This morning INDYCAR released the 2012 race schedule for the IZOD IndyCar Series. It looks as though the differences with Eddie Gossage have finally been settled and Texas is back in its customary slot. Fifteen races still falls short of the sixteen demanded by the IZOD contract, although work is still continuing on a sixteenth and seventeenth race.
“INDYCAR is excited about the confirmed races announced today. With the new car and engine manufacturer competition, we believe they will be tremendous events that will help INDYCAR grow. We are exploring adding additional events to the 2012 schedule. We’re in the process of confirming a 16th event, while also considering adding a 17th race to the calendar.” — Randy Bernard, CEO INDYCAR
While there are some exciting events on this year’s schedule, there’s also some concerns. We’re all familiar with the parade that was Belle Isle in all of its previous incarnations, and its doubtful that there will be anything new about this latest version. However, Detroit is a good market for IndyCar and its sponsors so whether the racing ends up being good or not, it will be a good event to have.
The Chinese race has two major concerns surrounding it. First, will there be any hope of a measurable TV rating, and second, how does this affect the future prospects of IndyCar returning to Road America? The last Japanese race was well attended, but the TV ratings here barely registered a 0.1. The move to China is obviously being driven by the desires of sponsors to engage clients in that market, but I don’t think the event will “move the needle” for IndyCar as a brand, something that is desperately needed right now. The weekend of the Chinese race in Qingdao is also the date that Road America had hoped to secure for 2012. That’s a venue that could have produced a fantastic and well attended event. While many gripe about the Mid-Ohio course, such race weekends, especially when shared with ALMS, draw a large number of fans (read paying customers).
My last concern is Fontana. While its great that the series is headed back to a large superspeedway, I worry about the attendance at Fontana. When even NASCAR has a hard time drawing people to the venue, I fear that IndyCar will only be able to pull 20k. The Los Angles area is an enigma. While there is a strong and very vibrant car culture, there simply is not an interest in motorsport.
On the positive side, Baltimore is back on the schedule for next year. The 2011 race, although it experienced some teething pains, was an instant hit and drew a sell-out crowd! Street racing is expensive, but hopefully the promoters can take the lessons from 2011, learn from them, and show a better return in 2012. Its not impossible to make a street race profitable, just look at the very successful examples of St. Petersburg, Long Beach, and Toronto.
Only having four oval circuits on the schedule, IMS, TMS, Iowa, and Fontana, is a large concern to many, but while I’d like to see more oval events, I can’t place blame on the circuits or the league for their absence. We all cried out for IndyCar racing to return to the Milwaukee Mile and then failed to buy tickets. We exalted when New Hampshire was placed on the 2011 schedule and then tens of fans showed up to buy tickets. For all the desire of the us fans to see more oval racing on the schedule, we simply failed on our end to support it. If we’re not willing to buy tickets to these events, why would a venue want to host them? It’s strange, and a situation that I don’t clearly understand fully.
2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Race Schedule
|March 25||Streets of St. Petersburg||1.8-mile street course|
|April 1||Barber Motorsports Park||2.3-mile road course|
|April 15||Streets of Long Beach||1.968-mile street course|
|April 29||Streets of Sao Paulo||2.536-mile street course|
|May 27||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||2.5-mile oval|
|June 3||Raceway at Belle Isle Park||2.1-mile street course|
|June 9||Texas Motor Speedway||1.5-mile oval|
|June 23||Iowa Speedway||.875-mile oval|
|July 8||Streets of Toronto||1.755-mile street course|
|July 22||Edmonton City Centre Airport||1.973-mile airport course|
|Aug. 5||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||2.258-mile road course|
|Aug. 19||Streets of Qingdao, China||3.87-mile street course|
|Aug. 26||Infineon Raceway||2.303-mile road course|
|Sept. 2||Streets of Baltimore||2-mile street course|
|Sept. 15||Auto Club Speedway||2-mile oval|
So what are your thoughts on the schedule? Good? Bad? Ugly? …or simply indifferent? Let us know in the comment section below and join us at the IndyCar Garage to continue the discussion.