MRTI: Pro Mazda, USF2000 Lucas Oil Raceway races set to shift dates

Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., just outside Indianapolis, are traditionally a great day-before-the-Indianapolis 500 affair.

The event used to be known as the “Night Before the 500.”

In 2016, they’ll be the day-before-the-day-before, but back to the night, which they had been in 2014, but got moved up to the day in 2015 because Saturday night’s events ran too late.

The series’ official Twitter accounts indicated a shift from May 28, the Saturday, to May 27 – so Friday night for the two races at the artist-formerly-known-as-IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park).

More times and event details will follow at a later date.

This means now all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy will be running on the same day, Friday, May 27.

This is usually a good thing and works fine at road and street course races, but it becomes more complicated when the three MRTI series are running at separate tracks, and at separate points in the day.

The Freedom 100 – the marquee event on the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires schedule – runs in-between Carb Day practice and the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Competition on the Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then what follows is the Carb Day concert, often sponsored by Coors Light and which this year will feature Journey.

So if you want to take in your requisite “Don’t Stop Believin'” time, chances are you aren’t gonna be headed to Lucas Oil – most likely.

It could also put a bit of a strain on any of those staff, crew, media or fans who might have a role to play in more than one Mazda Road to Indy series.

Add in other events – Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star‘s annual “Burger Bash” generally occurs on the Friday night at 96th Street Steakburgers – and myriad other sponsor/partner parties or events, and suddenly you wonder if the Lucas Oil crowd might inadvertently be affected.

It was a respectable crowd last year during the day, and I hope the crowd – or the key participants – aren’t too impacted by this date change.