Is That Really The 2014 Schedule?

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Late last week, Robin Miller tipped us off as to what the 2014 IndyCar schedule would look like. This was certainly not official, but Robin Miller is usually dead-on accurate when it comes to stories like this. Whenever the IndyCar Series announces the official slate in the (hopefully) near future, I don’t expect there to be any deviation from what Robin predicts. At first glance, it was very unremarkable – but there were some subtle enhancements.

First, the bad. There were no new tracks added. The same sixteen facilities that make up the 2013 schedule are the same ones that comprise what Miller said we could expect for next year. There is no triumphant return to traditional venues like Phoenix, Michigan or Road America. Nor is there even a reviving of the race at Chicagoland, as has been rumored.

Now, the good. There will be as many as twenty-one individual races for next season. The three sites that featured double-headers for this year – Belle Isle, Toronto and Houston – will all be back for 2014. Added to that mix will be the season opener at St. Petersburg.

If you’re keeping count, that only adds up to twenty races. The extra race is based on the assumption that the series and IMS decide to follow through on a plan to kick off the Month of May with an IndyCar road race on the very unspectacular infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Another plus is that the powers-that-be have apparently decided that the series is best served to end the season by Labor Day, in order to avoid going against the all-powerful NFL. I agree. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any change to the start of the season meaning that there could be a seven-month long offseason between next season and the 2015 season if they don’t change anything by then.

Oh, by the way – the race at Pocono has been extended to 500 miles next season, so the triple-crown will feature three 500-milers.

The overall reactions I read on Twitter were not positive. Many wondered what Mark Miles has been doing all these months. I’m much more inclined to give Mark Miles and the board a pass for next season’s schedule. I feel quite certain that Mark Miles has been working diligently to add more races, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

First of all, there was a longer than usual transition time between the questionable firing of former CEO Randy Bernard and Mark Miles announcing he would be the one to take the reins of the series. For months, there was speculation if Miles would hire another CEO to fill the position Bernard held. Many names were tossed about before Miles finally confirmed he would be making the tough calls. Instead, he hired Derrick Walker as Competition Chief with a commercial division head still to be named.

It really wasn’t until into the summer before the organizational chart took shape. By that time, it was fairly late to be entering into negotiations for new tracks. So, the most prudent thing to do was to shore up the tracks on the existing schedule and insure their return for next season.

After two double-header weekends, it looks like the idea is a commercial success. The teams and drivers don’t like them, but the tracks love the idea. Supposedly, the tracks that did not have double-headers this season were clamoring to host them next year. The only one to get their wish was the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

I still hear whispers that a street race at Ft. Lauderdale is still a possibility for next year, but we’ll see. I expect Mark Miles is in serious talks with several new venues for the 2015 season, including all of the tracks I mentioned earlier as well as the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. These things take time and I think it would have been miraculous had Miles been able to add any new track to next year’s schedule. I think by this time next year, we’ll see his efforts pay off with new tracks added for 2015.

The biggest question mark for 2014 is the proposed road race at IMS to kick off the Month of May. Most probably think I look at this as nothing short of blasphemy. Actually, I’m not sure how I feel.

One side of me says that the Month of May at IMS is so wonderful that it doesn’t need to be jump-started. I attended Opening Day at IMS this past May and had a blast. But I could have been there by myself with no cars on the track and still be in heaven. I’m realistic enough to know that only the die-hards share my passion about being at 16th and Georgetown in May. There aren’t many of us left.

Today’s sport fan has many choices and today’s leadership at IMS has a tall order to regain the momentum that existed there twenty years ago. Tom Carnegie called his last race there in 2006. The sound of his voice still brings goosebumps to a lot of us, but for today’s teenagers at the track – they don’t care who he was. Maybe one day, they’ll come to appreciate the legacy of Tom Carnegie an all the other traditions that come with the event, but for now – we just need to focus on them having a memorable month right now so they’ll want to keep coming back.

Most know that I live by the mantra of “change is bad”. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary. So if Doug Boles and the brain trusts at IMS think it is a good idea to hold an additional IndyCar race in May, who am I to question it? They have a lot riding on it if it fails, so this isn’t some half-baked idea they might try on a whim.

