Goodbye, Glen; Hello Portland; Hola, Mexico?

Indycar’s schedule release produced the expected dropping of Watkins Glen and introduction of Portland as its replacement.Mexico City is still a possibility for August 5.  TV networks and times were not announced today.

The schedule is below:

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule

March 9-11               St. Petersburg, FL
April 6-7                    Phoenix Raceway, AZ
April 13-15                Long Beach, CA
April 20-22                Barber Motorsports Park, AL
May 11-12                 GP of Indianapolis, IN
May 15-27                 Indianapolis 500, IN
June 1-3                     Dual in Detroit, MI (2 races, Sat. & Sun)
June 8-9                     Texas Motor Speedway, TX
June 22-24                 Road America, WI
July 7-8                       Iowa Speedway, IA
July 13-15                  Toronto, ON, Canada
July 27-29                  Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course, OH
Aug. 18-19                 Pocono Raceway, PA
Aug. 24-25                 Gateway Motorsports Park, IL
Aug. 31-Sept. 2         Portland International Raceway, OR
Sept. 14-16                Sonoma Raceway, C

Before I discuss Watkins Glen, here are some thoughts about the schedule. The last three races are all west of the Mississippi. Having Portland and Sonoma as the last two races eliminates travel time for the teams and allows a great promotion period for Sonoma. This season the last four races had teams going back and forth from the east to the west, way back east again then all the way to California. This is the easiest schedule travel wise in a while.

The Indy 500 qualifying weekend is not listed on the schedule as it has been the last two years. Perhaps it will be added when the TV schedule is published.

Portland was a staple of CART and Champ Car but was a casualty in the merger. Indycars raced there from 1984.  until 2007. There were some fun races there, including the closest three car finish on a road course in 1997 when Mark Blundell beat Gil De Ferran by 0.027 seconds and third place Raul Boesel by 0.055 seconds. They were three wide at the line. In 1986, Michael Andretti ran out of fuel coming to the checkered flag and was passed by dad Mario, who won by 0.07 seconds. The race was on Father’s Day then. Michael said that was Mario’s present. The last winner at Portland was Sebastien Bourdais.

Watkins Glen rescued Indycar in 2016 when the Boston Grand Prix folded. I have enjoyed going to the race there. It’s a great track and a beautiful area. A race later in September when the leaves are turning would be amazing.  It was obvious Labor Day wasn’t working attendance wise, but the the track’s schedule and Indycar’s stubborn insistence on not competing with football doomed the attempt to find a mutually agreeable date.

To keep tracks like Watkins Glen a part of the schedule, Indycar needs to extend the schedule into October. The television numbers will not be that much different. If they were getting over a million viewers a race and had a 30% drop when football begins, I could understand their concern. The current ratings will not change that much.

Mark Miles did not say that there is an absolute deadline for a decision on Mexico City. A Mexican driver in the series would definitely help that race if it happens. I haven’t heard anything about Esteban Guttierez having a ride for this, year. Someone might get him a one off for that weekend.

Silly Season News

Sage Karam will drive in the 500 for Dreyer and Reinbold in 2018. DRR also indicated their intention to enter more races next year. Entering Karam at Pocono might boost attendance a bit there.

If you haven’t seen the visor cam from Spencer Pigot driving the 2018 configuration at Road America yet, make sure you do. This car acts very different than the cars in manufacturer trim. Drivers actually drive the cars. You can find the video at the Indycar twitter site and possibly on Indycar.com.

 

 

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