While the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2015 season is in the books, this week begins the full offseason, as teams and drivers headed home last week from Sonoma Raceway following the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
We noted many of these items in a post after Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago, but they’re still outstanding now, after Sonoma.
There’s no shortage of things to address this offseason, though. Here’s what looms ahead:
- Schedule release. Most seems known via either a drip-by-drip release by tracks or by media reports. It’s looking like there could be up to four new or returning tracks added to the schedule, in the form of Boston and Road America which have been announced, Phoenix which seems likely, and Mexico City which seems possible. The question is how many of those races will be add-ons to what was a 16-race schedule; Fontana is out, NOLA almost certainly is and Milwaukee and Pocono appear on the fence. In theory the schedule should be out in the next two weeks.
- Derrick Walker’s replacement(s). With Derrick Walker’s tenure at INDYCAR now complete, the task turns toward naming his replacement, or replacements. Walker had served as INDYCAR’s president of competition and operations and according to some industry insiders, it appears likely that staff members currently inside the organization will fill his position(s).
- Honda’s return. Yet to be formalized, Honda is also closing on re-signing with the Verizon IndyCar Series, again per industry insiders. Its ongoing extension talks have been one of the talking points of the season.
- Silly season. While F1’s has taken a turn to dull town, IndyCar’s hasn’t even popped yet. Josef Newgarden is likely to be the first domino to fall but with the Nashville native posting last week he was on “island time,” he hasn’t committed anywhere yet – publicly anyway. ‘
- Any marketing/awareness/buzz. The problem, as ever, with IndyCar’s laborious and lengthy offseason is generating attention beyond the scope of its ultra hardcore, but ultra niche, fan base once the final checkered flag falls. The TV numbers were up again this year – including by some 47 percent year-on-year on NBCSN, and 34 percent compared to the best previous year (2011) – but maintaining that traction when there’s no on-track competition is tough. INDYCAR has a Damien Power web series in the works – which should be hilarious – but whether that’s going to be enough to pique mass interest remains to be seen.
- Testing. With manufacturer aero kits now having gone through their first full season of on-track competition, they have another first upcoming: their first full offseason of testing. Testing rules for the 2015 season are governed by Rule 6.1.2 of the 2015 INDYCAR Rulebook, which state the rules apply from August 31, 2014 through September 20 of this year. So the rules aren’t out yet for how many days teams can test post-September 20 to the end of the calendar year; however, with a Road America test all-but-officially confirmed for the end of the month, there should still be a healthy amount of running between late September and mid-December.
- Canopy discussion. It’s inevitable this will be a topic, and part of the framework for whatever next generation IndyCar may be. In the wake of Justin Wilson’s fatal accident, INDYCAR – and whoever may be replacing Walker – will have to keep a keen eye on the FIA’s planned closed cockpit tests later this month, to see what may or may not be able to be introduced for enhanced cockpit protection for drivers. We’ve reached a point now where this is more than just a talking point; it may eventually become an action point.