IndyCar to run 17 races over 5 months next season
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) IndyCar will have 17 races next season and two new venues as part of a 2015 schedule that begins on a street course in Brazil in March and wraps up at the end of August on the road course at Sonoma.
The schedule announced Thursday features six ovals, six road courses and four temporary street circuits.
''The Verizon IndyCar Series calendar represents another step forward in our strategy to grow the series,'' said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IndyCar will open at the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasilia on March 8. The next race will be March 29 at St. Petersburg, Florida, followed by the series' first visit to NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans in April.
The traditional July stop in Toronto has been moved to June 14 and Fontana, site of the last three season finales, is now hosting a June 27 race.
Pocono was moved from the July 4 weekend to the penultimate race on Aug. 23, followed by the Aug. 30 finale at Sonoma.
Pocono CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky had hinted he was willing to drop IndyCar outright - he called advance ticket sales for this year's race ''kind of scary ''- because fans didn't seem interested in attending races at the Pennsylvania track on a holiday weekend.
''I think it's going to be good. It's going to be good for us, good for the fans, and obviously good for IndyCar,'' Igdalsky said of the new date.
Pocono is in the final year of a three-year contract with IndyCar, and Igdalsky said the track will wait and see how attendance goes next summer. But he was hopeful being the penultimate race of the season, and the last oval on the schedule, would boost interest.
''It's a great way to wrap up the season. Even better if we can crown a champion at Pocono,'' Igdalsky said. ''I love everything at IndyCar right now. They're going in the right direction. Their ship has righted. It's going to take time to break some perceptions but they're going the right way. We're excited about what the future.''
Sonoma, which had been the penultimate race, becomes the first track that is not an oval to host the finale since 1996 under IndyCar Series sanctioning. Champ Car hosted its 2007 finale on a road course in Mexico City.
Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, felt the picturesque, 12-turn course in California wine country was the perfect venue to crown a champion. So did two-time Sonoma winner Scott Dixon.
''It's a very technical and challenging track and the site of the biggest (sponsor) Target weekend each season from a partnership perspective,'' Dixon said. ''I'm looking forward to defending our win there in 2015.''
Six races will be televised on ABC next season, including the Indianapolis 500 for the 51st consecutive year on May 24. NBCSN will broadcast 13 races, including the final seven of the season.
There's only one doubleheader on the schedule, down from three, with Belle Isle in Detroit set to host a pair of races the week after the Indianapolis 500. Event organizers said Thursday that Quicken Loans is returning as the presenting sponsor of the Grand Prix in Detroit.