IndyCar, MRTI 2016 schedule thoughts, musings, observations

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So, it’s finally happened. The Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy 2016 schedules have come out in back-to-back days this week, and if you’re a fan of either or both, you can officially begin making plans (yes, chances are you probably prepped sooner given by the drip-by-drip nature of each track prior to the full rollout).

Some thoughts, musings and observations on the schedule, now that it’s out, are below:

  • Embracing the spacing. Earlier this year I wrote a column noting that after 10 consecutive weekends of on-track activity from the ultimately one-and-done NOLA round in April through the moved-up-for-2015-only Toronto round in June was simply too much of a grind for the drivers, particularly the crews, and others involved in the series. So the fact INDYCAR has heeded the calls of those noting how tightly bunched last year’s schedule was and spread it out more – the fact there are only three back-to-back weekends outside the month of May (Long Beach to Barber, Indy 500 to Detroit and Iowa to Toronto) is a welcome change of pace. The schedule lasts more than 50 days longer from start to finish in 2016, even though the number of races stays the same.
  • TV isn’t everything, it may be the only thing. Channeling the late, great Vince Lombardi here, but it’s obvious that the delay in the full 2016 schedule release was TV-impacted. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here’s Hulman Motorsports CEO Mark Miles on that: “What we’ve said is there is a model in working with our existing broadcast partners that we think can be even more potent in attracting fans.  That would be kind of to split the season into halves.  The perfect model is perfect continuity where one broadcaster has the first half the season and the other has the second, and where both broadcast platforms can choose between cable and free-to-air broadcasts as suits us and them. I still believe that is the direction we need to head in ’17 and ’18 under our current contractual provisions and relationships with those two.” The reason for some of the growth last year across the board was start times that were more amenable to a potential bigger audience. Does 5 p.m. ET on a Sunday in Iowa sound great? Not particularly… but then consider that was the same start time for Milwaukee last year, and how improved the Milwaukee number was, and you begin to see how it could make sense. The prime time window for the Sonoma finale, at 7 p.m. ET with NASCAR as a lead-in and Sunday Night Football thereafter, should fit nicely as well.
  • Balance across the board. With six street races (five venues), five road courses and five ovals, it’s a near perfect split of races for the disciplines required of a versatile IndyCar schedule. You can’t really have any weaknesses, and you need to be solid across-the-board to be in contention for the championship.
  • Never say never again. Yes, Road America was announced in August and yes, Phoenix has been strongly hinted at for at least a couple months. These two tracks coming back though are a positive sign that having strong relationships can bring back tracks from the brink – former president of competition and operations Derrick Walker helped deliver Road America back to the calendar, while IndyCar’s chief revenue officer Jay Frye was instrumental in Phoenix’s return. The fan reaction to the Road America return was massive, as evidenced by the huge crowd at its September test (again, big for a random Tuesday), while Phoenix will ensure at least one one-mile oval stays on the schedule.
  • Which brings us, sadly, to Milwaukee. As some of you readers will know, the triumvirate of Phoenix, Milwaukee and Road America are without question, my three home tracks. I originally am from Phoenix and attended races there in the mid-to-late 1990s through to about 2006, but with family roots in Wisconsin, stops at the Mile and at “America’s National Park of Speed” were summer staples. Is it worth trading two-for-one? Gut says yes, even if sadly, I think this is the end for Milwaukee on an IndyCar schedule.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ace reporter Dave Kallmann has a good column up on the situation and whether it will ever come back. Milwaukee’s risen from the ashes twice in the last six years – the 2011 schedule was announced at the Mile in 2010 and in 2012, it came back as a last-minute replacement announced in February. With few promoters and fewer dates available to work with, it seems the long and winding journey at America’s continuously operated oval has reached its apparent end. The difference between Phoenix/Road America and Milwaukee is of course, simply, those other two tracks have other events to support their bottom line; the Mile, as part of State Fair Park, doesn’t.
  • The Mazda Road to Indy finale conundrum. On the whole, the schedules for the three Mazda Road to Indy look pretty good… and then we get to the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, announced for Sept. 9-11. Now granted, this year’s joint MRTI/Pirelli World Challenge weekend didn’t really serve either party well. It was a case of “whose headliner was it anyway?” So instead, what was already a semi-awkward weekend has now been split in two: MRTI and PWC will both return to the track, but on separate, standalone weekends… which to me, doesn’t make much sense. In the MRTI’s case, they’re now crowning their champions as a headliner weekend with no support content, and still with the same problem of doing so not in front of IndyCar teams, media and fans. The only way this makes sense to me is so that the MRTI champions can be feted and, potentially, the Indy Lights champion could make his/her debut at Sonoma Raceway the following weekend. I love Mazda Raceway, and I’m a big fan of all Mazda does for motorsports. But given how little turnout there was with an overload of content at Mazda Raceway this year, I’m skeptical either organization will enjoy crowning their champions on solo weekends.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston


Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart

The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s