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INDYCAR ANNOUNCES 2015 SCHEDULE
Author: Mark W. Theisen
November 5th 2014 -      IndyCar has announced the Verizon IndyCar series schedule for 2015 that will feature 17 races: six on oval tracks; six on road courses and four on temporary street circuits.

     The 2015 schedule is one race less than 2014 but encompasses the same number of weekends in that one of the doubleheader races was eliminated.

     The series kicks off in Brasilia, Brazil on March 8th which is a new race for 2015 as the series returns to Brazil after a one year absence.  The 2015 series, as was the 2014, is compressed over a five month span in order to crown a champion before the NFL season monopolizes the television airwaves for the final months of the year.

     After much deliberation and wrangling the series will end on a road course on August 30th with the penultimate race being contested on August 30th on the Sonoma Raceway road course in Sonoma California. When Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which had hosted the last three season finales, asked to be moved earlier in the schedule to avoid racing in the oppressive August California heat it set up a debate as to where to host the last race of the season.  West Allis’ Wisconsin State Fair Park was even up for consideration before it was decided that the NAPA Valley of California would be the best venue to host the championship event in terms of being able to offer amenities to sponsors who would be in attendance for the finale.

     So here’s a look at where and when for the 2015 edition of the Verizon IndyCar series:

     After the March 8th opener in Brazil on a circuit that is still being built for the race the series returns to the USA and St. Petersburg, Florida on March 29th.  The street circuit race was won by Will Power in 2014 as he began his march to the 2014 Verizon IndyCar championship.

     The third 2015 event will be in Avondale, Louisiana on April 12th at NOLA Motorsports Park on their road course, a venue that was built in 2011.  This is a new venue for IndyCar and the road course features a 16-turn, 2.7 mile test for the drivers.

     On April 19th the series returns to Long Beach, California, for the most famous street race on the schedule.  Dating back to 1984 Long Beach has hosted Indy Cars and the race is one of the best on the tour each year.  Mike Conway, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2014, won the event for his second career win on the track.

     April 26th sees a return to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for a road course event that was won in 2014 by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

     Next up on the schedule is the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that begins with the second running of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday May 9th on the road course in the infield of the most famous race course in the world.  Simon Pagenaud was victorious in the inaugural Grand Prix race this past May.

     All attention is then turned towards the Indianapolis 500 which will run for the 99th time on Sunday May 24th.  Hunter-Reay won the 98th running last May in exciting fashion and this year’s race will be equally exciting as well.

     Immediately after the 500 the series heads to Belle Isle Park in Detroit for the only double-header event for 2015 with races on both Saturday May 30th and Sunday May 31st.  Power and his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves won the races this past spring.

     Texas Motor Speedway hosts round 10 in 2015 on June 6th, a high speed oval coming off two street course races in Detroit and then it’s back to a street circuit for round 11 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  This event was a double header event in 2014 but was scaled back to one race for 2015 and the date was moved from July to June in order to accommodate the city as they are hosting the Pan American Games in July of 2015.

     Back to a high speed oval for race number 13 which will be at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on June 27th.  For the heat reason as cited earlier in this story it was determined that this race, which carries a 500 mile distance as is part of the “Triple Crown” would be better off contested in early summer rather than late summer in California.  Tony Kanaan picked up his only victory of 2014 when the series concluded here in 2014.

    July 12th is now set as the date for the West Allis (Milwaukee), Wisconsin event.  The trouble with this date is that it is the third switch in as many years for a race on the famed Milwaukee Mile.  From a June date in 2013 to an August date in 2014 and now July looming for 2015 it is somewhat impossible to build any date equity among race fans.  Yet with the desire to compress the series schedule Milwaukee was left with little other options than this date for 2015. 

     IndyCar will share the stage with the annual Miller’s At The Mile event that weekend.  The vintage car assembly and rally has taken place on the second weekend of July forever, running on Friday and Saturday annually.  So when the antique and vintage race cars conclude their on-track activities on Saturday the Indy Cars will take to the track for practice.  On Sunday July 12th it will be a return to an old format in that qualifications and the race will take place on the same day.  With Indy Lights and the Mazda Road To Indy series also competing and on the same day it will make a for a long but exciting afternoon at “the Mile.”

