The 2024 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, announced Monday (Sept. 25), has proven controversial, owing to the removal of Texas Motor Speedway from the schedule, the return of the Milwaukee Mile after an eight-year-long absence, and the narrow geographic scope of the calendar.
Naturally, the Frontstretch IndyCar team had to sit down and share our thoughts on the state of the IndyCar schedule and what could be improved to save the calendar from such controversy in the future.
The question: What is the biggest problem with the current IndyCar schedule?
Michael Finley, Staff Writer: The biggest issue is probably just the lack of regional variance. The east coast north of Alabama is completely ignored and save for Iowa, there is nothing directly west of Barber or Nashville until you get to California. It’s fine for the series to focus on its strengths in the Rust Belt, but with less than 20 races on the schedule and the map looking like it does, there are some very obvious holes. If you can’t get a race a Texas Motor Speedway, why not a race at COTA?
Sergio Perez has been able to attract a large Mexican fanbase to COTA for years now, in a similar way as Pato O’Ward could. Especially with how much more diverse an area Austin is versus the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I do not agree with the idea of having IndyCar at high speed ovals, so I don’t mind leaving TMS, but there are plenty of ovals which IndyCar could easily run at outside of those. Richmond is the obvious one, but with New Hampshire Motor Speedway now without a second Cup date, why not have that track again with the modern cars?
I think if you add those three races to the current schedule and potentially remove the million dollar exhibition race (a race that will not matter for points using a format that NASCAR has had to crutch with creative track decisions for years now), and I personally don’t have much issue with this schedule.
Mike Knapp, IndyCar Reporter: As someone who loves the history and tradition of open wheel racing, I am excited about the return to Milwaukee. It also doesn’t hurt my enthusiasm that another race is added to the schedule that is close to home.
That said, I’m tempering my enthusiasm because history also shows us that it doesn’t put on the greatest of races. Like Texas – which I hope returns to the schedule in 2025 – unless there are two lanes in the corners, it’s going to still be the type of race that it was in years past, where passing was difficult and one car dominated the race, which fans didn’t find very interesting, not to mention that expecting fans to commit to two races over Labor Day weekend is a big ask. The success of the race depends on if IndyCar can come up with a package that improves the overall racing.
Jack Swansey, The Pit Straight Host: Okay, so we lost Texas – the track that nobody expected to put on the best motor race of 2023, but somehow did. It seems that’s a temporary change though, a byproduct of NASCAR’s difficulties amidst pressure from Olympic broadcaster NBC and a need to realign its schedule to the strengths of the Next Gen car. So I’d expect TMS back in 2025 – just in time to disappoint everyone with a ho-hum race, since the only thing consistent about TMS is its ability to break hearts.
The 2024 schedule plays to IndyCar’s strengths, and that’s a good thing. Losing the lone non-doubleheader repeat track in favor of launching a new event on IndyCar’s home turf in Milwaukee puts the series’ best foot forward, although only time will tell if the plan pays off – shoring up Nashville as a tradition and destination is a similarly measured move.
There’s one big wild card: Thermal Club. Best-case scenario, the non-points event becomes IndyCar’s Coachella; an event to aspire to attend, rather than get tickets yourself. Worst-case, the trip to the desert goes all Fyre Festival – either way, I’ll be fighting my fellow Frontstretch writers for a chance at credentials come March.
Tom Blackburn, IndyCar Contributor: The lack of a high-banked 1.5-mile racetrack definitely makes the schedule feel a little more like a draw compared to last year than a major victory for IndyCar. The PPG 375, one of the best races in 2023 which resulted in an astounding 1,070 passes, 439 for position, is gone. That great racing product was replaced with a doubleheader on the flat, and iconic, Milwaukee Mile. It is a big win to have that legendary oval on the schedule again, but it came with the subtraction of the exciting show that Texas put on last year.
With no replacement in line, the 2024 schedule will include only one superspeedway, which has a wrong vibe to it. Even in CART’s day, there were at least two of those thrillers, Indianapolis and Michigan. After the Split, IndyCar had multiple high-banked tracks to put on the type of races the modern open-wheel fan expects.
If Texas doesn’t come back, is there an opportunity for another oval, preferably a superspeedway, to jump in? There’s plenty of options in the Midwest, where the fan base is heavily located, but there has to be a promoter or track operator that has the passion. Without the revenue from a big television contract like NASCAR, tracks that run IndyCar have to pay a sanctioning fee to the series and then somehow make a margin on tickets sold. Why do that when a track that runs NASCAR gets millions from the TV deal right away?
Hopefully IndyCar’s leadership shifts focus to trying one of the tracks that they left years ago but bring the package from this year’s Texas race. Mark Miles and Jay Frye should take the drama from Texas to Kansas, Kentucky or even the fabled Michigan (if Milwaukee rose from the ashes, so can the oval in the Irish Hills). The schedule doesn’t need many more ovals, just one more will bring the balance that equals the high-tide in the 1990s.
Alex Gintz, IndyCar Content Director: I am a closet admirer of the high downforce era or the Indy Racing League (IRL) which produced chaotic, close racing and the occasional airborne incident. It remains unlikely that IndyCar will go back in this direction anytime soon, so I look forward to the ovals on the calendar each season. Texas’ removal, for such an, at first glance, minuscule reason as a scheduling conflict, hurts a fair bit – or at least brings me close to hurt.
I likewise would love to see the series expand beyond borders and oceans and restore the international flare which it could boast up until 2013. Unfortunately, I won’t get that either. Looking at the visualization of the 2024 calendar on a map, it has to be a more visceral disappointment than the removal of Texas, which has yet to return to its pre-re-profiling (2017) glory. The absolute lack of events on the East Coast and the bare landscape that constitutes the West is something close to unacceptable, even if the fan base is largely in the Midwest. The world is getting too small to have a geographically small presence.
Let’s head back to Pikes Peak, Watkins Glen, Kansas and Phoenix to start righting these wrongs. Once Texas is back along with these additions, all will be well.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
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