IndyCar’s schedule is coming out Tuesday, most likely, with few surprises

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With most if not all of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule known anyway via either track release dates, some series release dates (i.e. Road America’s return) and various media reports (USA Today, Indianapolis Star and FOXSports.com among others have come out just in the last few days), tomorrow’s projected full series schedule release promises to offer little more to add to what we already know.

What will be important to watch? Two things, if they’re revealed (and they’re expected to be): start times, and TV outlets.

This year, ABC had the usual month of May with all of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indianapolis 500 qualifying (two days, two shows), the 99th Indianapolis 500 race and then straight into the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans doubleheader the following weekend. It also had the season-opening round in St. Petersburg.

NBCSN (or CNBC) had the remaining races, and the balance of the schedule from Texas Motor Speedway through to the season finale at Sonoma.

Some series insiders have suggested the NBCSN ratings bump this year was due in part to later start times – from Auto Club Speedway in June onwards, races topped 500,000 viewers and the Mid-Ohio CNBC race, later replayed on NBCSN with a NASCAR lead-in, brought that race’s combined total north of 600,000.

The NASCAR effect has obviously helped, too, with vigorous cross promotion of IndyCar content during NASCAR races, and vice versa.

With the Summer Olympics in Rio next August, it creates something of a headache for non-Olympics properties airing across the NBC networks. F1’s on its summer break for most of the month and so too will IndyCar; NASCAR, meanwhile will work around the conflicts when its schedule is released.

So here’s the expected dates for 2016, gathered from previous announced dates and other media reports.

The key for IndyCar’s actual release is TV and the times you’ll be seeing these races, rather than any drama about where they’ll be racing:

  • March 13, St. Petersburg
  • April 2, Phoenix
  • April 17, Long Beach
  • April 24, Barber
  • May 14, Indianapolis GP
  • May 21-22, Indianapolis 500 qualifying
  • May 29, Indianapolis 500
  • June 4-5, Detroit (2 races)
  • June 11, Texas
  • June 26, Road America
  • July 9, Iowa
  • July 17, Toronto
  • July 31, Mid-Ohio
  • August 21, Pocono
  • Sept. 4, Boston
  • Sept. 18, Sonoma

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consectuive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.