There will be a test with at least one car on the road course shortly after Labor Day. The test will be run in both directions. Personally, I would prefer to see them run in the clockwise direction that Formula One ran during its time at IMS. That would give everything a different feel to differentiate it from the 500 to be run at the end of the month. This test is a feasibility test, but I have an idea that announcing the race for next May is just a formality.

That means that the race at São Paulo would have to be moved, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I think it was taxing on the teams to get their equipment off of the plane and get it to IMS so quickly.

So to all of my fellow traditionalists that were expecting me to blast the thought of such a race to kick off May, I am sorry to disappoint you. As much as I hate to admit it, these are changing times and what was once considered to be unthinkable must now be tried.

And to those that are unhappy that there are so few changes to what we think is the 2014 schedule – just wait ‘til next year.

George Phillips

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29 Responses to “Is That Really The 2014 Schedule?”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Fiscally it makes great sense to hold the road course race pre 500.. You already have the track opened up for the 500 and personnel in place… I think it’s a great idea. Already have the blasphemus taxi cabs, Rolex, and Moto guys running there. Why not IC on the road course. I don’t know what has taken them so long to pull the trigger on this, especially considering they are and have been experiencing cost issues for some time. Of course TG didn’t help much in that regard…

  2. the american mutt Says:

    My primary concern with a road race at Indy, something I wanted desperately years ago, and have largely cooled to since, is the price point for the ticket. If I could afford it, I’d make the three hour drive to indy every weekend in May, but I, and most likely the majority of fans, simply don’t have that discretionary money. Obviously my ticket money, if I have it at all, is going to go the 500, but I’d really like to see this event in person as well. I’m rambling at this point so I suppose I’ll stop. I think what I’d most like to see is a ticket to that race coupled with a pass to pole day and/or carb day.

    As far as tradition goes, if a given tradition isn’t footing the bill, it’s BEST to rethink that tradition, and try something new. Personally, I think they need to take a cue from the track in Austin and get as many money making events into the facility as possible.

  3. It’s a good thing to have all circuits from this year’s calendar returning. And I actually like the idea to let the IMS Road Course host an IndyCar Series race to start the Month Of May.

    But I feel the thought of ending the season as early as the beginning of September is hideous because of the length of the offseason. In the 90s, I enjoyed being able to watch IndyCar races after the F1 season had already ended. But with Houston’s and Fontana’s weather being incredibly hot during the summer where they might move to, in case of the shortened schedule, attendances might go down so much that the powers that be of the sport then have to go back to end the season at the end of October for 2015. What better way to make space in the schedule for Laguna Seca and Surfers Paradise could there be?

  4. You could not bring us worse news. The ONLY positive is Pocono going to 500 miles.

    Trash tradition at your peril. Funny how all that worked and now that they continue to go away from it, the league suffers.

    The mighty march to F1 Lite continues. Indycar still does not get it.

  5. I’m not very thrilled by the schedule. The Indy road race OPENING the Month of May sounds insane. I could understand a second race at Indy at some point in the year, but not right before/after the 500. besides, although very controversial, I’d rather see the oval. Indycar’s very low and ovals, and has been for a long time. In my opinion if Indycar’s going to be blasphemous, might as well go all the way and run an oval race latter in the year. Plus the rumored tracks for next include Ft. Laudrdale and Providence, neither of which are particularly exciting.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    “Underwhelming”, is probably the best description of the schedule that Miller leaked.
    21 races, Pocono to 500 miles, and not losing a single event for the first time years are all positives. Not losing a single evnent is huge for Indycar, actually. However, not adding even one of the laundry list of desired tracks and the apparent desire to give fans at Fontana and Houston heat stroke are clear negatives. The increasing road-to-oval ratio, compressed schedule/looooooong offseason, and IMS road race are going to be considered negatives by many fans as well.

