But while the new Boston street race also makes the calendar, doubts remain whether the event can overcome local opposition
Sixteen races have been confirmed on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar, with a near-ideal blend of six street races, five ovals and five natural road courses. These have also been spread out to span six months, rather than the much criticized five-month schedule of 2015.
The revival of the springtime race at Phoenix International Raceway, and the confirmation of a fourth straight year at Pocono, will help partly allay the fears of traditionalists that with the disappearance of Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile, IndyCar was losing touch with its oval racing roots. Road America’s first Indy car race since 2007 will also provide Wisconsin natives with a home race now that Milwaukee has gone.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said: “Overall, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is another key step forward in IndyCar's strategic vision. We’re confident that the momentum that IndyCar has experienced in fan engagement over the past two seasons will continue as a result of the tireless efforts of our event promoters and our improved scheduling on ABC and NBCSN.
“The 2016 season is defined by the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500,” Miles continued. “The historic significance of our season is marked by this legendary event and the return of several storied venues such as Road America and Phoenix. Half the venues on our schedule have hosted 25 or more IndyCar races and further our rich heritage as the premier form of open wheel racing in the United States.”
However, doubts continue to swirl around the new Boston race. One of the cachets of the Labor Day Weekend race when it was announced last May was that it would be the season finale – an obvious fallacy now, with Sonoma’s return as the championship closer.
More significant, however, is the number of permits and approvals that have yet to be given by local authorities to the inaugural Boston Grand Prix. As recently as last week, The Boston Herald cited three crucial entities that have yet to clear the plans. The hurdles include the state Department of Transportation which needs to sign off on the course taking in the South Boston Bypass, the head of Massport who is refusing to pay the $500,000 requested by IndyCar for road improvements, and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority head who says his agency is “not anywhere close to a deal right now.”
The latter figure, a Mr. Fred Peterson, told the Herald, “Not to say it can’t happen, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Should the Boston race not happen, it would leave a month-long gap between the penultimate race and the finale. While some hoped this might be filled by Gateway Motorsport Park, in Madison, Ill., an oval last used by Indy cars in 2003, this is not going to happen… for now at least. Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s owner, Hulman & Company, has acknowledged the track’s interest but as with the much-rumored return to Mexico City, it won’t happen until at least 2017.
Also worth noting is that the Phoenix, Texas and GP Indy races will all be held on Saturday, the first two as evening races, Iowa has moved to Sunday afternoon to avoid clashing with NASCAR, while the Dual in Detroit on Belle Isle remains the only double-header.
2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and broadcast times (Eastern Time)
Rd 1 – Sat., March 13: St. Petersburg, Fla. (street) - ABC, 12.30pm
Rd 2 – Sat., April 2: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. (oval) - NBCSN, 8pm
Rd 3 – Sun., April 17: Long Beach, Calif. (street) - NBCSN, 4pm
Rd 4 – Sun., April 24: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (road) - NBCSN, 3pm
Rd 5 – Sat., May 14: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road) - ABC, 3.30pm
Rd 6 – Sun., May 29: Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval) - ABC, 11am
Rd 7 – Sat., June 4: Detroit, Mich. (street) - ABC, 3.30pm
Rd 8 – Sun., June 5: Detroit, Mich. (street) - ABC, 3.30pm
Rd 9 – Sat., June 11: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas (oval) - NBCSN, 8pm
Rd 10 – Sun., June 26: Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (road) - NBCSN, 12.30pm
Rd 11 – Sat., July 10: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa (oval) - NBCSN, 5pm
Rd 12 – Sun., July 17: Toronto, Ontario, Canada (street) - NBCSN, 3pm
Rd 13 – Sun., July 31: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (road) - NBCSN, 2pm
Rd 14 – Sat., August 21: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa. (oval) - NBCSN, 3pm
Rd 15 – Sun., September 4: Boston, Mass. (street) - NBCSN, 2pm
Rd 16 – Sun., September 18: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (road) - NBCSN, 7pm