There is going to be an oval race prior to the 105th Indianapolis 500, but another oval has been erased from the 2021 IndyCar schedule without ever turning a wheel and a popular short track is highly unlikely to return.
RACER has learned that Texas Motor Speedway will be hosting its annual IndyCar race in the first weekend of May in 2021 and it will be a doubleheader, while Richmond Raceway will not be on the calendar next year. And with NASCAR wanting to shut down Iowa, that could join Richmond on the scrap heap.
Emails to IndyCar, Texas and Richmond were not returned before this story went to press.
It’s not been officially announced, but NASCAR is believed to have pulled the plug on IndyCar’s return to the Virginia short track. After signing a three-deal, IndyCar was set to make its return to the three-quarter mile bullring last June after an 11-year absence, but the race was cancelled due to the pandemic. The event had no title sponsor, and with COVID-related uncertainty hanging over attendance at sporting events, it was obviously a financial decision made by NASCAR, which has completely revamped its own schedule for next year. That includes moving the Brickyard 400 back to August, where IndyCar will again run the road course with the Xfinity series.
Next to Indianapolis, Texas is the longest-running oval on the schedule and is only behind Long Beach and Toronto in terms of seniority. Promoter Eddie Gossage opened the 2020 season at Fort Worth with no fans as a favor to Roger Penske. It’s known that IndyCar wanted to run an oval prior to the Indy 500, so a deal was struck to have a twin bill at Texas on the weekend of May 1-2.
After a week off, IndyCar will run the road course on May 16, qualify for Indy on May 22-23 and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing gets the green flag on May 30.
But the very real possibility exists that IndyCar will only have three ovals in 2021 – Texas, World Wide Technology (formerly Gateway) and Indianapolis. Iowa began hosting IndyCar in 2007, but the track has been bleeding money for several years and NASCAR reportedly wants to shut it down unless Penske steps in to buy it, which is not believed to be likely.
Another track missing from 2021 will likely be COTA, which is going to host a NASCAR race next spring, but may also be up for sale and not financially willing or able to keep IndyCar.
Still, with the new street race in Nashville, doubleheaders at Texas and Detroit, there will be 17 races in 2021.
Here’s an educated guess at the 2021 schedule without dates: