IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NBC solve a tricky puzzle

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Faced with an incredibly complicated array of moving pieces that would make solving a Rubik’s Cube simple, IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway were able to potentially save a season.

Most importantly, they have found a workable solution to preserving the grandest event in all of racing, the Indianapolis 500.

Instead of Sunday, May 24, the 104th Indianapolis 500 will be held on Aug. 23. Instead of kicking off the month of May at Indy, the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis will move from Saturday, May 9 to Saturday, July 4 as a doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The change in the road course date gives races fans an incredible opportunity for a racing first. An IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader that the industry desires.

It also revived the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. That race was supposed to host the season opener on March 15 but originally was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of St. Petersburg and Green Savoree Promotions were able to revive the event as the season finale with a date sometime in October.

When the Summer Games in Tokyo were postponed to 2021, that created a huge opportunity to fill a large gap in the schedule.

Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, immediately went to work. Mark Miles, the CEO of Penske Entertainment, and Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was able to solve this complicated puzzle.

By moving the Indianapolis 500 to Aug. 23, it hopefully will be long enough after the pandemic beginning when it is safe for large crowds to gather once again. It also will allow a full two-week schedule of practice sessions and qualifications leading up to the Indy 500.

Carb Day still will be held on the Friday before the race. The concerts for both Friday and Saturday before the race have been canceled.

In order to solve this Rubik’s Cube, Green Savoree Promotions changed the date of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio from Aug. 16 to Aug. 9. The race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway has moved from Saturday night, Aug. 22 to Sunday, Aug. 30. Portland International Raceway has moved from Labor Day weekend to Sunday, Sept. 13.

The season will begin on Saturday, May 30 with the first of a doubleheader in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Credit IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with giving race fans as complete a season as possible.

“I think there have been several keys,” Miles said, responding to a question from “The first was that our priority was to have the 500, to put it at a time far enough out that we have every reason to believe it will be a safe time from the public’s perspective in terms of public health, and to give our fans time to plan so we can count on them to be here in August. That was key.

“Working with NASCAR has already been talked about. They were terrific. There was just no friction in that conversation at all. It was about how do we work together to make lemonade out of lemons.

“NBC has been terrific. All the promoters on the NTT IndyCar Series have been terrific. As he said, I really want to shout out, give a shout out to our friends at Mid-Ohio and Gateway who really helped us. At the same time, I think they have put themselves in a position to be successful. On and on and on.

“I think we should also recognize the way that the IndyCar Series teams, the owners, the drivers, the whole paddock are coming together. Everybody is behind this. Roger and (IndyCar President) Jay Frye conducted a conference call with team owners today. It was terrific. It’s all positivity. Everybody is moving forward trying to figure out how to help each other.”

It didn’t work out for everybody. Officially canceled Thursday were the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and the GMR IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

Grand Prix Association of Long Beach president Jim Michaelian did his best to find an autumn date for his street race but couldn’t get all the racing series to line up for that weekend. Barber Motorsports Park and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) are two permanent road courses. Conventional wisdom would indicate both facilities could have changed dates easier than a street course.

But these are unconventional times.

“In the best of circumstances, the most normal circumstances, putting together a series calendar is difficult because you have to consider all the things that matter,” Miles said. “In the case of Long Beach, Jim was really hoping we could find a time, but he wanted to find a date that brought at least a couple series together and worked in their community. There was like one week on the calendar that could have worked for us, and it just didn’t work.

“In the case of Barber, they’re in the middle of a region with Atlanta and Birmingham. They really just didn’t have options, as well. They have other major races, NASCAR races, in that region, as everybody knows.

“We have spoken countless times with those promoters and couldn’t find a time that worked. I think they are disappointed but understand that. They’re kind of resigned to it. They’ll immediately begin working on 2021.”

Miles and Boles had to ensure the history and the tradition of the Indianapolis 500 would remain intact. This is as good a scenario as one could have hoped for during such challenging times.

“The reality today is we might still have been able to run as scheduled in May,” Miles said. “We hope life is back to normal or near normal by then.

“After protecting public health, our priority is absolutely about running the 104th Indianapolis 500 race in 2020. By rescheduling in late August, we fully expect to be outside the window impacted by the COVID-19 virus. We and our fans still have five months to plan for the event. We believe our fans will be ready in August.

“More specifically, the date is in late summer, before NFL regular season games, and before college football really begins. With a number of postponed sporting events being rescheduled in the summer and early fall, it’s very difficult to find three consecutive weekends as we traditionally have in May.

“We’re grateful to all of our partners who worked with us on this. NBC has been incredibly helpful with working on it. We think we’ve landed in a good place.”

Thursday’s announcement is 150 days before the start of the rescheduled 104th Indianapolis 500.

“I’m relieved, along with most of our fans, to know that the Indianapolis 500 is in a spot where it is more sure it will be run this year,” Boles said. “The 500 itself is an event that people look forward to every year, they plan their lives around every year. I know it is an important one.”

While the Indianapolis 500 will be three months later than normal, the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be moved to July 4, creating the first IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader in history.

“It’s a huge weekend for us,” Miles said. “It’s so important because (the Brickyard) is on its way back. I think this kind of groundbreaking opportunity to bring our Grand Prix and get IndyCars on the track on Saturday just before the Xfinity race is a huge opportunity.

“It will get more IndyCar fans out here for a weekend they might not have attended in the past.”

Miles is already feeling the buzz of potential regarding IndyCar and NASCAR Xfinity on the road course on Saturday and the Cup cars on the oval on Sunday.

“It’s been clear for a long time that both series under the right circumstances thought it could be a good thing for the sport,” he said. “The spirits have always been willing. It hasn’t necessarily always been the highest priority.

“This sort of just created the opportunity to say, helet’s go for it. As has been said, there wasn’t much hesitation.”

Boles, the IMS president, said in order to solve this puzzle, sacrifices and changes had to be made from other tracks and series. MotoAmerica was scheduled to race at IMS on the Aug. 21-23 weekend but agreed to move to the second weekend in October.

“To Gateway and Mid-Ohio for working with us in short order in order for us to land on the weekends that we landed with the Indianapolis 500,” Boles said. “It tells you about the racing community. Same thing goes for NASCAR. I know Mr. Penske put a call into the folks at NASCAR and asked if we could share a weekend. We got a yes.

“It just really goes to show in times like this, this is one big industry, not several small folks trying to do their own thing.”

NBC also played a vital role in helping IndyCar and the Speedway solve this puzzle. Once the Olympics (scheduled for two weeks starting July 24) were postponed, there was a giant opening in the summer TV window.

Every sport in America has had to postpone or cancel its events with some rescheduled to later in the year. Labor Day Weekend was out because NBC also televises the Kentucky Derby, which had been moved to Sept. 4.

By working diligently with NBC and its member tracks, IndyCar was able to solve the puzzle in impressive fashion.

“NBC has been terrific in this,” Miles said. “Such an interesting position. Virtually everything that’s been canceled or postponed so far and is looking to move into the late summer or third or fourth quarters. Everything that they licensed, that they broadcast, is trying to get squeezed into a much shorter period of time.

“They’re really trying to work through a ‘Gordian Knot’ of sorts. They’ve been helpful in this. They’re going to do some other things we’re not going to talk about today to help us promote all this. The rest of the series will have a terrific amount of NBC broadcast coverage in the rest of the year.

“We’re delighted with those results in working with NBC.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)