PWC schedule release offers more IndyCar 2016 hints

AP
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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.