IndyCar unveils 2019 schedule, adds Circuit of the Americas to 17-race slate

Getty Images
5 Comments

Even though the 2018 season still has one race to go, IndyCar officials are already thinking about next year, announcing the series’ 2019 schedule Tuesday morning.

The number of races will remain the same at 17 events. However, there will be two venue changes: Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will replace ISM Raceway in Phoenix on the schedule, and Laguna Seca will assume the season-ending race in place of Sonoma Raceway.

All events will be carried by the NBC Sports Group, including NBC and NBCSN, and will be highlighted by the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019.

COTA has long been mentioned as a potential venue for IndyCar. The 3.426-mile permanent road course becomes the second-longest track on the circuit, behind Road America (4.048 miles) in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

COTA becomes the second track in the state of Texas to host an IndyCar race, the other being longtime series host Texas Motor Speedway (has hosted 30 races since 1997), which recently reached agreement on a new four-year deal with the sanctioning body.

“COTA is one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world and Austin is a happening city,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “This a natural fit for the IndyCar Series.

“Indy car racing has a large and passionate fan base in Texas with a hunger to attend more races. This added date will allow us to deliver both oval and road course events to the state in a single season.”

AddedCOTA founder and chairman Bobby Epstein, “It’s going to be spectacular. Our entire team at COTA is excited to welcome the teams, drivers and visitors to our great city, and we know Austin will give them a warm welcome.”

There will be a nearly three-month window between the March 24 event at COTA and the Saturday night, June 8 event at TMS.

The other addition to the 2019 schedule, which was announced last month, is the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway permanent road course near Monterey, California.

IndyCar returns to Laguna Seca after a 15-year absence. Indy cars have contested 22 races there over the years, the last being in 2004.

The rest of the series remains the same as 2018 in terms of venues, starting for the ninth consecutive year with the Grand Prix on the Streets of St. Petersburg (Florida) on March 10.

All told, there will once again be a wide breath of diversity on the schedule, with races on seven permanent road courses, five temporary street courses and five ovals.

“IndyCar has worked to deliver a consistency and cadence to the schedule and that is reflected again in 2019,” Miles said. “We’ve added races at a pair of tracks that know how to put on fantastic events, while returning to tracks where INDYCAR has longstanding relationships on familiar race dates.

“The diversity of next year’s schedule will continue to make what we believe is the most challenging and competitive championship in motorsports.”

The other major element to note is NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the entire series in 2019, the first of a three-year multimedia rights deal with IndyCar.

Eight of next season’s races will air on the NBC network, highlighted by the Indy 500. The other nine races will be carried on NBCSN.

Additional exclusive content will available on NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer product that will bring subscribers closer to IndyCar racing than ever before.

Here’s how the 2019 IndyCar schedule looks:

Date: Track

March 10: Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida

March 24: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas

April 7: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama

April 14: Streets of Long Beach, California

May 11: IndyCar Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course

May 26: 103rd Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval

June 1: Streets of Detroit, Race 1, Detroit, Michigan

June 2: Streets of Detroit, Race 2, Detroit, Michigan

June 8: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas*

June 23: Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

July 14: Streets of Toronto, Canada

July 20: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa*

July 28: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio

Aug. 18: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Aug. 24: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Illinois*

Sept. 1: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon

Sept. 22: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, California

(*-night race)
(Schedule subject to change)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
0 Comments

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”