     Race 14 will be on July 18th at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa for what will be the third oval track race in a row.  Hunter-Reay won this race in 2014.

     August 2nd will see the series on the road course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio where Scott Dixon is the defending race winner at a rack where he won three of the past four races contested on the 2.258 mile circuit.

     The third and final event in the “Triple Crown” portion of the schedule is August 23rd at Pocono Raceway in Pocono, Pennsylvania.  This events moves from July to August for 2015 and is contested after the track hosts its two NASCAR events of 2015.  Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2014 edition of this event while no driver was able to pick up the one million dollar bonus for winning all three of the 500 miles races conducted each year on the IndyCar schedule.

     The finale, on August 30th, a Sonoma concludes a hectic 2015 IndyCar tour.

     The compressed schedule, while very difficult for drivers and crews, was accepted by the fan base at television ratings were up and has led to ABC Television having six races on their broadcast schedule with NBCSN having the other 13 as NBCSN heads into a strong race broadcasting presence in 2015 featuring coverage of all major series.

NOTES:

     For Team Penske it has been an exciting off-season already as the powerful trio of Power, Castroneves and Montoya has grown now to include Pagenaud, who left Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for a new seat at Team Penske.  Thus the team that has won 15 Indianapolis 500 races and is the defending series titlist adds to its already impressive array of drivers with another proven winner.
     In addition, to facilitate the adding of a fourth full time to its operation Team Penske has lured Kyle Moyer from Andretti Autosports.  Moyer, who was with Andretti for over 20 years, will use his expertise in handling a large motorsports operation learned at Andretti to assist in the growth at Penske.

     Andretti Autosports lost one of their 2014 drivers, James Hinchcliffe, to Schmidt – Peterson.  Unable to come up with a sponsorship package for their fourth team, which was Hinchcliffe; he opted for the sure ride and bolted to Schmidt, replacing Pagenaud.  This leaves Andretti, who had four cars in 2014 with only three confirmed at this juncture.  They still have hopes to have a fourth team secured soon.

     A.J. Foyt Racing, on the heels of a sponsorship dollar increase from ABC Supply Company, will have two full time teams in 2015 with Jeff Hawksworth joining Takuma Sato on the team in 2015.   In addition the Foyt operation has purchased a building in Speedway, Indiana, minutes from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will use that facility a temporary home when racing in the Midwest while keeping its major operation and facilities in Texas.

     Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing had previously announced a merge and it was learned since that announcement that the team will use Chevrolet power in 2015.  Carpenter had been a bell ringer for Chevy while Fisher had Hondas; this is a loss on the Honda side as Team Chevrolet seems to be growing stronger.

     2015 will feature the debut of the new “aero” packages on the cars to assist fans in differentiating from the similarities of the Dallara chassis that has been used the past two seasons.  Engineers at Chevrolet and Honda have been working on the “packages” for their teams in hopes of securing the best “advantage” possible.  The new packages will debut in St. Petersburg as the season opening event in Brazil will still use the old car configuration.

    It is still hoped by IndyCar officials that a 22 car, or more, field can be assembled for the regular 2015 schedule   With Penske growing to four, Target Chip Ganassi at four, Andretti at three, Schmidt Peterson at two,  Fisher-Carpenter at two and Foyt at two, the series has 17 confirmed.  Still to make announcements:  KVR Racing, Bryan Herta Motorsports, Dale Coyne Racing and perhaps a return to the series by Panther.  Stayed tuned, March is still a ways off and teams are in negotiating processes right now.

     Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of Hulman and Company, parent Company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar has announced his retirement, effective early in 2015.  With the Hulman Company for 27 years Belskus has oversaw most everything the company has ventured into including leading both the Speedway and IndyCar.  He was instrumental in keeping the series in tact and the hiring of the current management groups for the Speedway and IndyCar.  No successor has been named as yet.