seven straight years. Do we see No. 8?

The drivers want more ovals on the schedule.

“I just think we need to get back to more ovals, which I think everybody can definitely agree on that,” Dixon said. “It’s just picking the right ones, picking the right partnerships that do exactly what they’ve done in Iowa or here in St. Louis.”

Fans begged for Phoenix to come back. It did. That reign was short lived. No one came. Fans wanted Milwaukee to return. Andretti promoted it. No one really came out like they said they would. Fontana put on one of the best races in 2015 that you’d ever see. No one was there to witness it. Pocono came and went.

If someone is going to come back or even a new oval to come onto the schedule, fans have to come out. They have to make this appointment viewing. You can’t skip it.

On the fans side, they’ll cry that there needs to be a reason for them to come out. For years, the oval model was to have race day be just that, race day. There wasn’t much action on track outside of that.

Pocono for example would feature 2 practice session and qualifying on Saturday and just the race on Sunday. The only other real on track activity was vintage cars. There’s just not much to do other than the race itself so fans wondered why come all day for 3 hours of action?

On road and street courses, you get all 3 ladders of the Road to Indy as well as INDYCAR. Sometimes you get sports cars and Super Trucks too. It’s a filled day of racing for each. The only down time is typically the 5-10 minute breaks between sessions to usher one series off the track and a new one on it.

Well, World Wide Technology Raceway was the model to bringing that to oval action. When they came back to the series schedule in 2017, the promotions was bar none as good as anywhere else on the schedule and the activity each day was like you’d see on road/street courses. There’s constantly a car on track.

That and a carnival like atmosphere is a reason to why this track has stuck around for 6 years and counting now. They get it.

“I think you’re absolutely right. I think it provides a template for others. It’s a case study, right? It shows what is possible,” Alexander Rossi said on Friday morning from WWTR, the site of the 15th race of the 2022 season.

“Most things in life require capital and investment to grow. I don’t think an INDYCAR event is any different. We obviously have a huge amount of support and gratitude to our current and existing promoters for what they do. We wouldn’t have a championship without them.

“However, we all want to see this series grow, see it continue to evolve and invite a new fan base in, introduce them to our sport. That requires, like I said, time and money to do that.

“We have a template for what has been successful. Hopefully it’s a roadmap for other promoters going forward.”

His teammate agreed.

“It’s important in our sport, right, to have good promotion, these sort of things,” Colton Herta noted. “We have seen that in the crowd count for the last few races.

“Yeah, everybody here at Gateway have been really good promoters. We’ve always had outstanding crowds whether that be a day or night race.”

Iowa saw that model and replicated that this year. After being left off the 2021 schedule, they were back in 2022 and did so in a big way. Iowa has Hy-Vee. Gateway has Bommarito. Each are making this work.

“It is great to see for all the obvious reasons,” Johnson said. “It’s my first time to Iowa, first time here with an INDYCAR. From afar watching that, I’ve known this race has always had a lot of excitement around it. The group promoting it and sponsoring it has always worked very hard.

“The thing that I really appreciate about the INDYCAR SERIES and the culture here, people within the sport, its promoters, drivers, teams, everybody generally wants to grow the sport and is putting everything that they can in to grow it.

“I didn’t feel like my last few years in NASCAR was that way. I felt like there was a lot of finger pointing, not participating in helping grow the sport, more rock throwing than anything, pointing fingers at who is doing it wrong. Here it feels like everybody is trying to grow the sport and do it right.”

Dixon agreed with him.

“Yeah, I think it’s important. It’s very important,” he said. “Having been part of the series for a little bit now, it’s great to see enthusiasm. I think what Hy-Vee did was tremendous. Huge congrats to them. It showed that it worked. Got a lot of people back out.”

As far as where the next Gateway or Iowa could come from?

“Hopefully we can do that at some new venues coming quickly here, even if it’s something like Kentucky, Milwaukee, which is important for the heritage of what INDYCAR racing is,” Dixon continued.

“It shows that, as I said, it can be done. Hopefully they continue to. Kentucky was always fun. It was quite a demanding circuit, but always played well for INDYCAR racing. Richmond, I know we were pretty close to being back there, apart from the situation with COVID.”

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