Eighteen races over 15 event weekends highlight the 2014 IndyCar Series schedule.
The schedule includes a new event, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, on a 2.343-mile, 14-turn road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in addition to the return of doubleheaders at Detroit, Houston and Toronto.
Times and network television schedules will be announced at a later date, though ABC has confirmed it will broadcast both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The network will televise the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race for the 50th year.
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“The World’s Fastest Spring Break Party” on the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg (Fla.) street circuit kicks off the season for the fourth year in a row on Sunday, March 30. Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., will host the season finale under the lights on Saturday, Aug. 30, for the third consecutive year.
“There are some changes, primarily in the format,” said Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR. “We wanted to have more consistency so that fans can know once our season starts we’re going to be out on front of them throughout and until the end. We decided to condense the season in order to accomplish that and we’ll stop on Labor Day weekend, so it’s a more condensed North American circuit but it’s not less racing. It’s kind of a transition toward 2015 when we grow back again.
“We have a clear strategy about the calendar, which will take us a couple of years to totally reveal and put into place, but I’m confident it will make for a more compelling racing schedule.”
Miles added that the street course race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which has been contested the past four years, could still be added to the end of the 2014 schedule.
Jump-starting the Month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday, May 10, on a reconfigured road course currently undergoing $5 million in improvements that will utilize portions of the famous 2.5-mile oval. The Speedway will be open Sunday, May 11, for Indianapolis 500 practice.
The 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is scheduled for Sunday, May 25. Pole Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 17.
“We feel completely confident about the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and I’ve been gratified by the way people have gotten behind it,” Miles said. “Most people want to see more of our racing, and we’re putting some of that racing on our most iconic stage and building toward the ‘500.’ We want to use the strength of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the ‘500’ to leverage value for the IndyCar Series and vice versa.”
Full-distance and full-points doubleheader races on the Belle Isle, Houston and Toronto street courses return for a second year after producing scintillating action and championship-defining results. The event on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit at Reliant Park in Houston moves from early October to late June, which bundles the doubleheaders into a two-month span.
The annual night race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 7, separates the Detroit and Houston dates. The second IndyCar Series race at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway on Sunday, July 6, followed by a night race at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway on Saturday, July 12, bisect Houston and the doubleheader on the Exhibition Place circuit in Toronto. The span represents racing on four consecutive weekends.
“We feel like we get momentum and we want to be in front of fans so that we can build toward the culmination of the championship,” Miles said.
Additionally, the Milwaukee race has been moved from mid-June to Sunday, Aug. 17, while the fifth annual race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., has taken a date two weeks later to Sunday, April 27.
Four road and street course races will start the season, while the drive to the championship in August includes road course races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway, the race on the 1-mile Milwaukee oval and the closing race on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval.
“I like the idea, because INDYCAR is about streets, roads and ovals, that we end our year with three consecutive weeks of racing to celebrate our diversity,” Miles said. “There are so many moving parts and it’s a balancing act between trying to present a coherent whole to race fans and take into account what’s best for each promoter. Our longer-term objective is to create date equity so fans will know if it’s Labor Day weekend we’ll be in Fontana.”
Exciting racing, drama, a close driver championship and engine manufacturer competition has marked the 2013 season heading into the 500-mile finale Saturday, Oct. 19. There have been 10 different winners, including four for the first time, and Chevrolet and Honda are tied in points in their season-long duel to display superiority. Both have nine victories.
Meanwhile, Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing will seek his third series title in the twilight race at Auto Club Speedway. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who enters the 250-lap race 25 points behind, aims to derail Dixon’s celebration and pick up his first series championship.