Exploring IndyCar’s 2014 schedule rumors, Round 1

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As traditionally has been in the case in past years, NBC Sports Network IndyCar insider and pit reporter Robin Miller has the first lines on next year’s IndyCar schedule. A report posted on RACER.com on Thursday had several interesting nuggets, notably a possible IndyCar race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and two possible west coast race date changes (Houston and Fontana).

Miller reports that likely, Fontana could get moved to June to create three consecutive months with a Triple Crown race and Houston could move to August. An IMS road course event could be held to kick off the month of May.

One race that if it stays, will likely need to move anyway is Baltimore, which has held its first two and will hold its third race on the same Labor Day weekend. In 2014, however, the city’s “Star Spangled 200 Spectacular” celebration kicks off on Sept. 6 with the annual Defenders’ Day event at North Point. Labor Day is the Monday just before that, on Sept. 1, 2014, but the city would likely need the preparation time for that event.

The upside of such a schedule, if it comes to fruition as Miller projects, would be more races than in 2013 and no event casualties, and packed into a tighter period which would by default reduce the number of two or three-week gaps in-between races. That’s a good thing to sustain interest and keep IndyCar in the news cycle.

The business upside of an IMS road course race, while it will probably drive traditionalists’ minds nuts, could be too big to ignore. Title sponsorship potential for an IMS road race would temporarily eliminate the need to worry about a title or presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500 itself. Pair it with the entire Mazda Road to Indy ladder and suddenly the USF2000 and Pro Mazda teams have their first opportunity to race at IMS, which could be an attractive possibility.

The downsides of the potential schedule: June is already stockpiled of events as it is, with five in four weeks there this year. Fontana in June wouldn’t be pretty from a temperature standpoint, even as a night race. Same would apply for Houston in August.

Road America is a wild card. As I noted earlier this week, Road America seems all but a cinch for the 2014 United SportsCar Racing schedule and in an August date; that would be a nice landing spot for IndyCar on the same weekend. It almost makes too much sense, and that’s why it probably won’t happen.

IndyCar helps Road America if the track needs to fill weekends – the track already will lose the SCCA Championship Runoffs next year and its separate GRAND-AM weekend, which was paired with the NASCAR Nationwide Series in years past, was folded into the American Le Mans Series weekend this year to create the one-time only combined weekend of the two sports car championships. That lost revenue from needs to be accounted for somewhere; we all hope it’s IndyCar but for yet another year it might be the case of “if only.”

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.