Unpacking the 2017 IndyCar schedule

The 2017 race schedule for the Verizon IndyCar Series was released this morning, and there are a couple of exciting additions to the slate of venues. It is refreshing to see the schedule sorted so early in the year. In years past, we have waited until after the first of the year for the race schedule to be finalized. This early release bodes well for the health of the premier North American open-wheel series.

One of the complaints about INDYCAR’s choice of venues in the past has been the abundance of temporary street courses at the expense of natural terrain road courses and ovals, especially short ovals. There are two major issues with temporary street courses: they tend to be rough and difficult racing surfaces providing little passing opportunities, and they tend not to enjoy any longevity. The Houston, Baltimore, and ill-fated Boston races are excellent examples of the tenuous nature of these types of venues. In 2016, the series added one of the premier natural terrain road courses in the US, Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. When the Boston Grand Prix deal fell through, the series was fortunate enough to secure a date at the historic Watkins Glen International, site of the first truly successful Formula 1 Grand Prix in North America.

Not long after this year’s race at Road America, an agreement was reached with INDYCAR to continue hosting an event through 2018. This morning, Watkins Glen International has also signed up with the series for two more years. This is fantastic news as both venues offer great racing action and have a very rich history of open-wheel racing.

“In the end, this was the goal of both Watkins Glen International and INDYCAR – to announce a multi-year agreement. We are very much looking forward to next weekend’s Grand Prix at The Glen, and can’t wait to get started with our efforts to grow this event moving into the 2017 season. Of course, this would not be possible without the outstanding support that we receive from New York State and Governor Cuomo. It’s just a great day and a very exciting announcement for our fans and partners.” — Michael Printup, President of Watkins Glen International

The other big addition to next year’s race schedule is the return to the shallow-banked 1.25-mile oval at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, IL, just on the other side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO. This is right in the backyard of Formula1Blog.com’s world headquarters, and it’s a race that we’ll definitely be attending next year. The venue has hosted top-level open-wheel racing from 1997 through 2003, first with CART and then with the IRL. The venue has since seen a change in ownership and with it’s revival in 2013 it has returned to being a racing destination for NASCAR, USAC, the NHRA, and the SCCA.

“Today is a monumental day for the people of the St. Louis region. I am proud of the progress we’ve made at my hometown track. I knew someday we would be making an announcement like this because I have such confidence in the people of this region and their commitment to great sporting events. More than a dozen track operators around the country sought this INDYCAR race for their communities. I firmly believe we came out on top because of the energy, loyalty and commitment to great sports that sports fans of all kinds demonstrate each day in this community.” — Curtis Francois, owner of Gateway Motorsports Park

In my opinion, this is one of the most balanced IndyCar schedules in several seasons, even if it is still street-course heavy. There are a total of five street races, including the double-header race at Belle Isle in Detroit, six distinctly different oval tracks, and five natural terrain road courses. Hopefully, we will see the series continue the growth in race attendance and TV ratings that it enjoyed this year. A schedule like this certainly doesn’t hurt.

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule

Date Venue Type
March 12 Streets of St. Petersburg Street
April 9 Streets of Long Beach Street
April 23 Barber Motorsports Park Road
April 29 Phoenix International Raceway Oval
May 13 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Road
May 28 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Oval
June 3 Raceway at Belle Isle Park Street
June 4 Raceway at Belle Isle Park Street
June 10 Texas Motor Speedway Oval
June 25 Road America Road
July 9 Iowa Speedway Oval
July 16 Streets of Toronto Street
July 30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Road
Aug. 20 Pocono Raceway Oval
Aug. 26 Gateway Motorsports Park Oval
Sept. 3 Watkins Glen International Road
Sept. 17 Sonoma Raceway Road