In a nearly one-hour teleconference with the media Wednesday, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles began to make clearer what to expect from the series’ 2016 schedule.
The only real definitive statement Miles made on the schedule was related to its length.
“We do not expect to have a five-month schedule, nor was that ever the goal,” Miles said. “The idea was not shorter and less, it was to see if we couldn’t slide the schedule while actually growing it earlier in the year to be in a more ideal or beneficial television period.”
The 2015 season, made of 16 races following the cancellation of the original opener in Brazil, started at the end of March and will conclude on Aug. 30 at Sonoma Raceway, a week before Labor Day. This follows an 18-race schedule in 2014, and 19 races in 2013, although tracks have dropped off the calendar both years.
Miles said he’s always pursued a seven-month season with anywhere between 16 and 20 races.
“The number of events, more is not necessarily better, it has to work on the calendar against many of these factors,” Miles said.
One of the issues with IndyCar’s schedule, which Miles reiterated, is IndyCar would have tough competion with a crowded sports and TV schedule once Labor Day passes.
“I think I can invite any number of television executives to a call like this and without exception we would hear them say that from a television perspective, the post Labor Day period for us will be a challenge,” Miles said. “We are not going to have a five month season next year … I think we’re going to have some good options at the beginning of the year. We’ve got some races that are on the schedule we’ve got to know for sure are going to be with us next year, from their perspective.”
Next year, Labor Day weekend is when IndyCar will hold its inaugural Grand Prix of Boston. Miles called the race a “new anchor” for the schedule. However, IndyCar must still determine how early next season will begin and whether it wants to Boston to be the season finale.
“As we were finalizing our agreements with Boston … they absolutely wanted Labor Day, and we weren’t prepared at that point to commit that would be the finale, the last weekend of the year, so we asked them what was their preference, to be last or to be Labor Day and they chose Labor Day,” Miles said.
“We granted their wish and we have not yet decided when the season is going to end. It may well go later than Labor Day. That’s not our goal because we know among all these variables, additional races after Labor Day will not help our average viewership and average ratings, but there are other considerations.”
Many issues with this year’s schedule came with the moving up of the Toronto race to the second weekend in June due to a conflict with the Pan-Am games. Miles gave Toronto an example of an event that has “date equity.”
“At an owner’s meeting before we finalized the issue, we raised the issue with the owners, and the answer was if your choice is to give (Toronto) a sabbatical and take a year off or move, and moving involves prolonging the back-to-back weekends past Indianapolis in May, past Detroit, past Texas, then do it,” Miles said. “We will suck it up. So on the one hand, date equity is a goal, it’s a value, but it isn’t ever going to be perfect.