As we wait for the 2017 IndyCar schedule to be officially announced, here’s a look at the races likely to stay and go next season.
2017 IndyCar season opener
We can expect St Petersburg to open the season once again in 2017. IndyCar’s aim of opening the season in February appears to hinge on striking a deal to take the series back to Australia. It is too late now to secure a round at Surfers Paradise for next season, but 2018 may be an option. The ‘but’ is big however.
The sticking point is the need for the V8 Supercars series to share the date with IndyCar. US open-wheelers and the V8’s used to share the billing when IndyCar/CART/ChampCar raced at Surfers Paradise. Agreeing a mutually acceptable date will take some time. IndyCar will want a February date whilst the Supercars will be reluctant to leave their current October date. A shared date is essential as local organisers will not build the track twice in one year unless they are desperately seeking bankruptcy.
The fact the Supercars series is more popular and successful than it was when the two last shared a race weekend is another stumbling block. Running on the same bill as IndyCar is no longer the attraction for the V8 series that it once was. It can even be argued IndyCar will benefit more from running with the V8 series, with regards interest in Australia at least.
2017 IndyCar schedule – the races staying
Joining the Indy 500 as the ‘first draft picks’ for the 2017 IndyCar season are the races at Long Beach, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the Roger Penske-backed Dual in Detroit and Mid-Ohio. No particular surprises there given that all were among the first to secure the closest thing to ‘permanent’ places on the schedule in recent years.
With the Indy Toronto now back in its traditional July slot, the series’ only trip to Canada will be back on the schedule in 2017. The bumper crowds at Road America have secured it a place on the 2017 schedule. Add to that list Iowa Speedway which is confirmed through to 2018.
Sadly we are facing another Sonoma snooze-fest as the season finale in 2017. Whether double points will remain remains to be seen but the Californian circuit is guaranteed its now traditional last race slot.
Phoenix will feature on the 2017 IndyCar schedule after a strong return this year. The track and promoters demonstrated a great appetite for the series and attendance was solid.
2017 IndyCar schedule – the races at risk
It will come as no surprise that the Pocono 500 is unlikely to feature on the IndyCar schedule next season. Despite providing some fairly exciting and engaging races, the Pennsylvania event has simply not attracted the crowds. Pocono was supposed to connect IndyCar with New York and the east coast. With Watkins Glen on the schedule for this year, Pocono’s days are numbered.
Watkins Glen’s future is in its own hands. IndyCar wants and needs a successful east coast event and Pocono has proven not to be it. If IndyCar at the Glen in 2016 can provide the same quality of racing as the NASCAR typically does, the track and the series could be set for a long partnership.
2017 IndyCar schedule – new additions
It looks like the Gateway oval in St Louis will be the only new track to feature on the 2017 IndyCar schedule. Pocono will likely make way for St Louis on the schedule with Watkins Glen now covering the ‘east coast’ market.
Rumours swirl about possible returns to Portland and New Hampshire, along with a push for a second race in Canada – potentially Calgary. Time is running particularly short for both to be added to the schedule.
Back in February the series indicated a desire to add 4 new races to the schedule for 2017. Surfers Paradise, Portland and Watkins Glen along with St Louis may well have been the preferred 4. With Watkins Glen’s return brought forward to 2016 to replace the cancelled Boston Grand Prix, for 2017 at least it looks like only St Louis will make the 2017 schedule.
If you are reading this from Oregon, New Hampshire, Calgary or the Gold Coast of Australia, the 2017 schedule may be a big disappointment. But on balance, building strong events and pruning back the weaker ones is exactly what IndyCar needs.