2023 INDYCAR schedule unveiled, my takeaways

INDIANAPOLIS — INDYCAR has announced a 17-race schedule for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES as the sport’s brash and bold athletes will be showcased with traditional weekend dates, 13 races on NBC and an exciting, late-summer swing leading to another climactic ending to the 2023 championship.

The 2023 season opens Sunday, March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Thrilling, wheel-to-wheel racing then will take place all spring and summer, including the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 28, before the season ends with a stirring climax Sunday, Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The journey to a championship includes a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks of the season, giving fans action nearly every weekend.

“The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

For just the fourth time in the last 50 years, the INDYCAR SERIES will have 13 or more races on network television in the United States. The total appearances on broadcast television become 15 with the addition of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying coverage, Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, ahead of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The first seven events of 2023 will be featured on NBC, including the “500.” The season also finishes with six of the final seven races on network television. The 2023 season will include three races on USA Network and for the second consecutive year one exclusive race on Peacock. Peacock will present live simulstreams of all races on NBC and USA Network, as well as live coverage of all qualifying and practice sessions next season.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES was the most-watched season in six years and the most watched across NBC Sports on record. Powered by NBCUniversal’s popular streaming service, Peacock, the 2022 season also was the most-streamed season on record.

Half of the 2022 season’s 16 races on television featured a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of more than 1 million viewers, the highest mark since 2008. Last year’s season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding, was the most-watched season opener in 11 years.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” said NBC Sports, VP, Programming Mike Perman. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Traditional Dates, Races Return

The 2023 schedule includes the diversity that has been the hallmark of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the only open-wheel series on Earth that races on ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. Drivers will compete in seven road course races, five street circuit events and five oval races.

After the 2023 season opens for the 13th time on the palm tree-lined Streets of St. Petersburg, Sunday, March 5, North America’s premier open-wheel racing series returns to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 2 for the series’ 36th race on the action-packed oval.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach follows with its traditional mid-April date hosting the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Sunday, April 16. It is the 39th time the INDYCAR SERIES has been featured on the iconic streets of Southern California as the event hosts its 48th edition.

Barber Motorsports Park plays host to its 13th NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, Sunday, April 30 before the series moves into the traditional Month of May cadence at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 13, “500” qualifying weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Sunday, May 28.

To date, tickets for the 107th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” are moving at a near-record pace, after a near-sellout crowd of more than 300,000 attended the 2022 race.

The traditional early June date for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear returns in 2023, but at a brand-new site. The debut of the Streets of Detroit circuit, a move to the downtown site from its previous location at Belle Isle Park, takes place Sunday, June 4.

The nine-turn, 1.7-mile street circuit will provide unprecedented access with more than half of the event’s footprint open to the public. It is also a homecoming and a connection to the event’s heritage, which began on the downtown streets of the Motor City in 1982.

USA Network will feature the early-summer swing on the classic American road courses of the Sonsio Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America, Sunday, June 18 and The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, which returns for another Fourth of July weekend celebration, Sunday, July 2. Road America will feature a newly repaved 4.048-mile layout. Mid-Ohio matches Long Beach as it hosts INDYCAR SERIES racing for the 39th year.

Summer Homestretch

The 2023 season hits its stride with eight races in the final nine weeks. Peacock once again will provide an exclusive presentation of the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday, July 16, for the series’ annual appearance in Canada’s largest city.

After that, six of the final seven races will be featured on NBC broadcast television. It begins with two events expected to be even bigger and better than in 2022: the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend and the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

The doubleheader at Iowa Speedway is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23. In 2022, with support from Hy-Vee, the wildly popular weekend featured world-class concerts and thrilling wheel-to-wheel action at “The Fastest Short Track on The Planet.”

INDYCAR returns to the unpredictable Streets of Nashville on Sunday, Aug. 6. Last year, the fan-favorite event, marked by concerts and entertainment, featured the closest street circuit finish in INDYCAR SERIES history when six-time series champion Scott Dixon edged Scott McLaughlin by a margin of .1067 of a second.

With the Brickyard Weekend returning to a traditional August date, the NASCAR-INDYCAR tripleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course features the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ Gallagher Grand Prix, Saturday, Aug. 12 on USA Network.

The series finishes the season with three races on three consecutive weekends – all on NBC – beginning with the final oval of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, Sunday, Aug. 27.

From there, it’s the traditional two-race, West Coast swing featuring Portland International Raceway and the newly repaved WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The 29th Grand Prix of Portland is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 3 while the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will be crowned and receive the Astor Challenge Cup at the 26th Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 10.

“We have worked hard to achieve date and venue equity, which has been an ongoing goal at INDYCAR,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “We are excited to return to downtown Detroit, and the repaves at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will add new challenges for the drivers and teams. The intensity level will also be at an all-time high as we conclude the season with three weekends in a row.

