Two old friends and one new major city are the highlights of the 2016 IndyCar schedule, which will be officially released Tuesday.
As first reported by RACER last month, Phoenix and Elkhart Lake are back in play for next year along with a street race in Boston. The addition of those three venues replaces Milwaukee, Fontana and New Orleans, so there again will be 16 races in the Verizon IndyCar series.
Headlined by the 100th Indianapolis 500 on May 29, there will be five ovals, five road courses and five street circuits, with Detroit hosting the only double-header.
A February date in Mexico City couldn’t be worked out so the season opens at St. Petersburg in mid-March but is being extended to mid-September with the finale set for Sonoma on Sept. 18.
After the 2015 season basically was compressed into five months, the IndyCar teams have a little more room to breathe next year.
“I think the spacing will be good for our teams and fans,” said IndyCar CEO Mark Miles. “And we still have a good mix of ovals, streets and road courses.”
Fans have been clamoring for IndyCar to return to the scenic, legendary road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. where Champ Car last raced in 2007. Former IndyCar competition director Derrick Walker is credited for putting the deal together by Road America president George Bruggenthies.
Most of the IndyCar teams tested at Elkart Lake last month.
“I think we’re all thrilled because it’s one of the great road courses in the world and it’s a blast to drive,” said Graham Rahal, who raced on the four-mile track back in ’07 as a rookie. “And we had a nice turnout for our test, so I think the fans are pretty happy we’re coming back too.”
Phoenix International Raceway opened in 1964 and the mile oval staged Indy some of the best and most popular IndyCar races for five decades before the ravages of the CART/IRL war destroyed the crowds. Jay Frye, chief revenue officer of Hulman Motorsports who put together a successful Cup team in NASCAR, was instrumental in bringing PIR back into the fold with his connections to International Speedway Group.
“I hope we give it time to grow back because we will put on a helluva show,” said 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, twice a winner at PIR in the IRL days. “It’s one of those tracks where IndyCar belongs, just like Road America, so it’s great that we’re going back. I love both of those places.”
Phoenix will be a Saturday night show, just like Texas and Iowa.
The Boston race, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, has met some resistance from locals over circuit costs but Miles is confident it will happen.
August only has Pocono but Miles doesn’t think it will hurt momentum and likes the fact the teams won’t be going from coast to coast on successive weekends like in the past.
“We’ve got a race the last weekend in July and the first weekend of September so having just one race in August isn’t that much of a concern,” he said. “I like the fact we’ve got a couple weeks between most races so that’s better for the mechanics and crews.”
2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule
March 13 – St. Petersburg
April 2 – Phoenix (Saturday night)
April 17 – Long Beach
April 24 – Barber
May 14 – Indy GP
May 29 – 100th Indianapolis 500
June 4-5 – Detroit double-header
June 11 – Texas (Saturday night)
June 26 – Elkhart Lake
July 9 – Iowa (Saturday night)
July 17 – Toronto
July 31 – Mid-Ohio
Aug. 21 – Pocono
Sept. 4 – Boston
Sept. 18 – Sonoma