If Only Dreams Could Come True

Last Thursday, the Verizon IndyCar Series released their 2018 schedule. There were the usual leaks that got out, this time about Portland replacing Watkins Glen – so there were no real surprises. Every other race is in about the same place as it was last year, except that Phoenix will return to early April now that it doesn’t have to compete with the Final Four just a few miles down the road. Still, that move was expected so there were really no surprises. In this day and age, it’s hard to keep any secrets.

Still, the lack of surprises didn’t keep people from opining on social media and in comment sections about what they liked and didn’t like about the 2018 schedule. For the most part, I’m happy with it. I would have preferred to have Watkins Glen over Portland; but Portland was always a good track for CART so I’m happy with it being on the slate. Besides, Green Savoree Racing Promotions will probably be a lot easier to deal with in the future than an ISC track like The Glen – so there is that.

Of course, many people focused on what was not on the schedule – Mexico City. Given the earthquake and other issues, there are some holdups with Mexico City. But I still think it will become the eighteenth race of the 2018 schedule within the next month.

What’s the best thing about the 2018 IndyCar schedule? It preserved the date equity for the vast majority of the tracks. Other than Portland and Phoenix, every track is having its IndyCar race on the same weekend as the last couple of seasons. I cannot overemphasize how important I think that is.

Would the Indianapolis 500 have the same tradition if it was held on Memorial Day in May one year, then moved to late June, then September, then to late April and then mid-May over a few years? No. It would eventually fall off the schedule. Part of what makes it so great is that for the 102nd time next May, the Indianapolis 500 will run over Memorial Day weekend. The only deviation from that were the lost war years and then when Congress dictated that Memorial Day would always be the last Monday in May instead of May 30.

Some people this weekend offered up tracks they’d like to see IndyCar visit. Of course, there was always an expert to counter why the series would never go there. Apparently, these killjoys didn’t read the entire sentence. All they said was they would like to see IndyCar there – not that they must be at said example.

Given that, I thought I’d have some fun with this same subject. I’m hoping the same buzzkills understand that this is my “Fantasy” schedule and not one that I’m proposing for the next few seasons. People should still be able to have dreams without some idiot stomping all over them.

First of all in my fantasy world, the Verizon IndyCar Series runs a twenty-race schedule – entirely in North America (my apologies to all you fans of Surfer’s Paradise in Australia). It also starts and ends on an oval.

So using the actual 2018 calendar, here is my Fantasy IndyCar Schedule, with explanations to follow:

March 4 – Homestead (Oval)

March 11 – St. Petersburg (Street Course)

March 25 – Mexico City (Road Course)

April 7 – Phoenix (Night Oval)

April 15 – Long Beach (Street Course)

April 22 – Sonoma (Road Course)

April 29 – Barber (Road Course)

May 12 – GP of Indianapolis (Road Course)

May 13 – Opening Day Indianapolis 500 Practice

May 19 – Indianapolis 500 Pole Day

May 20 – Indianapolis 500 Bump Day

May 27 – Indianapolis 500 (Oval)

June 3 – Milwaukee Mile (Oval)

June 9 – Texas (Night Oval)

June 17 – Portland (Road Course)

June 24 – Road America (Road Course)

July 7 – Iowa (Night Oval)

July 15 – Toronto (Street Course)

July 22 – Michigan 500 (Oval)

Aug 5 – Nashville (Street Course)

Aug 19 – Pocono 500 (Oval)

Sep 8 – Gateway (Night Oval)

Sep 15 – Chicagoland (Night Oval)

The season would start one week earlier on the oval at Homestead near Miami, which should certainly be warm enough. Then St. Petersburg falls into its usual date. Mexico City would come next with an open weekend before and after – just to allow time for any logistical issues.

Phoenix at night and Long Beach would be next, both in their respective assigned spots on the actual schedule. After that, I get creative by putting Sonoma in the springtime. Have you ever seen the track at Sonoma in the spring? What is normally brown dead grass in late summer looks like Ireland in the spring. Lush green hills make up Sonoma Raceway in the spring. If some insist on a race at Sonoma, that’s where I want to put it on the schedule.

