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

Life happens, folks. I tried my best to get this second portion of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season breakdown to you earlier this week but sometimes despite our best efforts, things get delayed or pushed back beyond our control. Regardless, here is a look at the last 8 race weekends for next year – a little history, a little hope and a lot of excitement is present in this second half to the 2-part article. You can catch up on Part I right here, which went live this past Sunday. Let’s pick up with the first race in June, where everything is bigger… in Texas!

Saturday, June 6th
Fort Worth, TX

Texas Motor Speedway
Oval Track
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 8:00PM EST

Dickies 500The Verizon IndyCar Series will return to the Lonestar State for the Firestone 600, as it starts off the second half of its 2015 season. The duration of this race has been lengthened regularly since the series started racing at Texas Motor Speedway back in 1997. They’ve seen delayed races, shortened races, two & three-car-wide finishes and even the elusive “twin races”. I’ve yet to enjoy a weekend in Fort Worth at this iconic oval, but I hope to check it out in the near future. The heat might be a lot to handle in June, but from everything I’ve heard, its well worth it to see these cars race under the lights on a Saturday evening.

Sunday, June 14th
Toronto, Ontario, CAN

Streets of Toronto
Temporary Street Circuit
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 3:00PM EST

Toronto ZimbioSince the crazy and literal doubleheader in July 2014 on the streets of Toronto, there was speculation about whether the series would return to the street circuit next season. Rumors flew around about other Canadian tracks that the race might move to for a year or two and then return to Toronto, but as with many things – rumors are just that. Rumors. As it turns out, IndyCar WILL return to Toronto in 2015 – but they will do so in the form of a single race at the end of the weekend. In 2013 and 2014, Toronto was a double-points-race, with a competition on both Saturday and Sunday. The Honda Indy Toronto has been a staple in the IndyCar Series schedule since 1986 – missing only one year (2008). While Paul Tracy is currently the only Canadian native to have won the Toronto IndyCar race (1993, 2003), American driver Michael Andretti claims the title of most wins, having come out of weekend victorious a whopping seven times! And he achieved those over the course of 13 seasons (1989-2001). Could 2015 be the year that Marco Andretti follows in his father’s footsteps and acquires a title in Ontario? His best finish at the street circuit was 4th, in both 2011 & Race 1 in 2013.

 Saturday, June 27th
Fontana, CA

Auto Club Speedway
Oval Track
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 4:00PM EST

0830141826aThe deserts east of Los Angeles host IndyCar yet again, but in the middle of the season rather the tail-end of it. Auto Club Speedway and the MAVTV 500 are no strangers to change. Originally named Ontario Motor Speedway and hosting the California 500 for USAC Champ Car in the 1970’s, the race & track have both evolved with the times and with the series as it split, merged and went through its own identity crisis as it were. The move to a mid-summer date will likely test fans, drivers, crews, and media members alike, given the temperatures that will be present over the 2-day weekend, but the earlier start time will hopefully suffice viewers on the East Coast and “over the pond” who were not fans of the evening start in 2014. (As you can see in my photo however, the blinding sun was no joke and the reason a night race was indeed, necessary.) It seems that the series was listening to those complaints and concerns as the race will air live on a Saturday at 4pm in June. Personally, I am a HUGE fan of night races, so I am sad to see us losing one this coming year. I hope that IndyCar will introduce another night race (or two or three…) in 2016 – there’s just nothing like racing under the stars, hearing those cars cut through the night air and of course, feeling that cool summer air is always a welcome rush to the sometimes scorching hot days. I’ve always been a night owl so I am probably a bit biased, but it’s hard to deny the magic of night racing once you’ve attended in person.

Sunday, July 12th
Milwaukee, WI

The Milwaukee Mile
Oval Track
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 5:00PM EST

milwaukee cbssportsIf you’re a fan of racing history, you probably know that the Milwaukee Mile is quickly approaching 80 years of hosting open-wheel racing… and have hosted auto racing in general for over a century! The sactioning bodies may have changed over the decades, as well as the names of the series themselves, but the Verizon IndyCar Series keeps the tradition of open-wheel racing at the Mile, alive and well heading into 2015. Traditionally a June race, the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 was placed in August this past season and will run in mid-July next year.  The mention of ABC Supply requires the mention of A.J. Foyt, Jr. The four-time race winner (1962, 1964, 1975, 1979) and five-time race namesake (2005-2009) has always been a big part of the history at the Milwaukee Mile. ABC Supply is the primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt Racing and with the addition of Jack Hawksworth, making them a two-car team to be reckoned with, Foyt is undoubtedly looking for a win in 2015 from either Hawksworth or his veteran driver, Takuma Sato in 2015.

