Some Fans Just Have to Complain

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The NTT IndyCar Series released the 2022 IndyCar schedule this past weekend at Laguna Seca. There were some changes, and some were rather significant. No matter what the series did, people would gripe about it. The Legions of the Miserable certainly did not disappoint this weekend.

One of the first noticeable changes involves the very first race. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will actually take place in February. That is the earliest start to a season I can remember, since the days of the IRL kicking their season off at Walt Disney World Speedway in late January. The trouble with those races was that it would be almost two months before the next race.

After St. Petersburg runs on Feb 26, it will be only three weeks until the next race. That’s the next major change. Texas has made its second move in as many years. The one-time June staple moved to May 1 this past season. For 2022, it will run on Mar 20 on a Sunday afternoon.

There is some controversy over this Texas date. Supposedly NBC offered that date with the broadcast airing on Big NBC. Otherwise, it would have been sometime in April, airing on either USA Network or Peacock. Remember – NBCSN gets shut down in December.

The controversy is that the 12-Hours of Sebring is that same weekend. Almost half of the IndyCar grid usually runs at Sebring. There will be a lot of going back and forth for the drivers and some of the same teams and crew-members between Texas and Sebring that weekend. It is doable, but it isn’t optimal. How fresh will the likes of Graham Rahal or Ryan Hunter-Reay be, if they drive endurance stints on Saturday night and fly halfway across the country to race again Sunday afternoon?

It’s a concern that affects a lot of people in the paddock that weekend, but ultimately – IndyCar cannot make their business decisions based on what goes on with another racing body. They have to worry about what is best for their own series. Having a race like Texas being early in the season, being shown on Big NBC was ultimately more important than being carried on a Saturday night in April on Peacock or USA. Although the Sunday afternoon race will be going up against the NCAA Tournament, I think IndyCar made the right decision. It will be during the second round to determine the final spots for the Sweet 16 when most of our brackets have long been busted. Unless my Tennessee Vols are playing in that time slot, I plan to watch the race and not March Madness.

After Texas, it will be another three weeks before IndyCar gets on the track again – this time at Long Beach, on April 10. Oddly enough, Long Beach is the only race in April. So the first three races are spread over the three calendar months of February, March and April.

The pace picks up in May. For the first time ever, the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park will be run in a month other than April. The race will run on Sunday May 1. That eliminates the problem of cool temps and brown grass that has plagued the race in recent years. The course should have lush green grass. Hopefully the dogwoods will still be out, along with the azaleas that really make Barber stand out.

There will be one idle weekend in May, before heading into the now-traditional three weekends in May – the GMR Grand Prix, followed by Qualifying Weekend and then Race Weekend for the Indianapolis 500.

The biggest improvement to the 2022 schedule comes next, in my opinion. Belle Isle has been reduced to one race, on Sunday June 5 – after being a double-header since 2013. Before everyone rips me for saying that, it’s not due to my dislike of Belle Isle. It’s because I’ve always thought a double-header weekend immediately following the three intense weekends at Indianapolis was too much. It’s too much for the drivers, the crews and even the fans. I’m not a fan of double-headers, but if the Detroit business community insisted on it – they needed to move this race a little further back in the schedule. One race immediately following the Indianapolis 500 is enough.

After having three races spread over three months in the early spring, IndyCar will have its fifth straight weekend of on-track activity when the series travels to Road America on June 12. This is a week earlier than the normal time for the series to head to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. I would have preferred that weekend again, but the race is airing on Big NBC. That may have had something to do with the tweaking.

After Road America, things grind to a halt for three weeks. The series resumes over Fourth of July weekend at Mid-Ohio (also on Big NBC). Two weeks later, the series will try for the third time to race on the streets of Toronto on July 17, to be shown exclusively on Peacock. The very next week will see the only double-header on the schedule, when Iowa returns to the schedule after a one-year hiatus in 2021. I am thrilled to have another oval on the schedule and I love the track at Iowa, but I’m not thrilled to have it as a double-header.

Crash damage can be much more significant on an oval. My fear is that a driver could stuff a car into the fence during the first practice. It could be to the extent that the car misses qualifying, like what happened to Takuma Sato at Texas in 2020. That puts them in a bad spot for Race One. Who knows if they even get the car right for Race Two? Some will say that’s too bad. Well, wait until it is your favorite driver and the only reason the car was wadded up in the first place was due to a rookie making a careless mistake. Your favorite driver would have the potential to have two bad races in a row, due to something that was not of his or her doing. Crash damage in a double-header can be very damaging to a driver’s season.

A very hectic month of July wraps up the following weekend for the second visit of the season at the IMS road course on July 30. That’s on a Saturday, so I’m assuming IndyCar will be playing second-fiddle again, while NASCAR Cup runs on Sunday.

The next weekend sees IndyCar making their second visit to my hometown for the Music City Grand Prix on Sunday Aug 7. Will there be any tweaks to the course that seemed to be a little tight, or will the drivers be expected to behave themselves a little bit better. Hopefully both will happen, but the race moves from NBCSN in 2021 to Big NBC in 2022.

