Eight Saturday races, including a trio of double-headers, a late-season swing to California and everything basically compressed into five months are the highlights of the 18-race IndyCar schedule for 2014.
Other than the inaugural road course show to kick off the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's the same lineup of tracks (sans Brazil and Baltimore) as 2013. It sports six ovals, five street circuits and four road courses – opening at St. Petersburg on March 30 and winding up Aug. 30 in Fontana, Calif. with the largest gap only two weeks in June as 11 races are jammed into 11 weeks.
“Our thought was to condense the North American schedule so that we didn't pop up and go away as we did this year,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, referring to the month-long gap between Baltimore and Houston this season. “Our hope for 2015 is that we can start the season earlier and run for seven months but we've said all along that 2014 is a transition year.”
The grind for the mechanics in 2014 will be from May 10 to June 8 (IMS road race, Indy qualifying, Indy 500, Detroit double-header and Texas) followed by a 2-week respite before four more consecutive weekends from June 27 to July 20 (Houston double-header, Pocono, Iowa and Toronto double-header).
But the end of the season is good news, especially for the truck drivers, because Sonoma and Fontana will be back to back. And Barber Motorsports Park, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and California Speedway will host Saturday shows – in addition to the openers for the double dips at Detroit, Toronto and Houston.
“It was a combination of what the promoters want along with avoiding TV conflicts,” said Miles, speaking about staying away from going head to head with NASCAR.
There had been talk that St. Pete might also be a twin bill but Miles opted to stay with the same number as this year. “The three we had all worked, so we decided to stick with them because double-headers are costly for the teams,” he continued.
The biggest change will be Houston going from October back to June to avoid football season and Milwaukee moving from June to August. “Milwaukee will be one week after the State Fair and they get 900,000 people, so we'll have two weeks to promote it,” said Miles, who was in Milwaukee on Wednesday when it was announced ABC Supply is the new title sponsor for the oldest oval in the country. “The fair board people think that will be better than putting it with the fair.”
Houston promoter Mike Lanigan, who had an encouraging turnout at Reliant Park despite going up against college and pro football, is looking at moving at least one of his June races to nighttime because of the expected heat.
Pocono, back on the schedule this year after a 25-year absence, will again be over the Fourth of July weekend but be increased to 500 miles like the other two legs of the Triple Crown (Indy and Fontana).
• The 2014 schedule will be formally announced during NBC Sports Network's hour-long preview show Thursday night at 8:00 p.m ET for this weekend's MAVTV 500 title-decider in Fontana.
2014 IndyCar Series
March 30 – St. Petersburg
April 13 – Long Beach
April 26 – Barber Park (Saturday)
May 10 – IMS road course (Saturday)
May 17-18 – Indy 500 qualifying.
May 25 – Indianapolis 500
May 31-June 1 – Detroit double-header
June 7 – Texas (Saturday night)
June 28-29 – Houston double-header
July 6 – Pocono
July 12 – Iowa (Saturday night)
July 19-20 – Toronto double-header
August 3 – Mid-Ohio
August 17 – Milwaukee
August 24 – Sonoma
August 30 – Fontana (Saturday night)