Saturday, July 18th
Newton, IA

Iowa Speedway
Oval Track
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 8:00PM EST

20140712_185511Last season’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 was highlighted by video-game-esque moves from Ryan Hunter-Reay as he hit supersonic mode and flew to the checkered flag, winning his third race of 2014. This coming season will mark his 6th straight season with Andretti Autosport and you can be assured that the 2014 Indianapolis 500 Champion & 2012 IndyCar Series Champion will be looking to defend his title at “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet” and will look to become the first 3-time IndyCar race winner at Iowa. The race returns to July for the 2nd year in row, and will also maintain the 300 mile length, which was introduced last year as well.

Sunday, August 2nd
Lexington, OH

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Permanent Road Course
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 1:30PM EST

IMAG1307_BURST005My home track race returns to the first weekend in August, which I for one am very pleased about. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio has been dominated by Chip Ganassi Racing, throughout CART & IRL/IndyCar days. The team has 10 wins at the “Best Road Course in America”, from a variety of world-class drivers. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti & Charlie Kimball have all claimed victories while piloting for Ganassi in Lexington. Scott Dixon is mentioned in his own right, as “Mr. Mid-Ohio” has claimed HALF of those Ganassi Racing Team wins and has done so all within the past 8 seasons. It’s safe to say Scott Dixon loves Ohio and it most certainly loves him back. Will we see win #6  for Dixon in 2015? Or will another driver and another team start their own tradition of excellence next August?

Sunday, August 23rd
Long Pond, PA

Pocono Raceway
Oval Track
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 2:00PM EST

20140706_143252(1)2014 marked my first adventure to Pocono Raceway. In enjoyed the race itself and the multiple vantage points to watch from, but I was disappointed with the attendance. Unfortunately, this opinion was shared by many. With the third jewel in the triple crown of 500-milers for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015, I am glad to see the Pocono IndyCar 500 moving to a non-holiday weekend. I have hope that it’s new placement towards the end of August will create a great “one last hurrah of Summer” kind of atmosphere. I was hoping that the Mazda Road to Indy would be in tow this year, as support series were seriously lacking at the track in 2014. I think this is a big reason we saw such sad attendance numbers. I am hoping that we see another series come in and create more track action in 2015 – what about Stadium Super Trucks or even the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? SST always draws a crowd and grabs attention of fans, while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series were a great partner at Iowa last year. Just a few ideas. I also had hopes that this would be a weekend where we were joined by the Pirelli World Challenge, but they will be in Utah, at Miller Motorsports Park that weekend. Thankfully, PWC will be sharing weekends with IndyCar for half a dozen weekends in 2015 – so that’s good to report at the least!

Sunday, August 30th
Sonoma, CA

Sonoma Raceway
Permanent Road Course
Broadcast live on NBC Sports Network – 4:00PM EST

sonoma cadillac racingUnprecedented. That’s what this race will be at the end of 2015. The IRL/IndyCar sanctioning body has been around since 1996 and this is the first time in its history that we will see the Championship season end on something other than an oval ttrack. I think this could make for a very interesting end to 2015. First off, I like that we have a longer race weekend to finish things up, consisting of 3 days of track action as opposed to only 2. I also think that the opportunities for fans, sponsors, and race VIPs will extend well beyond what has been possible the past few years. We will be in the middle of wine country with close access to a multitude of wineries, dining, and entertainment… Talk about the perfect setting for a Championship Celebration?! The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma has been a part of the IndyCar Series schedule since 2005 but has only yielded winners from 3 teams – Andretti Green Racing (as it was titled at the time), Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. Current Series Champion, Will Power, has collected the most wins of any one driver with the most recent being in 2013.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to seeing how the Championship contenders fair, seeing as how the Championship has been decided by the last race of the season for many years now, and that race has always been on an oval. This switch to a road course could benefit certain drivers more than the finales of the past. This is just another reason that the Verizon IndyCar Series is the best and most versatile racing in the world right now – it proves that to be considered successful in this series, you have to master ALL types of tracks, not just ovals. I cannot wait to see how this entire season pans out…

* * * * *