Barber would be bumped back a week and would be the last weekend in April, increasing the chances it’ll be nice and warm. Sometimes Barber can be hot, while other times it can be freezing. I prefer heat on my racing weekends.

Then we come to the Month of May, where I make a few subtle changes. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will still take place on Saturday May 12, but I make the ground crews work overnight and convert the track to the oval by Sunday morning for Opening Day for the “500”, even though that is also Mother’s Day. I know that will cut down on the crowd, but it also could give some people more of an incentive to travel to the Grand Prix.

We go to the Grand Prix every year. The first year Opening Day for the “500” was on Sunday. The last three years, Opening Day was moved to Monday while there was no track activity at all for Sunday. With the Grand Prix running late in the afternoon, we that travel have to stay over Saturday night anyway. It would be nice to have track activity to go to on Sunday. As it is, we go to Charlie Browns Sunday morning, then make a trip to Long’s Donuts and then go to the gift shop at the track on Sunday around noon before heading home. It’s a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, but I’d much prefer to spend that day watching the first day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.

I’ve made another tweak to my fantasy Month of May. I’ve put Pole Day back on Saturday, with Bump day on Sunday. I’ve also gone back to the old rules of limiting a car to three attempts. If you can’t qualify by then and there are no more than thirty-three qualifiers, you start at the back of the field. If there are more than thirty-three and you can’t get a car in in less than three attempts – too bad.

After the Month of May, the series heads north to Milwaukee. I feel strongly that the momentum gathered through the Month of May and from an exciting “500” is completely lost when the double-header at Belle Isle is the next event. A casual viewer may have really liked what they saw on the Indianapolis 500 telecast. If they tune into a good race at Milwaukee or Texas, they may start tuning into the season. But following the “500” with the Double-Dud in Detroit would likely drive any curious viewers away for good. If you’ll notice, I’ve eliminated Belle Isle completely from my fantasy schedule.

Texas follows Milwaukee in its usual spot. Then it’s off to Portland in their traditional Father’s Day date that coincides with the Portland Rose Festival. Next, it’s a trek halfway across the country to Road America in its traditional spot. After Road America, there is a much-needed break. July 4th falls on a Wednesday next year, meaning it’s hard to designate which weekend goes with it. IndyCar left the July 1st weekend open, so I’ll do likewise.

After the break, the series goes to Iowa on the assigned weekend, but I make a tweak and run the race on Saturday night. Then comes Toronto in its usual spot on the schedule on July 15th. But the next weekend, I have the series running their second of three five-hundred mile races – on the high banks of Michigan International Speedway.

After another break, I get selfish. There is supposedly an IndyCar street race planned around Nissan Stadium in Nashville for 2019. If it were in some other city, I probably wouldn’t give a hoot about it. But since it’s in my hometown, I’m all in. In my fantasy world, it gets moved up to 2018. The first weekend in August is as late as it can be run without interfering with pre-season or regular season Titans games.

After another break, Pocono runs on its normally scheduled date as the third five-hundred mile race of the season. There is a two-weekend break after Pocono to avoid Labor Day, then the final two races are both ovals run on Saturday nights to avoid conflicts with the NFL – Sep 8th at Gateway and Sep 15th at Chicagoland where the new champion will be crowned.

Oh, and one more thing – all races count the same. Double points are done away with along with the special point system for Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

This twenty-race schedule features ten ovals – five of which are run at night. There are also ten non-ovals; four street courses and six natural terrain road courses. Eighteen races are run in the US, one is in Mexico and one in Canada. I tried to keep it at twenty races, since that’s the ceiling that IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has cited. I was very tempted to eliminate Sonoma and add Cleveland, but I’d like to see Sonoma run in the spring at least once, since I’ve been crowing for that for years.

I think I present a balanced schedule that should appeal to everyone. Oval fans are happy to have half of the schedule, while road racing fans have a good mix of street and road courses to keep them happy.

Some of this may actually happen, while others are just a pipedream. But isn’t that what fantasies are all about?