    I find both the desire to end the season by Labor Day and to race on the IMS road course to largely be solutions in search of problems.
    The NFL effect is real enough in all sports, but I do wonder how much it really affects Indycar. The series attention slump begins post-500, not when football season starts, and if that is the case then what does a compressed schedule really accomplish? And is what it accomplishes worth the potential damage to the Houston and Fontana events and creating an offseason that takes up 57% of the year?
    The race on the IMS road course has long seemed to be something that no one but Miles and Boles really wanted, and currently seems to be something that no one (sponsors, owners, drivers, and fans) is very excited about.

  7. Two more non ovals maybe added to the schedule and another one in Ft Lauderdale talked about, but no ovals added. Not a big fan of the proposed schedule – why is everything always “next year” with the ICS?
    I don’t mind if they do a race on the IMS road course, but I believe the when and the how much will have a major impact on the attendance.

  8. “Wait until next year!” could be the motto for IndyCar. I realize Miles had big fish to fry when he came in — and I don’t know all the challenges, etc. — but the super protracted search for leadership seemed a little bit too leisurely of a pace to me. Did Miles put all his eggs in the basket of attracting Zak Brown and then when Brown (smartly, IMO) said “pass” Miles was back at square one? Has IndyCar gone from one extreme (shoot from the hip Randy) to another (glacially paced Miles)? As for the schedule, I agree with Billy above. There continues to be little for oval enthusiasts to love in the IndyCar schedule, but I also think there are very few oval enthusiasts left following IndyCar, so perhaps it should embrace the twisty fully. IndyCar’s is very much in a position of weakness when approaching tracks to try and negotiate deals and I think this schedule shows that.

  9. Giu Canbera Says:

    Negative posts on Twitter is something you have to take it serious. TV Ratings are pretty ugly nowadays but you always have “Indycar” at the US TTs. So, theres people talking about your series Mr. Miles.

    About the IMS RC race, dont worry. For us (fans) the more the better right? If it doesnt work they will not include that race anymore on the schedule. No drama needed.

    On the schedule, they r really following BCG. Race between April and August. (yeah, I know.. St Pete is in late March).
    I think the series should start in the weekend after the Super Bowl Finals… in early Feb. And then they could follow another BCG suggestion of a “Global Challenge” during the off season.
    You can go race anywhere around the globe and have guest drivers. Australia (V8SC), Japan (SGT/SF), Europe (WEC, BTCC, DTM). Its a good idea for the hardcore fan. At least one race per month (Sep, Oct, Nov)

    And…. lets not forget about the “Reduce downforce levels and increase engine power” thing for the next year. They fool us too many times with the aerokit talk. Damn.
    And I would like to say that I miss some new-and-green-tech on the cars…

  10. Chris Lukens Says:

    One more road race, with the possibility of even one more on top of that, and this supposed to be good news? There is certain clique in Indycar that wants a schedule of 17 roadraces and 1 oval. We are getting there.

  11. I am warming to the prospect of an early May race of the IMS road course, especially if they re-work the course a bit. That would bring back “The Month of May.”
    I like the idea of connecting a road course race with admission to pre-500 events.
    Until business scheduling interfered, I was seriously considering going to Houston for the October races. Having been in San Antonio since April 1, I can say I would not go to a race in Houston in the middle of summer.
    I do like oval races, but I have always liked road course racing and want to see both on the schedule.
    I would like to see some form of an international racing (outside of North America) schedule for this series during the winter months. I could be figured into the championship in some way, or be a separate championship series, using the same equipment and many of the same drivers.

  12. Where do I begin? No new ovals? I guess we’re just supposed to be happy we didn’t LOSE any. One or two new road courses? Well, hello, F-1 lite. I don’t hate road/street courses, but the one in the Indy infield is going to take a LOT of revision to make it exciting racing for IndyCars.

    Running two races at IMS in three or four weeks? I guess the theory is “If you open IMS, they will come.” That idea might have worked back in the 70’s or 80’s, but when you look what’s happened to the former all-day party for 150,000 of Pole Day, even with the “fast nine,” you begin to realize that idea doesn’t fly anymore.

    Never mind that you could run a stand-alone race toward the END of the season and dramatically increase your chances for an attendance bonanza. I also question whether the powers that be have thought about what happens to this tight schedule if you have a rainy crappy weekend for the road race?