“As we build off the record-breaking 2022 season, we could not be more enthusiastic to see how 2023 unfolds.”

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

McLaughlin had a fierce battle with Alex Palou in the end of February’s race at St. Pete – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site

Still A Longer Gap In The Spring

This past season, we saw just three races in a 62-day span. That’s because for the first time in well over a decade, the season opener on St. Pete was moved up to February. The next race wasn’t until March 20 at Texas. Then another gap before returning to the streets of Long Beach on April 10.

Those were the only races between the final weekend of February and the final one of April. Barber was May 1.

Now, that gap has been shortened but only by a little bit. We get 4 races in a 56 day span this time around.

St. Pete moves back to March again but with Texas moving back to April it creates a month long gap between the first and second races of the season. However, you do still have 3 races in the month of April before the pair of races in the Month of May.

So other than moving the start a week, you still have the same races in the same time frame when looking at St. Pete through Detroit.

Romain Grosjean Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Season Ends In Early September Again

INDYCAR’s vision of this schedule is to always end near Labor Day weekend. They don’t want to go head-to-head too much with the NFL. While some don’t like such an early end to the season, the TV ratings prove this is the right move and once again, the series will end in early September in 2023.

First off, you have to look at Portland. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

I was skeptical when the NTT INDYCAR Series was adding a Labor Day weekend event back to the schedule. For some reason, outside of Memorial Day weekend, the series just doesn’t pull strong ratings on a holiday weekend. This year’s Labor Day weekend was a crowded one. Between the US Nationals for the NHRA, the Southern 500 and the opening weekend of College Football, how much attention would be put on a race in the Pacific Northwest?

By the looks of it, a lot.

This past year’s Grand Prix of Portland averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.011 million viewers on NBC and Peacock. That’s up 49% vs. last year’s race on NBC and up 6% vs. NBC’s 2021 race average, excluding the Indianapolis 500.

That’s a strong number and one that further proves that ending the season when they do is the right one. There’s no real reason to go deep into the Fall when you know your numbers are going to take a drastic hit.

Just take a look at the season finale a week later.

The series lost 500k in viewers in a weeks span and the race that they lost the viewers for was their championship deciding one. I mean think about it. You have 5 drivers eligible for a championship with the closest margin between them in 19 years. It’s a race on NBC between the big names of the sport.

Only 507k people felt like tuning in. The why?

NFL and NASCAR is why. I get people want to race further into the Fall, but this past Sunday’s race proves why that’s not the best decision.

F1 raced on cable TV that same weekend in the morning and nearly drew 1-million viewers. That’s telling.

The NFL is the juggernaut and going to pull the afternoon ratings. Going against them isn’t wise, especially when NASCAR does too. Between those two, having an INDYCAR race on USA in the Fall isn’t going to move the needle.

So ending in early September is the right call, especially with what these numbers are showing. Most races aren’t gaining as much year over year like Portland did. That’s because Portland’s date last year was going head-to-head against the NFL. Hence the 49% increase for their weekend and a 50% decrease a week later for the same cars in a championship deciding race that took place at the same time of day.

Alexander Rossi Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Laguna Seca The Season Finale Again…Should That Be Revisited?

For the 3rd time in the last 4 years, Laguna Seca will host the season finale. However, in a day and age of competitiveness in the NTT INDYCAR Series and the championship seemingly every year coming down to the final race among multiple drivers, is this track the best suited to host a clinching race?

It’s one that you don’t tend to get a lot of passing on. Alex Palou won by 30 seconds earlier this month. So does it move the needle in such an importance race?

You don’t tend to see packed grandstands at this place because well, there aren’t many. The atmosphere from the outside is lackluster. While it’s a fun track and a drivers track, I don’t know that it suits the common fan.

I mean when you think championship you think a big event. Super Bowl. Final Four’s. World Series. NBA Finals. Each venue is always packed. It’s a huge marquee event that lands more eye balls than normal on it.

This one unfortunately doesn’t do it. In the early portion of the NFL schedule, I don’t see this race other than a get the year over with event. Which is why I hope INDYCAR is open to at the very least rotating season finale venues.

This past season was actually the fifth straight year that a different track has hosted the season finale and brings up a legitimate question, should the last race of the season get moved around each year anyways. I mean we’ve already done it every year since 2018.

That ends for 2023, but for 2024, should we revolve it again?

In 2018 we ended the year in Sonoma. A year later, Sonoma was replaced by Laguna Seca. For 2020, since we couldn’t go west due to COVID, the last race was held on the streets of St. Pete. Last year, COVID moved Long Beach back to the final race. It’s now back to Monterey.

Should INDYCAR start allowing tracks to bid on the final race? Could that be an extra stream of revenue coming in?

I mean NASCAR has discussed this the last few years but haven’t ever actually done it. They ended the year in the playoff format from 2004 through 2019 in Homestead. In 2020 they moved it to Phoenix as they’ll end the year out west for this year and next too. Which brought the question up as why aren’t they moving it around like they initially discussed?

