PWC schedule release offers more IndyCar 2016 hints


A number of weeks ago, we attempted to put together some of the pieces of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule based on dates which were already announced by the tracks themselves.

Then last night, Pirelli World Challenge released its 2016 schedule, which confirms three more IndyCar dates:

  • Barber, April 22-24
  • Mid-Ohio, July 29-30
  • Sonoma, Sept. 16-18

So figure that confirms 10 races right there, and it also confirms Pirelli World Challenge will be racing with IndyCar on six weekends (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma) in 2016. That’s one more than this year, as what had been a conflict weekend at the tail end of June between World Challenge (Road America) and IndyCar (Auto Club Speedway) has now been alleviated with IndyCar taking up that weekend and joining the PWC dance card.

Sonoma, now looks officially set to continue as IndyCar’s season finale, which is a good thing. It’s a decent venue for the event – it’s great for corporate – and it has had relative date stability in late August since joining the calendar in 2005. It also is a race that comprises so many of the things that make IndyCar great, as a road course that forces drivers to do their best and strategists to make all the right calls.

What of the others? If you pencil in Texas and Iowa, that makes three ovals. Iowa’s date, as ever, could be in flux. It was in July this year and in 2014, and it had been in June every year before that from 2007 through 2013. Texas has consistently been in June, and would stand to be the Saturday night after Detroit as things stand.

Phoenix, provided it gets added, would come after St. Petersburg on the April 2-3 weekend. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles more or less unofficially confirmed its return during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration in San Francisco, when he said “we will see new and returning venues that we know our fans love, I think, like Phoenix, Elkhart Lake and Boston.”

The questionable ovals are of course, Milwaukee and Pocono. A report out last week from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann said Milwaukee appears open to a date, and Road America officials visited the track for further discussions. Rule out August 4-14 for dates at the track, as State Fair Park executive director Rick Frenette told Kallmann said the race cannot occur during the State Fair.

Toronto appears all but certain move back to July 15-17 and the question may become which if either oval – Milwaukee or Iowa – comes either side of that weekend. If Road America is to be involved in any Milwaukee promotion, as Road America track president George Bruggenthies hinted was possible during the track announcement return, figure Milwaukee would need to come earlier rather than later in the calendar. Road America has its own slate of 2016 events to promote – IndyCar’s and World Challenge’s among them – and also will be busy in the lead-up to August with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race set to occur on August 7.

The wild card race is Mexico City, which hasn’t really been written about too much but seems closer to happening than not per some key industry insiders. That event would be poised to kick off the season in February, although Miles didn’t mention it by name during the championship celebration. In 2014, he had said “get your passports ready” regarding proposed international races… which as it turned out didn’t come to fruition.

All told, there’s more puzzle pieces in place for IndyCar’s 2016 campaign now than there were 24 hours ago, with further ones to come depending on when final details get hammered and ironed out. While the goal is the end of this month to have it released, don’t be surprised if it comes a little later.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.