“Teacher, My Dog Ate My Schedule”

[Russ Lake Photo]

Cleveland, Portland, Houston, Elkhart Lake, Baltimore, Monterey, Phoenix, Surfers Paradise, Michigan International, Homestead and Chicagoland. Add to those Kentucky, New Hampshire, Motegi, Las Vegas, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver and Watkins Glen and you have a pretty solid schedule of tracks that might like to be part of the upcoming Verizon Indy Car schedule, but most likely won’t be hosting a series race in 2015 or for that matter anytime in the foreseeable future. And please note that each of these 19 venues has held one or more Indy car events since 2000.

The long-anticipated 2015 schedule will probably be made public in late October and will likely show 17 races at 16 venues (15, if you count the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as one site with two different circuits).

Houston’s Reliant Park street course event is gone for 2015 after a two-year revival. Toronto will drop its doubleheader format, with its single race running on the Streets of the Exhibition Place as in the past or at the nearby Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport) road course if the Pan American Games, scheduled for July, intrude on Toronto’s traditional Exhibition Place course.

New races in New Orleans and Brazil (Brasilia) have been added with Dubai as a possible, but unlikely, last minute international addition. BTW, does adding a race in Dubai seem odd when at least one or two of those previously mentioned 19 venues would love to host a series’ race?

Dates for many of the races after the Indianapolis 500 are still up in the air, including the site of the series’ championship finale which could end up at the Milwaukee Mile or more likely Sonoma Raceway. And isn’t it interesting that a series whose history has long been identified with ovals, would contest its championship race on a road course? We are making progress.

But why is it taking so long to announce a finalized schedule?

Many tracks have traditional dates that coincide with local area celebrations, a fact that should make scheduling easier. But the powers that run the Verizon Indy Car Series insist that the season should be just six months long, beginning in March and ending before Labor Day and the dreaded NFL season opener; a fact that makes scheduling events even more difficult to work out.

Also, races and venues tend to come and go as promoters change, previous races lose money, event sponsors drop out, or in the case of street races, the sites often change and the street course isn’t available for racing. Events in the northern states are weather dependent and can’t be scheduled until May, while TV often plays a major role in deciding dates and race times. And finally, some argue that Elkhart Lake is too close to Milwaukee. Kentucky, Michigan International, Chicago and Iowa are too close to Indy. Michigan International is too close to Belle Isle and Cleveland is way too near Mid-Ohio. And you can almost see Austin from Fort Worth.

This proximity issue, however, doesn’t seem to rule out having two baseball teams in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. But then, maybe baseball is more about popularity than proximity.

What all of this means then is that in the future Indy Car’s schedules are likely to continue to hover around 16-20 races. Fans regularly call for events at Elkhart Lake, Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Surfers Paradise and Kentucky to be added to the calendar, but the shortened season, coupled with other events already scheduled at these tracks, may limit them ever becoming part of the series.

Somehow Major League Baseball was able to release its 2015 schedule before the final game of the 2014 season was even played. That’s 162 games for 30 teams (2,430 games before playoffs) over that same six month time frame that Indy Car wrestles with.

You’d think a 17-race Indy Car schedule could be put together a little sooner.

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