I hear a lot of questions from IndyCar fans on a regular basis. I often field simple questions such as “Is (insert driver here) going to win this week?” or “What is wrong with (insert team or driver, your choice)?” However, the question I hear the most from fans these days is “What is going on with the schedule for next year?” And it is a fair question indeed.
After last off-season’s scheduling nightmare, in which race dates were lost and events weren’t finalized until the very last minute, it’s not hard to understand why IZOD IndyCar Series fans are anxious to know what is in store for next season. There have been plenty of rumors, and everything from stops in Phoenix and Richmond to the return of the Michigan 500 have been suggested. The bottom line? Most of what you hear in the rumor mill is just that….rumors. If the past is anything to go by, deals will likely be made, broken, and finalized in a matter of days from start to finish, and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be at least one race on the schedule next year that comes completely out of left field and shocks everyone. The sad truth of the matter is that given the financial state of the sport, confusion and instability are to be expected in the scheduling process, at least until the sport proves it is financially viable in the long-term (and trust me, that is going to take years).
So what do we know for 2013? Certain races are obviously set for not only 2013, but for many years to come. Long time staples such as the Indianapolis 500, Long Beach Grand Prix, and Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are all obviously in good shape for the foreseeable future. The race is in St. Petersburg is up for renegotiation soon, but city officials have made it crystal clear that they want to keep the race.
INDYCAR recently reached an agreement with the City of Houston to hold a race at Reliant Park, and that race is already set for October 6th of next year. The races in Sao Paulo, Toronto, Detroit, and Edmonton are all set for 2013 as well, with Sao Paulo and Toronto both having deals in place that extend past 2015. The Baltimore event was recently saved by the promotional arm of Michael Andretti’s team, and thus the race is set for the next 5 years. As for the non-street courses, Iowa, Sonoma, Milwaukee, and Texas all appear to be in good shape for 2013. Milwaukee promoters announced that the race would return in 2013, so despite the recent attendance woes, that race is looking good at least for next season. Texas is up for renegotiation for 2013, but the promoters seem to be happy with the race and should be looking for an extension.
Now for the bad news…the races in Fontana and Mid-Ohio all have very uncertain futures going forward.. Not much is known about the contracts in place for these two tracks, but it is safe to assume that the future of both will be heavily dependent upon the success of the 2012 races. Sadly, I expect one of these two races to be off of the calendar in 2013, but again, only time will tell if that will be the case.
That gives INDYCAR a solid foundation of 13 races set in place for the 2013 season. Randy Bernard and Co. have been adamant about expanding and diversifying the schedule going forward, and that will likely show in the schedule for next year. Anywhere from 18 to 20 races can and should be expected. But what exactly will that schedule look like? The schedule I posted below is a rough outline of what the schedule could look like, with speculated races thrown in for good measure.
*Matt Stallknecht Early 2013 IndyCar Schedule Outlook:*
*Race 1:* The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
*Race 2:* Honda Grand Prix of Alabama @ Barber Motorsports Park
*Race 3:* Untitled Race @ Phoenix Int’l Raceway
*Race 4:* Long Beach Grand Prix
*Race 5:* Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300
*Race 6:* 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
*Race 7:* Detroit Grand Prix
*Race 8:* Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway
*Race 9:* Iowa Corn Indy 250 @ Iowa Speedway
*Race 10:* Milwaukee IndyFest
*Race 11:* Grand Prix of Toronto
*Race 12:* Edmonton Indy
*Race 13:* Michigan 500
*Race 14:* Untitled Race @ Phoenix
*Race 15:* Untitled Race @ Road America
*Race 16:* Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
*Race 17:* Grand Prix of Baltimore
*Race 18:* Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston
*Race 19:* Fontana 500
*Race 20:* Izod IndyCar World Championship @ Chicagoland
That’s my take on it. The two biggies on the list are the races at Michigan and Chicagoland. Both tracks are reportedly in discussions with INDYCAR, and it makes a lot of sense from a marketing standpoint to end the season with a big race in Chicago, the third largest media market in the U.S.
Again, none of this is set in stone, but if the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule is anything close to what I think it will look like in 2012, then a lot of fans are going to be happy.