By way of others, most of IndyCar’s 2017 schedule is out

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Thanks to other series releasing either their finalized (IMSA) or provisional (Pirelli World Challenge) 2017 calendars, or tracks announcing their own dates, we already know most of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – which series officials hope to release later this month.

A couple weeks ago, we forecast what the announced dates on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar could look like, as part of a number of others that were already out.

Those dates are below:

INDYCAR

  • St. Petersburg, March 9-12, 2017
  • Long Beach, April 7-9, 2017
  • Grand Prix of Indianapolis, May 11-13, 2017
  • Indianapolis 500, May 28, 2017
  • Detroit, June 2-4, 2017
  • Road America, June 25, 2017
  • Iowa, July 8-9, 2017
  • Toronto, July 13-16, 2017

Since that point, we’ve had three other dates released, by way of the provisional World Challenge calendar out last week at Mid-Ohio, and two more today by way of IMSA’s calendar release – via some additional IMSA content.

The additional World Challenge date confirmed is Mid-Ohio, on the last weekend of July, July 28-30. That’s in addition to confirming its presence at St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Road America, with the possibility of Sonoma continuing.

Then we got two more dates out of IMSA today, the Barber Motorsports Park and Sonoma Raceway dates.

Those dates are:

  • Barber, April 21-23, 2017 (Porsche GT3 Cup, Prototype Challenge)
  • Sonoma, Sept. 15-17 (Porsche GT3 Cup)

“I think it’s a reflection of the quality of those championships and the show that they put on, the quality of the teams, the drivers,” IMSA President Scott Atherton told NBC Sports of adding IMSA content to those two IndyCar weekends. “It’s incredibly competitive racing. The cars are sexy, they’re fast, they make great sound. Everything about them is attractive.

“We have good relationships with IndyCar, we have great relationships with those promoters. There’s no issue there. They’re smart promoters that recognize an opportunity to bring an interesting element into what would otherwise be an open-wheel weekend. And it makes a lot of sense for us as well.

“We’re in a situation with so many platforms that it’s very difficult for us to accommodate all of the platforms on all of our big weekends. So by having the opportunity to place selectively some of these other championships within other significant weekends, IndyCar weekends are a great fit, Barber Motorsports Park, Sonoma, all perfect venues for this type of championships and those type of cars.”

So what does this mean for the remainder of the IndyCar schedule? Several things, including that at least 12 race dates are locked in.

This means Phoenix is locked in either for the first or last weekend of April. If it doesn’t want to conflict with the Final Four which occurs on Saturday, April 1, that would shift it to Saturday, April 29. Even though logistically speaking, it would make more sense to be in Phoenix the first weekend in April, then Long Beach the next weekend.

Second, the outstanding race dates from 2016 yet to be determined beyond Phoenix – which we know is back – are Texas, Pocono, Watkins Glen and potentially Gateway, which according to NBCSN contributor Robin Miller in a RACER.com piece appears poised to rejoin the schedule.  Gateway officials were present at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year.

Provided Texas is in its usual post-Detroit, non-rain delayed slot, that would put it on Saturday, June 10.

Pocono and Watkins Glen are the question marks but given the Mid-Ohio to Sonoma gap, you’d expect to see two if not all three of Pocono, Gateway and Watkins Glen slot into that time frame.

Also something else to note? Where do Mazda Road to Indy races slot in. The addition of IMSA and World Challenge content on some of these weekends limits the potential for all three Mazda Road to Indy series to run on the same weekend. Expect Mazda Road to Indy on most IndyCar weekends but the details of which of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series to be sussed out later.

Cancel out the possibility of the much-discussed yet never-implemented international races and you’ve already got most of your 2017 IndyCar schedule ready to go, as you see below.

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series dates as we know them, plus additional content

  • St. Petersburg, March 9-12, 2017 (Pirelli World Challenge)
  • Long Beach, April 7-9, 2017 (IMSA WeatherTech Championship, World Challenge)
  • Barber, April 21-23, 2017 (IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup, Prototype Challenge)
  • Grand Prix of Indianapolis, May 11-13, 2017
  • Indianapolis 500, May 28, 2017
  • Detroit, June 2-4, 2017 (IMSA WeatherTech Championship)
  • Road America, June 25, 2017 (World Challenge)
  • Iowa, July 8-9, 2017
  • Toronto, July 13-16, 2017
  • Mid-Ohio, July 28-30, 2017 (World Challenge)
  • Sonoma, Sept. 15-17 (IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup)

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”