IndyCar 2015: Ready, Set, Race – Part I of II

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Here we go. The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is set in place. Dates, locations, times and broadcast syndicates are all public knowledge. Media and fans alike can plan their Spring & Summer travel and they can look forward to yet another incredible year of race competition. While some teams and drivers are as solid as the schedule, some combinations are yet to be announced or even determined. Where will Ryan Briscoe end up? Who will drive for Bryan Herta Autosport? Will there be any new teams or drivers added to the full season? Certainly there is a plethora of talent to still choose from, many of which have already had opportunities to pilot a DW-12 here or there but thirst for an entire season’s circuits to prove their abilities and determination to perform victoriously.

The answers to all these questions will come to us over the next 5 months and we have to practice patience until the rumors and speculation are put to rest. So for now, let’s focus on what we do know and take a closer look at the 2015 season as it stands.

Sunday, March 8th
Brasilia, Brazil

Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet
Permanent Road Course
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 11:00AM EST

nelson-piquet-brasilia-circuit_1 IndyCar is no stranger to Brazil. The CART series raced at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway from 1996-200 in Rio de Janeiro (oval track) and then the IndyCar Series contested at a temporary street circuit in Sao Paulo from 2010-2013. The Brasilia Indy 300 will mark the first time the series competes at a road course in the South American country. Promoters are projecting 100,000 fans in attendance this coming March and with this season-opener being a homecoming for drivers like Helio Castroneves & Tony Kanaan, we are guaranteed one heck of a party to kickoff the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season!

Sunday, March 29th
St. Petersburg, FL

Streets of St. Petersburg
Temporary Street Circuit
Broadcast live on ABC Network – 3:00PM EST

SAM_20562015 will mark the 11th race in St. Petersburg for the IndyCar Series; CART raced there initially in 2003. This west-coast of Florida street circuit has been the domestic opener for the Indycar Series since 2009 and will continue that tradition this upcoming year. This will be the second year with Firestone as the title sponsor of the race, keeping it’s same title as last year – the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Keep an eye on Team Penske at this one – they come in as the defending winners (Will Power, 2014), have won 6 of the 10 races here, plus they come to Florida this year with a 4-car team thanks to the addition of Simon Pagenaud.

Sunday, April 12th
Avondale, LA

NOLA Motorsports Park
Permanent Road Course
Broadcast Live on NBC Sports Network – 3:00PM EST

AerialNOLAThe series first race in the city of New Orleans will take place this April, just 20 miles from downtown and the famed French Quarter. The first of two Alan Wilson designed circuits on the 2015 schedule (the second being Barber Motorsports Park), the Verizon IndyCar Series will race on the 2.7 mile North Track of the grounds. In the future, once the currently-proposed South Track is completed, there will be potential to combine both and create a 5+ mile road course. This will be the longest race track in North America and certainly could make for a record-breaking and unprecedented race opportunity for the IndyCar Series. I hope to see the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Lousiana produce success in fan numbers on the grounds as well as broadcast viewership. That along with the weekend being financially beneficial to the city would assist in having the series enjoy a long tenure at the motorsports park.

Sunday, April 19th
Long Beach, CA

Streets of Long Beach
Temporary Street Circuit
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 4:00PM EST

Long-Beach-GP_6474bThe Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has a very long history. The longest history of any street race in North America, as a matter of fact – the series that have claimed this race however, has changed hands many times in it’s now 41-year stint. Formula 5000 to Formula 1 to the CART Series and now the Verizon IndyCar Series – one of the only things that hasn’t changed about this race is that it’s the largest event in the city of Long Beach, drawing in just under a quarter of a million fans annually. Many refer to the Grand Prix of Long Beach as “IndyCar’s Monaco”, as the premier American Open Wheel Series has held ownership of the circuit since 1984, through both CART & then IndyCar; it’s location in Los Angeles County brings the glitz & glamour of LA and Hollywood to the race weekend glory. I’ve always heard this is a don’t-miss race and while I’ve been to Long Beach multiple times, I have yet to experience this event. I am doing my best to attend in 2015, so I hope to see you all there!

