As we launch in to the absurdly long IndyCar off season, MotorSportNotes looks at the confirmed, axed and 50/50 races for the 2016 IndyCar schedule.
Definitely not happening in 2016
Despite being one of the few tracks to support IndyCar through the date lottery of the past few seasons, the patience of the team at Auto Club Speedway has expired. If rumours are to be believed IndyCar even offered Fontana multiple dates to choose from and – most importantly we thought – dates sitting in the cooler environs of September. For a race that has been shunted around the schedule for years it comes as little surprise and despite offering up the greatest (and scariest) IndyCar race in recent history, IndyCar and the Auto Club Speedway are done with each other.
After all the hoopla that surrounded racing close to New Orleans the combination of an unsuitable track, atrocious weather and poor promotion mean the Grand Prix of Louisiana falls firmly in to the ‘one and done’ category. A shame for the hardy fans that braved the weather this year but no great loss for the series in the grand scheme of things.
On the schedule for 2016
We know that St Petersburg is definitely back and likely to hold on to its position as the season curtain-raiser. This comes despite talk of a rejuvenated Mexico City race in February 2016. After the disaster that was the Brasilia season-opener for 2015, you have to assume/hope that the series has learned its lesson and a race in Mexico City will not be rushed in to action for 2016 until suitable due diligence has been conducted.
With confirmation in the past few weeks that Toyota will continue as primary sponsor the classic Long Beach Grand Prix is assured a place on the calendar. To the delight of fans Road America is back on the schedule for 2016 and we can expect Barber Motor Sports Park, Mid-Ohio, the Detroit double-header and Toronto to keep their places. Interestingly Toronto is likely to shift back to its traditional mid-July weekend following the temporary switch to June to accommodate the 2015 Pan-American Games in the city. That move could well prove to be the key that unlocks the rest of the schedule dates.
An exciting addition for 2016 is the Boston Grand Prix the first weekend in September, which in itself gives Mark Miles the ‘longer season’ he has been touting recently. The race promoter either let the cat out of the bag or jumped the gun by publishing on their website status as the ‘season finale’ in 2016. That has promptly been replaced with more generic content but a street race finale could certainly make the championship decider even more of a trip to the casino as Will Power might put it.
Of course the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the precursor Grand Prix of Indianapolis are both confirmed no matter what else happens with the calendar.
Now, as ever with IndyCar, we get to the interesting part: the potentials. Thankfully these are not making up the majority of the schedule but there are some iconic and important races in this category.
The Milwaukee Mile continues to be under threat. Following the confirmation of Road America for 2016, so-so crowds and serious promoter issues around the Andretti Sports Marketing meltdown, things are not looking promising for the longest running event outside the Indy 500. Check out our earlier article on the issues facing the Milwaukee Mile here.
Continuing a common theme for the series, another classic oval – Pocono – is a 50/50 for next season. The existing 3-year deal has ended and another mediocre crowd certainly does not make it a certainty.
One oval that is being considered in a more positive light for 2016 is the Phoenix International Raceway. Depending on your sources, this one is either an almost done deal or a smokescreen. A return to the tri-oval that featured on the old Indy Racing League/CART schedules has been suggested by some as a way to distract from the fact oval races are falling like dominoes. With Fontana gone, Milwaukee and Pocono on the brink, the series desperately needs another oval and hopefully this one is more than just talk.
Mexico City as we mentioned above is being touted around as a possible series opener in February. This would help alleviate the ground-swell of criticism that accompanied the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ 2015 March to August season. Ghosts of Brasilia 2015 however suggest this one is more likely to be a 2017 consideration.
Florida could be in for an epic March 2016 of motor sport if rumours around a return for the Homestead-Miami Speedway come to fruition. There is speculation that Homestead could feature as a ‘double-header’ alongside St Petersburg, sandwiching the Sebring 12 Hours endurance race. Sebring typically attracts several IndyCar regulars and south Florida climate in March is certainly appealing as a way to achieve IndyCars’ objective of a bigger calendar for 2016.
Iowa Speedway is keen to return but a move for Toronto back to its traditional July dates poses a problem. Shunting Iowa later in July is likely to clash with the NASCAR Xfinity race at the track. It is however likely to be resolved, particularly as the other early July race – Milwaukee – is facing an uncertain future. Expect Iowa to take Milwaukee’s recent early July date, with Toronto mid-July.
After the last corner of the last lap finale at Sonoma last weekend, the California dust bowl is likely but not confirmed for 2016. Not a circuit MotorSportNotes is at all a fan of and we hope another race would get the glory of the season finale. For those skeptical about Sonoma a wonderful rumour doing the rounds at present is that ISC is looking to takeover Laguna Seca with a view to snatching IndyCar and NASCAR from Sonoma.
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