INDYCAR sets 2017 schedule
The Verizon IndyCar Series has announced its 2017 schedule and it looks a lot like this year’s, which is a good thing. After all, date equity is something fans everywhere appreciate.
The schedule consists of six ovals, six permanent road courses and five temporary street courses, running from March 12 through September 17, with the Streets of St. Petersburg starting the campaign and Sonoma Raceway again hosting a season finale. This coming year there will be 17 races, with Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis, MO the addition, marking a return to the venue that hosted both CART and INDYCAR from 1997-2003. As Josef Newgarden aptly coined it, “This is 17 for ’17.”
Once again, the Raceway at Belle Isle features the sole doubleheader of the race year, coming one week after Indianapolis. Watkins Glen International, tabbed to replace the ill-fated Boston Grand Prix race on Labor Day returns to the schedule with the same date.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., parent firm of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, among other holdings has confirmed all events on the current schedule are also set for 2018. There is the possibility of an international non-points-paying event, which could take place in February.
Beginning with the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 12, the INDYCAR series takes a few weeks off before venturing to Long Beach April 9, then heading to Barber Motorsports Park on April 23 and off to Phoenix International Raceway a week later, April 29. Where this year Phoenix was paired with Long Beach on consecutive weekends, Miles said he’s still talking with Bryan Sperber at that track to see if they can revert to that for 2018.
Indianapolis’ pair of races take over the month of May with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis set for May 13 and the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 scheduled May 28. June will, once again, be an exceptionally busy month with four events: the Duals in Detroit at Belle Isle are on June 3-4, Texas Motor Speedway’s night race, hopefully not rained out in 2017, is on June 10, and the series takes a week to recuperate before heading to Road America on June 25.
INDYCAR pauses for the Fourth of July, then heads for Iowa Speedway July 9, followed a week later by the annual trip to the Streets of Toronto July 16. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s traditional date is a week earlier this coming year, closing out the month of July on the 30th, which gives the Verizon-sponsored series two races in August: Pocono Raceway on August 20 and Gateway just six days later on August 26. Again, it’s hoped that the weather cooperates for both.
The final two races are in September, as stated earlier. Watkins Glen takes place on Labor Day weekend, occurring September 3 and two weeks later, the West Coast beckons with Sonoma Raceway closing out the contests.
“As a series we are working diligently to create long-term relationships with our promoters to establish date equity and to provide them with the opportunity to initiate ticket renewals and event promotions earlier, which is pivotal to continuing the increase in attendance at our events,” said Miles.
He noted the series had a 38% growth in both television ratings and viewership from 2013 through 2015. The same numbers are up this year by a total of seven percent compared to this time last year. Six 2016 events have attracted crowds at or near record highs, Miles explained.
All events on the 2017 schedule have broadcasting rights allocated to Verizon IndyCar Series television partners of long standing, both ABC and NBCSN. The final broadcast schedule, together with start times, is expected to be released later in the year. Miles expects the St. Louis short-oval to run under the lights as Texas always has, but for 2017, Iowa remains a day race, occurring on a Sunday once again.
The hours allocated for each race is “the next level of difficulty – and it doesn’t escape our focus,” Miles stated. “We’re working with our partners to find the right balance for the shows and for our [on-site] fans. We’ll work with our broadcast partners to find the right balance, but it’s better for our fans to minimize overlaps with NASCAR.
“Being on NBCSN, having the second half of the season with same broadcasters for the IndyCar Series and NASCAR maximizes the window. We’re working toward a significant reduction in overlapping telecasts – it’s much, much less than even three years ago – and that helps all the race fans.
“NBCSN is working to minimize key conflicts. Their objective is to be the motorsports platform in this country – much as they’ve done in golf. They have grown as cable provider, grown their audience for motorsports and been helpful in the growth of our audience.”
By Anne Proffit
2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule