The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series 16-race schedule will have a somewhat different look in 2005 - there are, at this time two new (and expected) road course venues at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen - and the prospect of at least one added...
The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series 16-race schedule will have a somewhat different look in 2005 - there are, at this time two new (and expected) road course venues at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen - and the prospect of at least one added road or street circuit is still in the cards.
"As we look ahead to our tenth year of competition, we are excited that we have the opportunity to add two historic road circuits to our schedule," declared Tony George, president and CEO of the Indy Racing League.
"International Speedway Corp. (ISC, owner of Watkins Glen International) and Infineon Raceway owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. have been an integral part of our growth. This is further evidence of our continued commitment to add strength and value to those relationships," George acknowledged.
The beginning of the 2005 campaign, the Indy Racing League's 10th in existence will have a familiar look, as the Indy cars make their fourth straight visit to the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6 to start the season. The second race at Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval has been moved to Saturday, March 19th to accommodate television schedules, the League stated.
A six-week gap to the IRL's third race on Honda's 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval means race #3 will occur a wee bit later in the spring, on Saturday, April 30th allowing the addition of another venue. The probabilities of either the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach or the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as those venues is under discussion (both run by Dover Downs), sources close to the IRL indicated.
The 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on the historic 2.5-mile Brickyard oval is set to take the green flags on May 29th but at this time surrounding activities have not been delineated by either the League or Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Many of the remaining races on the IRL schedule have a traditional look to them. As announced earlier, 2004 is the final season of racing for Nazareth Speedway; the League is visiting 14 of 15 venues where it is holding races in 2004.
There will be only one visit to the "IRL's second home", as 1.5-mile high-banked Texas Motor Speedway's oval bills itself, during the 2005 season, as the traditional Saturday night shoot-out takes place on June 11th this year. The Indy Racing League and Texas Motor Speedway were unable to come to a consensual second, season ending date that could work around the track's November NASCAR Nextel Cup event.
Richmond International Raceway's 3/4-mile bullring will have its established Saturday night fight on the 25th of June next year for the fifth consecutive time, while the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval, which had hoped to host its fifth IRL race earlier in the season will, once again showcase the League's finest on the July 4th weekend, in this case Sunday, July 3rd.
Mid-July is the customary date for the League's visit to Music City and Nashville Superspeedway's 1.3-mile concrete oval, which holds its night race on July 16th this year. As in 2004, the Milwaukee Mile is the next stop when the Indy cars take to the oldest continually operating oval circuit in the United States on July 24th.
Another tradition continues when Michigan International Speedway's 2-mile oval holds its fourth IndyCar Series contest on July 31st, and there will be a two-week gap to August 14th when the IRL takes to Kentucky Speedway's 1.5-mile oval.
After an August 21st trip to Pikes Peak International Raceway, the 1-mile oval outside Colorado Springs, the schedule takes on a different look as the Indy cars contest their first road course event on the 10-turn, 1.77-mile Infineon Raceway permanent road circuit on August 28th in Sonoma, CA. The League's first road racing event is the first Indy-style race at the former Sears Point Raceway since legend Dan Gurney won there in 1970.
It's then back to Chicagoland on September 11th for a late summer jaunt on that 1.5-mile D-shaped oval and then on to Watkins Glen International, where the IndyCar Series will utilize the 11-turn, 3.4-mile long course where Formula One once held court. In fact, the date is similar to the one used for F1 and the Indy cars will utilize the historic "boot" of the Glen's track, part of the circuit's traditional Grand Prix course.
"The addition of road courses will bring even more variety and challenges to IndyCar Series drivers and teams," noted Brian Barnhart, the IRL's senior vice president of racing operations. "We are working closely with teams and manufacturers to bring the same excitement of our oval events to road-racing."
The season finale is set for October 16th at California Speedway's 2-mile D-shaped oval in Fontana next year. "Bringing our season finale to the Southern California market where open-wheel racing has such a rich tradition is especially gratifying," said Ken Ungar, senior vice president of business affairs.
The Toyota Indy 400 at the former site of Kaiser Steel's Southern California manufacturing plant has Bill Miller, manager of the track that opened in 1997 quite pleased. "We're excited that the League championship could come down to a wheel-to-wheel shootout right here at the Speedway that holds the IRL record for the fastest race ever completed (with an average speed in excess of 200mph)," Miller exulted. "Not only could the race be decided by tenths or hundredths of a second, but a season's worth of competition could be decided on that very last lap."
This schedule being released for consumption at this time is not set in stone. The League continues to talk with other track operators, including Portland International Raceway and the staff of both the Long Beach and St. Petersburg, FL street circuits. As always, the schedule is subject to change, but this is the way it looks at this time:
March 6: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, 1 1/2-mile oval
March 19*: Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, 1-mile oval
April 30*: Twin Ring Motegi, Motegi, Japan, 1 1/2-mile oval
May 29: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, 2 1/2-mile oval
June 11*: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, 1 1/2-mile oval
June 25*: Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, 3/4-mile oval
July 3: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, 1 1/2-mile tri-oval
July 16*: Nashville Superspeedway, Lebanon, 1 1/3-mile oval
July 24: The Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, 1-mile oval
July 31: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, 2-mile oval
Aug. 14: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, 1 1/2-mile oval
Aug. 21: Pikes Peak International Raceway, Fountain, 1-mile oval
Aug. 28: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course
Sept. 11: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, 1 1/2-mile D-shaped tri-oval
Sept. 25: Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course
Oct. 16: California Speedway, Fontana, 2-mile D-shaped oval
Schedule subject to change;
* Saturday race