Miles explains IndyCar’s 2015 schedule changes, clashes

1 Comment

The immediate thing that stood out to me upon the release of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – out earlier Thursday – was how different the second half of the season looks.

This year, the June through August slate was: Texas, Houston doubleheader, Pocono, Iowa, Toronto doubleheader, Mid-Ohio, Milwaukee, Sonoma, and Fontana.

Next year, the June through August slate will be: Texas, Toronto, Fontana, Milwaukee, Iowa, Mid-Ohio, Pocono, and Sonoma.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company, explained how the Toronto race – which is a one-year shift from its usual July date due to the Pan-Am Games – has essentially triggered a domino effect of four other second-half races.

“The changes here are considerable, but it’s us trying to accommodate global promoter concerns,” Miles said during Thursday’s teleconference.

“It’s no secret the Toronto event was challenged by the Pan-Am Games in its ‘traditional date.’ That’s a big event for any country. So everybody worked really hard to make it work, and it’s very flexible, and frankly our own teams were part of that.

“There was a lot of discussion about moving Toronto (to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park), but I for one was delighted to see the paddock come together – Toronto is an important venue to us. We had to keep it on the calendar.

“So that was part of starting a number of changes. Fontana was looking for a better week for themselves, and you get a domino effect from there.”

Toronto was also in a situation where if it would had been a week earlier, it would have posed a direct head-to-head conflict with the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal. On the weekend it is, it directly conflicts with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Said other races that changed include Milwaukee, which will move from August to July, and Pocono, which will move from July to August. Iowa and Sonoma each shift back a week from their 2014 dates, but stay in the same month.

Miles highlighted the need for INDYCAR to work with its broadcast partners – including NBCSN – to establish the best possible TV windows and avoid direct TV conflicts with other series.

NASCAR’s coming to NBC Sports Group next year won’t alter things too much, Miles said, and the partners have worked well to whether there’s only one projected same day NBCSN conflict (August 2; NASCAR Sprint Cup is at Pocono, IndyCar at Mid-Ohio, with IndyCar slated for a 1:30 p.m. ET start time).

“The first thing is do is work with our broadcasters to open the best windows; we want the season in the right window,” Miles explained. “As I’ve said, we’re convinced, we can expand the season, and slide it forward and ultimately have a couple more races, with couple more weeks on the calendar. But we want those races in a period of tailwind for the broadcast audiences to go. There’s that first point.

“After that, we work with the broadcasters to look at everything else going on. NASCAR hasn’t finalized all their windows, but look at the NBC part, which is new for next year, we’re hopefully looking at there being only one NBCSN conflict/overlap between IndyCar and NASCAR this year.”

Asked about calendar clashes, Miles said he would prefer IndyCar drivers focus on IndyCar, but is not averse to their running in other races in other series.

“The last part of the question was more from a driver’s point of view; that is a consideration,” Miles said. “We want to stake out the weeks that make the most sense for us, and still allow others to have other opportunities, but it’s in that order.”

Date equity is still an important factor, Miles said, but he’d prefer to think of schedules as having a consistent order rather than specific dates – i.e. Brazil, St. Petersburg and NOLA in order regardless of what specific dates they are on.

As for the season finale at Sonoma, Miles did not confirm it would be a multi-year deal. He did say repeatedly he wants the season to end on Labor Day weekend, even though for neither INDYCAR nor Sonoma, the later Labor Day weekend of September 6-7, 2015 worked next year.

“When I say we want to own Labor Day weekend, we mean it,” he said.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.