George Phillips

18 Responses to “If Only Dreams Could Come True”

  1. Dave from Mukwonago Says:

    George, l love that you have Milwaukee after Indy. Unfortunately I don’t think they will ever get that date back,, and I’m also pessimistic that IndyCar will race there anytime soon.

  2. James T Suel Says:

    George I think your schedule is perfect. Wish we could make it happen .great job.

  3. At Gateway, Hinch did a podcast with Mark Miles. Mark said that once the North American season started it would stay here BUT February was open for a possible 2 fly-away races AND another NA race (Mexico or (Canada)).

    So………. I’m waiting for Surfers Paradise, Brazil and Mexico.

  4. That’s an evil stretch on crews from the end if March through the end of June, but overall good layout. Personally I wish Indycar could find a warm place (Ft. Lauderdale?) to stage a race the weekend between the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500

  5. I agree with Sonoma, Milwaukee, and Detroit/Michigan. I hadn’t really bothered to dream further because I’d be satisfied with those changes.

  6. Please add Kentucky to the list. Feel free to delete Mexico City.

  7. Alan Stewart Says:

    The only tweak I’d make is Texas immediately after Indy … other than that it looks solid.

  8. billytheskink Says:

    I’d especially love to see Indycars back in Houston (wonder why?) and on the oval outside of Memphis (run with MRTI and Silver Crown).

    Among those not already mentioned: COTA (run with IMSA), Fontana, Michigan, Loudon (with NASCAR modifieds), Vancouver, Cleveland, Richmond (with Silver Crown), and Road Atlanta all hold a good level of interest as well. Throw in the Pikes Peak hill climb, too, for old time’s sake (heck, I think an Indycar exhibition at Pikes Peak would be feasible and fantastic). And since we’re dreaming, why not the Nashville fairgrounds (with ARCA) as well?

  9. You have the series on the road out west for three weeks . That is hardcore logistics to be gone from the shop or drive your haulers 16,000 miles in three weeks on burn and turns from the Indianapolis shops .

  10. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    Overall, you have a total number of 20 races, which is about the max I think (even wishing) the sport could stand. I’d be quite happy with 18 solid, annual, non-moving events/dates, but in the history of Indycar (since 1947 at least), no schedule has mimicked the previous for more than one year with dates and venues changing all the time.

    In recent history (last 20 years) I’m very excited about every piece of the schedule for ’18 but losing Watkins is a significant negative for me.

    I’m less a fan of high-banked ovals all the time. One or maybe two is fine, but outside of the pure speed they can provide, they’re rarely a decent show unless mayhem and destruction excites you. It doesn’t me.

  11. I’m more of an F1 fan than IndyCar, but I’d like to see IndyCar around, say, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and to be really ambitious, places like Suzuka and Silverstone.

  12. I’m happy for Portland.

    As much as I enjoyed watching the races at Watkins Glen on the broadcast, I understand why the event does not continue next year. Either way, there is something classic about that event. But Graham Rahal and Will Power who both had nasty shunts there last year probably are OK with it being off the schedule again.

    Regarding your fantasy schedule, it’s great to see Milwaukee in place and Sonoma in the spring. I wonder if Homestead might work at the end of January. I doubt another new street race can work at this point. I’m surprised you don’t have Fontana as the season finale. I’m not surprised you have cancelled Belle Isle but I wouldn’t do that, though the 2nd round there is maybe a bit much. I would add Sparta, Kentucky, in September and Montreal should be in there, too. Also, I don’t miss Chicagoland. But I do miss Baltimore which is unlikely to ever happen again.

  13. Since this is about only dream schedules, how about some IndyCar drivers on dirt? Yougotcher Chile Bowl, Knoxville Nationals, and Sun Prairie for Silver Crown and non-winged sprint cars. Pretty much a no-brainer IMHO.

  14. Love this schedule. I’d only possibly change the last race from Chicagoland (as much as I love it) to Kansas, which has been repaved in the progressive banking that IndyCars love at Iowa.

  15. Love it George! Now use your powers of persuasion and influence on the folks in Indy and make it so!

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