IndyCar announces its 2021 schedule

IndyCar 2021 preparation
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(UPDATE: Two months after this release of the original 2021 schedule, IndyCar announced that the Grand Prix of Long Beach will be moved to the Sept. 26 season finale. In January, it announced that St. Petersburg was moved to April 25, and that Barber Motorsports Park now will open the season on April 18.)

The NTT IndyCar Series released its 2021 schedule, which will feature 17 races with two doubleheader race weekends.

The season will begin March 7 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, which will be the first of a record nine races shown on NBC (including the Grand Prix of Long Beach moving to the network). The other eight will be on NBCSN.

“We’re really pleased that the current plans provide for one additional race on NBC’s network than we had this year,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment, said in a release. “In particular, the season will start with NBC coverage of the St. Petersburg event, a spectacular start for those in attendance and watching from home.”

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Among the significant moves:

–Texas Motor Speedway will move ahead of the Indianapolis 500 for the first time with its first doubleheader race weekend on May 1-2.

–The Detroit Grand Prix weekend doubleheader will move from the week after the Indy 500 to June 12-13, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will hold its race July 4.

–The series will hold its inaugural race in Nashville, Tennessee, on Aug. 8 (the first street race added to the schedule since 2013).

–The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course will play host to two race weekends for the second consecutive year, running Aug. 14 the day before the first NASCAR Cup Series race on the circuit.

Three tracks that originally were on the 2020 slate will drop off the 2021 schedule:

–Richmond Raceway, whose return after a 10-year absence was canceled this season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic;

–Iowa Speedway, which had played host to IndyCar annually since 2007, including a doubleheader this year;

–Circuit of The Americas, which held its first IndyCar race in 2019 but was forced to cancel this year.

Here are the dates and TV networks for next year’s races (times will be announced at a later date):

IndyCar 2021 schedule

April 18 – Barber Motorsports Park (NBC)

April 25 – Streets of St. Petersburg (NBC)

May 1-2 – Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader (NBCSN)

May 15 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (NBC)

May 30 – Indianapolis 500 (NBC)

June 12-13 – Detroit Belle Isle GP doubleheader (NBC)

June 20 – Road America (NBCSN)

July 4 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (NBC)

July 11 – Streets of Toronto (NBCSN)

Aug. 8 – Streets of Nashville (NBCSN)

Aug. 14 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP 2 (NBCSN)

Aug. 21 – World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (NBCSN)

Sept. 12 – Portland International Raceway (NBC)

Sept. 19 – WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway (NBC)

Sept. 26 – Streets of Long Beach (NBC)

 

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.