After Nashville, there will be a two-week break before the series heads to Gateway on Saturday night Aug 20. This will be the second race to air on USA Network (the other being Belle Isle). That makes it easier on us that live in this part of the country to have a break before hitting the road.

There will be another two-week break before the series makes a two-race west coast swing, beginning at Portland over Labor Day weekend on Sep 4. The season will conclude the following weekend at Laguna Seca on Sep 11.

The 2021 schedule got off to a late start due to the pandemic. St. Petersburg chose to move from mid-March to later in April, in order to give COVID a chance to die down and the season did not kickoff until April 18 at Barber. The 2022 season starts seven weeks earlier, ends only one week earlier and has one more race than this year – yet social media is full of people griping about it.

I mostly scroll through and just silently shake my head, but I did see one comment that I just couldn’t leave alone. This “fan” was claiming that Roger Penske and NBC had sold IndyCar fans a bill of goods, and this TV deal was much worse than the previous one. He was mostly complaining about Toronto being shown exclusively on Peacock. Seriously?

First of all, we were told when the deal was announced earlier this summer, that up to two races would be shown each season exclusively on Peacock. Be glad it’s the only one. Who can blame them? Two years in a row, NBC or NBCSN has made room in their schedule for a race that didn’t happen. There is at least a decent chance that it may not happen next year either. If it doesn’t, NBC didn’t have it on their calendar anyway, except for their streaming service, which doesn’t operate off of a fixed schedule.

As far as the two races on USA go, more cable households have USA Network than currently have NBCSN. Most people just don’t know where it is. I have no idea where USA is on my Xfinity, but unlike most of these complainers – I’ll find it before the first race. Either that or I’ll just live stream the race on Peacock.

For those that have not seen it, here is the schedule in its entirety.

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In all honesty, I cannot figure out what people are griping about – except for the fact they just like to gripe. Some say IndyCar fans gripe about anything and everything; but it applies to NASCAR fans, NFL fans and college football fans. Some people aren’t happy unless they are complaining about something, hence the label The Legions of the Miserable.

Fourteen of seventeen races are on Big NBC, where practically anyone can get it and the series will have the potential for maximum exposure. Two more are on mainstream cable and only one is on Peacock – the one with the greatest chance of being cancelled over COVID. It isn’t perfect with a few three-week gaps thrown in, but it’s the best I’ve seen in a while. Some fans just have to complain.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “Some Fans Just Have to Complain”

  1. OP, looks like you are going to have a very busy May and early June if your past attendance history is followed

    • I’ve noticed that myself. Plus, we are in the talking stages of going to Long Beach…and possibly Toronto and/or Iowa. We’ll see. – GP

      • I have not been to LB since the early 80s but the few years I did go it was a great event, probably just even better now.
        May I suggest Mid Ohio as a option as well , compact ,easy to get around ,several very good viewing areas. Golf carts are very popular . Facilities could use some updating and not a culinary highlight though

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Very much agreed on this, it is quite the solid schedule once all circumstances are considered. Unfortunately, taking big swings with the schedule and adding or returning to multiple venues is not always plausible.

    While I know some folks are lamenting Texas’ date for the competitors, I would like to point out that may also pose some challenges for fans as the NASCAR race at COTA is the weekend prior. I will, of course, choose the Indycar race… but I will most likely have to choose rather than attend both, which would have been more possible with more time between the races. That said, the series decision makes perfect sense and anyone with two weekends to kill next March can enjoy a lot of racing in the state of Texas.

  3. I am overjoyed to have the majority of the races on the big bird. We do then have to contend with the local affiliate and its choices, but so far so good here. Oops I forgot about tennis. I will miss NBCSN as I have watched it not just for IndyCar, but other sports. Life goes on….

  4. the schedule is the schedule.
    hope it works out well.
    for everyone.

  5. I’m slightly surprised Detroit is not a double header. I don’t have an issue with it, just surprised.

    I would like the week between Detroit and Road America or a weekend off after the ‘500’ then Detroit and Road America. As I said regarding the Devil – guessing Road America wanted earlier to allow 2 weekends off before the Cup cars on July 4th weekend. It worked this year being the week after, so I’m sure it will work again.

    You are correct about NBC – most available – yet I still see complaints from people without cable who say “I don’t have an antenna – so I guess I have to pay for Peacock”. Really? My reality is somewhere other than those people.

    Nice write up.

    • To complain – the Chicago ABC station always seemed to have a Cubs game on when Indycar was at Milwaukee. The advent of the secondary digital channels solved that problem, the Indycar race would be on 7.2. Back in the old NBC days for CART – the Detroit NBC station would show Tiger spring training rather than early Phoenix or Trenton races – we used the antenna to get a snowy Toledo station.

  6. Shyam Cherupalla Says:

    George you said it, it is what it is. There are three races in the first three months and three races in May alone. It just makes it look like Indycar is still not in the big leagues of the sports market. For that matter I’d rather the season start in March and have atleast 2 races in March and 2 in April. And the same thing with ending the season, the races should go till 1st week of October, so what if the last couple of races are competing against Football. F1 doesnt think of ending a season early because either the Soccer season is in the middle of the year or whatever other sport is starting in Fall. CART ended in the 1st or 2nd week of October for a long time

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