    Look, I know they’re trying to come up with a way to kick off the month of May, but how many folks that live outside the Indianapolis area have the wherewithal to attend two major events in 3 weeks? I live reasonably comfortably, but I can tell you, I do not. You’re talking two $1000+ weekends when you add hotels, food, tickets, souvenirs, and incidentals, (not to mention gas or plane fare.)

    Curt and Kevin tossed this one around last night on “Trackside,” and I got the feeling that while they seem to be warming to this idea, they’re not completely sold.

    Fontana on Labor Day? It was hot there last year on the 15th of September, and because it’s on the West coast, you can only wait so late in the day to start racing before you lose the Eastern half of the country.

    And this still doesn’t address the long layoff from September to March. I still like my idea of running some sort of IndyCar race the weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. Houston, Phoenix, Surfer’s Paradise, and Sao Paulo would fit this bill, as would “Ft. Liquordale.” In doing this you’ve accomplished two things: You’ve shortened the off-season by almost two months AND you’ve given race fans everywhere a race on a weekend where there is next to nothing to do. Hell, you might even get a few NASCAR fans to watch.

    On the plus side, they are extending Pocono to 500 miles

    I appreciate that a lot of these things take time and that the transition from Bernard to Miles has been a slow one. Fact remains, this sport needs some fixing, not “maybe next year.”

    • Jack The Root Says:

      “Curt and Kevin tossed this one around last night on “Trackside,” and I got the feeling that while they seem to be warming to this idea, they’re not completely sold.”

      Kevin is a company man, and on the Indy Car payroll (through the NBC Sports Network and the IMS radio network). He has to do some butt-sniffing because if he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t be employed much longer (and I doubt he would get a job anywhere else but Indianapolis; its not like this is some uber-talent). Cavin is the only motorsports writer at the Indy Scar and also needs to support the ICS as much as he can, to keep employed at the Indy Car Home Paper. Again, he’s a Indy-only type of writer.

      Robin Miller speaks for most people when he talks about how ridiculous this Indy road race idea is. He pulls no punches. My guess is this is how most folks in Indy feel. They don’t want to watch road racing to begin with. They certainly don’t want to watch it in May, when May in Indy is supposed to be about oval racing and the Indianapolis 500. Its why this idea will never fly and this race will be gone in a hurry. Hopefully its gone so soon that very few even remember it was run 10 years from now.

  13. Aside from the additional miles at Pocono, and for a variety of reasons already stated above, the 2014 schedule STINKS!
    As the skinkster said: “solutions in search of problems”.

  14. You can’t always depend on Robin MIller for accurate information. He even said recently that there is a IndyCar race this weekend.
    Yea, right. As if they would schedule a race opposite NFL scrimmages.

  15. With the same amount of races (basically) will they still have the huge holes in the schedule? The two-race weekends seem to be working well, that’s good. Street races seem to be a success and fairly popular. The roadies are snooze-fests to me but I’m willing to see what happens with the road course at IMS, as long as they are willing to invest in changes to improve the course. The ratings are what they are, I don’t think anything but an improved tv deal–more consistent, more promoted, more predictable–will help.

    I’m going to be patient with Miles and Indycar. With a renewed emphasis–and owner support–on the ladder series and the aero-kits in “another year,” I’ll just assume they doing what they can to increase dates and venues for 2015 (Portland, Austin, Phoenix for me) and hope that good oval racing is still a big part of Indycar in the near future, when maybe it’s more economically feasible.

    • Jack The Root Says:

      “Street races seem to be a success and fairly popular.”

      “The ratings are what they are.”

      Street races don’t draw any better then most ovals that were deemed “unpopular” and had to leave the schedule. Put up a few high school football bleachers, come up with some bogus 3 day total and then lie if you have to. That’s the street racing formula for attendance. Those crowds are probably about 20K max at most street festivals.

