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

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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)

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister