Now that the 2018 schedule is set, all the pieces are in place for the Verizon IndyCar Series to continue its upward trajectory.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which operates INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, helped unveil the 2018 schedule today in Portland, Oregon, site of the new addition to the calendar. Portland International Raceway, which hosted Indy car races from 1984-2007, is back on the docket for a Labor Day weekend race next year.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES 2018 SCHEDULE: Click here
PIR provides a fresh zip to the schedule to go along with the 16 races that return from this year. In Miles’ eyes, a strong schedule provides the foundation upon which continued growth and success will rest. Couple that with the deep and talented roster of drivers competing, as well as the great anticipation for the universal aero kit that debuts next season, and momentum for the Verizon IndyCar Series keeps rolling forward.
“I think the championship and its popularity starts with the platform, which is the schedule,” Miles said. “We’re very pleased with the schedule we’ve been able to announce. It then goes to the car that we’re racing, and we think the new car looks great, looks hot and will perform well – allowing for better, closer racing. And then it’s the drivers – and not necessarily in that order.
“Josef Newgarden is our new champion and will be competitive, I’m sure, every week and be a great ambassador of the sport. He’s a very appealing young guy along with a lot of young guys challenging our veterans. The narratives, the storylines, are fantastic and we’re thinking 2018 is going to be a great year.”
Miles pointed to several highlights on the schedule, including date equity with nearly every venue, and his excitement that the three-year deal for Portland had come to fruition. Green Savoree Racing Promotions, which also puts on series events at St. Petersburg, Toronto and Mid-Ohio, will promote Indy car’s return to the Pacific Northwest, with the race weekend running Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
Portland replaces Watkins Glen International, which struggled to draw strong enough crowds in its two-year run on Labor Day weekend. Part of that can be attributed to a short time to promote the event in 2016, when it was added to the schedule three months before the race date, and abnormally cold and wet weather on race weekend this year.
While admitting it was “bittersweet” to see Watkins Glen’s iconic road course fall off the schedule, Miles and Portland officials are confident the Labor Day weekend date can work with the track being minutes from the city center.
“They’ve got a great history, great racing, great finishes and we’re really excited to be back there,” Miles said. “This is an urban setting and I think the holiday (weekend) there is actually an advantage for them in terms of the schedule.
“Mayor (Ted) Wheeler and the whole community there have really embraced us. We’ve been in discussions with them for a couple years to make sure we could get it all right. Very familiar set of faces in terms of the promoter with Green Savoree. They always under-promise and over-deliver, and I’m sure that will be the case in Portland.”
While the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule currently sits at 17 races, Miles said the possibility of adding an 18th event – at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City – still exists. The permanent road course hosted Indy car races in 1980-81 and from 2002-07.
Negotiations with Mexico officials have been delayed following a devastating earthquake last month. If added, Miles said the event would likely fall in early August on one of the two current off weekends between the races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Pocono Raceway.
“Almost all the pieces are in place,” Miles said. “There’s a lot of excitement about bringing INDYCAR back to Mexico City. It’s a great facility, it’s a great market with a lot of Indy car interest and tradition. But everything’s got to be in place.
“We have all the empathy in the world for Mexico City and the country, which was hit hard by an earthquake. We’ll see if they can keep all the development on schedule. It’s a little slower than we thought it might be, but we think as long as there’s enough time for them to successfully promote an event in ‘18, we can add it even in the next several weeks.”
North America, Miles insisted, remains the focus of INDYCAR in building schedules. Under the guidance of Stephen Starks, INDYCAR’s vice president of promoter relations, exploration continues to open future seasons in warmer climes on different continents.
“We intend to be very focused on North America, so we could be in Mexico and be in Canada, with the rest (of the races) being in the U.S.,” Miles said. “Except that, we’d like still to consider starting our season a little earlier, maybe just after the Super Bowl in early February. If that’s true, there aren’t too many warm-weather destinations in North America, so we might look a little broader and consider international opportunities in February.
“I think 17, 18 events (a season) is optimal right now. We don’t have any objective to move up, but it seems like over time maybe 20 is sort of the maximum number from early February into September.”