Sunday, April 26th
Birmingham, AL

Barber Motorsports Park
Permanent Road Course
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 3:00PM EST

SAM_3366Returning for it’s 6th consecutive year, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is framed by the stunningly beautiful Barber Motorsports Park grounds. From its lush forest to rolling green hills and colorful landscaping, along with the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, fans get a true experience when visiting for this race weekend – the entire atmosphere really made an impression on me when I first traveled to Birmingham this past April. One element of that atmosphere was having so many awesome support series over the 3-day weekend. Not only were all three series from the Mazda Road to Indy on hand (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda & USF 2000), but the Pirelli World Challenge was there as well. Having track action nearly from sun-up to sun-down creates very fan-friendly conditions and allows for more extensive media coverage across the board. I hope to see multiple support series back at Barber in 2015 – and actually, I hope to see this kind of racing support for all Verizon IndyCar Series weekends. I think it’s a huge key to drawing a solid fan base and garnering new interest.

Saturday, May 9th
Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Combined Road Course
Broadcast live on ABC Network – 3:30PM EST

20140510_162423The sophomore year of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will return to the same weekend as it premiered in 2014. The placement of this race the Saturday before Indianapolis 500 Qualifying yet again, ensures another great start to the Month of May and the opportunity for fans and media alike to enjoy an additional weekend at the world-famous Speedway. Last year’s race produced a career-first pole for Sebastian Saavedra, a career-first front row start for Jack Hawksworth, the first standing start for IndyCar at IMS (with a scary crash involving the stalled polesitter) and marked the first time the series raced clockwise at the Indianapolis landmark.

Sunday, May 24th
Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Oval Track
Broadcast live on ABC Network – 12:00PM EST

20140517_111704For open wheel racing fans, Memorial Day weekend means one thing: the Greatest Spectacle on Earth. The 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will certainly be one to remember. Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves will again attempt to join the 4-timers club with A.J. Foyt, Jr., Al Unser & Rick Mears while Ryan Hunter-Reay will attempt to defend his crown with Andretti Autosport at the Yard of Bricks. Another interesting aspect to the 500 is the additional entries that the race draws – so far we know of two confirmed teams that will fight for a spot at the iconic race. Buddy Lazier plans to pilot a car through his own Lazier Partners Racing team and Bryan Clauson will be behind the wheel of the newly-formed Jonathan Byrd Racing team (with help from KVSH Racing). More teams & drivers are sure to add their names to the entry list, so stay tuned to MTAF Wheels for the latest in the off-season as well as updates as we progress through the year and work our way towards Indy 500 Qualifications on Saturday, May 16th & Sunday, May 17th.

Saturday, May 30th & Sunday, May 31st
Detroit, MI

Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Temporary Street Circuit
Broadcast live on ABC Network – 3:30PM EST (both days)

SAM_4235While the tradition of an open wheel Grand Prix of Detroit has traditions dating back to 1928 (and 1905 if you include the one-time Grosse Pointe dirt track), the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit as it is known now has more modern ties. The current street circuit set up is the same as the CART races from 1992-2001 and this upcoming season will be the third in a row where we have a double-header weekend on the Isle between Detroit, MI & Windsor, Ontario CAN. Belle Isle has been home to this race since the 1992 CART race, moving from Renaissance Center on the mainland. The festival-like atmosphere of this Detroit classic brings fans back year after year and I think another big part of that is the constant track action that the weekend sees. In 2014, The Dual in Detroit 3-day span saw 7 races among 4 different series (Verizon IndyCar Series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Pirelli World Challenge & Stadium Super Trucks) entertaining the crowds! It only makes sense that the Motor City feature as much racing as possible on a race weekend – I hope to see this set up back in 2015, because any less would be a mistake!

That’s a look at the tracks & their history for the first half of the season – I will look at the second half of the season later this week so stay tuned to MTAF WheelsTwitter & Facebook for that article to go live in the next few days!

What are your thoughts on the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule? Which weekends are you planning to attend for the first half of the year? Let me know by connecting any time on Twitter or Facebook.

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