2015 IndyCar schedule due out Thursday, and could Dubai be on?

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It’s the story that needs to drop for planning purposes across several championships in 2015: it’s the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, has told MotorSportsTalk and other media outlets the plan is to have the schedule out by the end of the month, we now have a specific day planned.

Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star reported in his Q&A this morning the schedule will be announced Thursday, August 30. That adds up for the end of the month. An IndyCar spokesperson confirmed the schedule release date of Thursday.

Of note, Auto Club Speedway has indicated a public unhappiness for its 2014 Labor Day weekend date; Andretti Sports Marketing president John Lopes told me of Milwaukee that he didn’t see date equity as a problem because the event “hadn’t found the right date yet.”

Confirmed races thus far include:
3/8 Brazil
3/29 St. Petersburg
4/12 NOLA
4/19 Long Beach
4/26 Barber
5/9 GP Indy
5/24 Indy 500
5/30-31 Detroit
6/6 Texas (Sat. night)
8/2 Mid-Ohio
8/30 Sonoma

Races currently without officially confirmed dates include Pocono, Iowa, Toronto, Milwaukee and ACS. It is not anticipated that the series will add additional events beyond those either already confirmed or having been on the 2014 schedule.

DUBIOUS DUBAI? 

There is one outstanding wild card, and that is the mooted, on-again, off-again, potential international race in Dubai. Noted Twitter IndyCar link hound Matt Archuleta (@Indy44) found this nugget on, of all things, Carlos Huertas’ website.

Huertas – the unheralded, quiet Colombian rookie who won Houston race one this season – has made almost no overtones or undertones about wanting to return to IndyCar for a second season. But that Dubai date, February 22, would fall almost completely in line with the wishes and desires of Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles – head of INDYCAR’s parent company – wanting to start the season in February.

From an overall team standpoint, a Dubai race would make some sense as it would allow for some winter running and give the previously announced Brasilia, Brazil race a pairing in terms of the teams running their cars without the new-for-2015 aero kits. And it would give the crews an actual race to be at prior to March.

The one catch from an overall motors standpoint? February 22 is the Daytona 500, NASCAR Sprint Cup’s marquee race, and a day that draws more on-site media coverage than most other events.

IndyCar would essentially be resigning itself to a season opener halfway around the world, on at a poor hour for most U.S. fans (you think the kvetching at Fontana was bad? This would be worse), and with a past history of announcing international races that have often come up snake-eyes in terms of it actually happening.

I’m not sure if this is a previously stated mantra, but a good way to describe motorsports at times is: “as the money flows, so the series goes.” And one would hope the financial benefit of running a Dubai race would offset the potential poor PR or lack of media interest that could follow for a season opener on the same day when most racing fans’ eyes are fixated on Daytona.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”