      And the ratings ‘are what they are’ because they suck. Suck worse then any time in the history of the sport. They can’t even draw a 1 rating on ABC, outside of Indy. The excuse about Versus needs to end to. Doesn’t hurt the NHL and their TV numbers. That’s because people actually want to watch hockey. They don’t care for the Indy Car product. They’ve seen it and for various reasons, don’t like it. Doesn’t matter if its on ABC or ESPN or Versus or RFD TV or Lifetime or Public Access. Its a product that nobody seems to want and that is unlikely to change.

      • I’ll rephrase that: Promoters seem to want to stage Indycar races in the streets. Promoters don’t seem to want to host Indycar oval races at this time. I’ll assume that’s because street races are attractive to promoters and municipalities while oval races–for whatever reason–are not as attractive.

        As for TV: It’s obvious the numbers suck–for road, street and oval–with the exception of the 500. I think the numbers would be better with predictable scheduling, a single network and increased promotion.

        I refuse to go totally negative against the series because there’s so much about it I do enjoy.

  16. Indy Car Sucks Says:

    Indy Car just needs to go away completely. This is a lost cause. Nobody is watching. Its a product that nobody wants with mostly foreign drivers nobody gives a damn about. Its a road racing/street racing series in a country that DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ROAD RACING!!! The Indy 500 can barely draw 33 cars and has been ruined because it takes nothing to make the race anymore. There is no leadership. No plan. No money. No hope. Just end it all, make the Indy 500 a completely open deal again and be done with it. Nobody outside of about 182 dorks at TrackForum care about Indy Cars anyway. They can go find some soccer to watch or play some video games to pass the time.

  17. Jack The Root Says:

    Running a Indy Car road race at IMS during the month of May is the dumbest idea in the history of this sport. And that is saying a LOT. it does nothing and it will only dilute the Indy 500 product, which has been diluted to the gills already in the past 20 years. Instead of farting around with this stupid idea, why not figure out a way to get more then 33 cars to enter Indy again? The month of May has been ruined because it takes nothing but a signed engine lease and 4 laps to make the race. This has gone on more often-then-not for a decade now. I would plead with all of the fans (who are actually left) to NEVER support this abomination and NEVER watch this crap race if its actually held. Enough is enough. The morons running this sport into the ground need to finally wake up and see all the damage THEY have done. Hey Miles…how you like those record LOW ratings your series has gotten all year long??? The fans have all left and they ain’t coming back. Not for double-headers. Not for all the goof-ball gimmicks. Not for standing-starts or double-file restarts or whatever “throw-it-up-against-the-wall” ideas you come up with to try and make yourself “DIVERSE”. This proposed schedule for 2014 is TERRIBLE. The schedules only get worse by the year. 2015 isn’t going to be any better. We hear that “next year will be better” horsecrap every year. Tired of that refrain too. And not buying it either.

  18. To be fair, racing the road course at the beginning of May is a lot better than racing the road course at the end of the season, which is the initial rumor that I heard.

    I never understood the idea of shutting down at beginning of September. To me, its one of the many lousy ideas that came out of the IRL side of the split years that is best forgotten and I can’t believe it’s being resurrected again. Maybe Mark found it on one of Tony’s old post-it’s from his brainstorming board…

    In short, completely underwhelming, and that’s par for the IndyCar course.

    Free idea: tear up the golf course and open up the road course!

    • When the golf course was a muni and not so much of a challenge, your idea might have had a chance. When, however, you have Pete Dye do a redesign and build something that actually is attractive and makes money, tearing it up is not an option.

  19. I think that having the race at IMS to start the month of May is a brilliant idea. The teams are already there, and it’s simply a way to draw more people into the facility, maybe attract new fans. If you can only afford to go to one race, obviously you’ll pick the 500. I don’t see why everyone thinks this will hurt the 500.

    Tradition? So what? Everything is different now than it was 30 years ago. Why not try this? I get really tired of all the negative statements I read coming from so-called IndyCar fans.

    No new ovals. Yeah, that’s right. When they have an oval, fans don’t attend, so the promoters aren’t interested. You happen to like them? Great, then get 10,000 of your closest friends to buy tickets and you all go, to shore up the attendance. Get it through your heads, racing is a business, and to hold a race the promoter needs to make a profit. Sounds pretty basic to me.

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