INDYCAR due to some unforeseen circumstances has. I mean, look at the Super Bowl. It’s moved around each year. So is the NCAA Tournament. Big championship deciding events are shuffled around each year. INDYCAR has indirectly done that the last five years and makes you wonder if that should stay.

Some current drivers are open to it.

Part of the argument though would be that it makes it an even bigger event. It’s not just another race on the schedule that so happens to crown a champion. The track and the series would build it up. Plus, it doesn’t give a distinct advantage to any one driver each year if a certain track remains as the last race and that driver may or may not be good there.

Indianapolis on the road course makes the most sense of all. It’s your home market. A lot of teams are based here and I can already visualize a week long events in the Circle City including Georgia Street being utilized downtown.

Every 5 years we see “The Road Ends Here” slogan painted all over town for the Final Four. Why can that be the same for the NTT INDYCAR Series. I think you’d get far more people here than you would anywhere else.

Another year maybe mix in an oval like Gateway. Maybe throw in a street course too so you get all the disciplines recognized every three years on a championship hosting level.

It also makes me ponder on if this is two-fold for TV ratings too. Are these the right venues to end on. Maybe they’re not moving the needle.

If you do want to go deeper into September, then it may be wise to find new venues. I mean Long Beach is a great example with it being that in 2021 as the season finale, that race drew 1.078-million viewers. It also ran against the NFL too but was a more iconic race than Laguna Seca.

Do you think casuals tuned in last year for the championship clincher or because it was Long Beach?

I think we all know that answer.

So maybe moving tracks around is more relevant than ending earlier. I wondered last year if Long Beach was a more viable season finale option than running it in its traditional April date anyways. It was a big event feel for a place people have heard of. Packed grandstands are a good thing. For Monterey, nothing against this facility, but you see more sandy hills than people on the telecast. There’s not many grandstands that are visible on television.

There’s a nice crowd, but not one that visible to the ones not there. People want to go where it looks like a party. I’ve heard from people wondering if anyone even attended Portland and Laguna.

Long Beach you don’t have that problem.

2022 was the end of Belle Isle. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

8th Straight Year Of A New Venue

For the 8th straight year, we’ll see a new venue on the schedule. We already knew it was coming, but next June, the streets of Detroit replaces the streets of Belle Isle. The downtown circuit joins Iowa (2021) who joined Nashville who joined Gateway, Portland, Laguna Seca, COTA, Road 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.

Newgarden bests McLaughlin in a photo finish this past March at Texas – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

No New Ovals

A lot of folks have been clamoring for more ovals. However, that won’t happen in 2023 with the same ovals returning for 2023.

“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.”

Milwaukee has been discussed and with the Truck Series going there next August, maybe that could potentially open up the door for a return in 2024.

Gateway Back To Sunday Also During The Day

This past year the World Wide Technology Raceway was run on a Saturday afternoon. It hurt the attendance. If they were going to run during the day, why not on a Sunday. For 2023, they now will with the race moving back a week and being the Sunday after the Coke Zero Sugar 400 which is run on a Saturday night.

Mid-Ohio Moved To USA

I wondered with the dismal ratings across motorsports on the 4th of July weekend if Mid-Ohio would get moved off NBC. It now is. They’ll race on USA which shapes the inaugural street race in Chicago for the Cup Series to run on NBC instead.

No Sports Car Conflicts

An under the radar tidbit here is that the series won’t race against Sebring or the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season either. That’s because Texas moves back to April and Road America back a week too.

Cup Series Conflicts

12 of the 17 races however will run on the same day as the Cup Series though.


Sunday, March 5Streets of St. PetersburgNBC, Peacock
Sunday, April 2Texas Motor SpeedwayNBC, Peacock
Sunday, April 16Streets of Long BeachNBC, Peacock
Sunday, April 30Barber Motorsports ParkNBC, Peacock
Saturday, May 13Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course)NBC, Peacock
Sunday, May 28Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval)NBC, Peacock
Sunday, June 4Streets of DetroitNBC, Peacock
Sunday, June 18Road AmericaUSA Network, Peacock
Sunday, July 2Mid-Ohio Sports Car CourseUSA Network, Peacock
Sunday, July 16Streets of TorontoPeacock
Saturday, July 22Iowa SpeedwayNBC, Peacock
Sunday, July 23Iowa SpeedwayNBC, Peacock
Sunday, Aug. 6Streets of NashvilleNBC, Peacock
Saturday, Aug. 12Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course)USA Network, Peacock
Sunday, Aug. 27World Wide Technology RacewayNBC, Peacock
Sunday, Sept. 3Portland International RacewayNBC, Peacock
Sunday, Sept. 10WeatherTech Raceway Laguna SecaNBC, Peacock

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