The Times They are a-Changin’

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With apologies to Bob Dylan, don’t be misled by the title. This post isn’t that deep. This past Monday, NBC released the start times for the 2022 IndyCar schedule. The press release said that IndyCar and NBC announced the times, but I’m not sure how much input IndyCar had in this. I think once the dates and weekends are secure, IndyCar pretty much hands it to NBC and they take over from there. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.

As usual with announcements like these, there were some positive points and definitely some negative. Keep in mind, what may be a negative for me may well be a positive for you.

First the good: We always go to Barber, and the “Random Thoughts’ post for the next Monday is usually typed by me in the car as Susan drives home; or I dictate to her while she types on her laptop. An 11:30 local start time doesn’t eliminate that, but at least it can be done in the daylight this year.

Nothing has changed with the Indianapolis start time. In the mid-2000s, when Indiana started observing daylight saving time – the starting time of the race was toyed with a couple of times. They finally settled on the current time – which was the same “sun” time as before. I wish they would adjust the schedule for practice and qualifying to get the sun back to where it was prior to 2006. That way, we could get a true happy hour with the front stretch completely covered by the grandstands by 5:00 pm.

For Road America, we go to the race each year and stay until Monday; and we are currently planning to go again this year. But for those that drive back home that night to Indianapolis or wherever – the 11:30 am local start is popular. They’ve been starting at that time for the last few years and it seems to work for the locals. If it works, don’t mess with it. Change is Bad!

Last year, the Music City Grand Prix had a local start time of 4:30 pm. This was brought on by the Olympics, which was going on at the same time. From what I understand, NBCSN was lucky to be able to squeeze it in at all. Combined with two red flags and a lot of laps under caution, it was almost dark when the checkered flag flew. It may have looked relatively bright on television because they can do tricks with the cameras, but we were there – it was beyond dusk when the race was over. This year, the local starting time is 2:00 pm. It may be a few degrees hotter than last year’s late afternoon start, but at least there will be plenty of daylight when it’s over. Chances are, this year’s Nashville race will be over before last year’s 4:30 start time.

Portland and Laguna Seca both start at noon local time. I can’t say whether or not that is convenient for the locals, but it makes for convenient TV times for me – living in the Central time zone.

Now the bad: Unfortunately there is more bad than good, as far as the starting times go – at least the magnitude of the bad outweighs the good, in my opinion. First of all, there are no true night races. We knew Texas would most likely be a daytime race, since it was scheduled on a Sunday. But races we expected to run under the lights will start off in the day and most likely be over with in the twilight, if not in broad daylight. The double-header at Iowa was expected to feature a Saturday night race, before a Sunday afternoon race. Not so. The Saturday race starts at 3:00 pm central time while the Sunday race will start only one hour earlier. I’ve never spent a whole lot of time in Iowa (part of one day in 2020), and have never been to the track there. But my understanding is that mid-afternoon in late July can get pretty toasty. Plus, we are deprived of seeing these cars under the lights at all.

Gateway (World Wide Technology Raceway) has always been a night race, except for the COVID year when it was a necessary double-header. They’ve played with the starting times a little bit, but it is usually very close to dark at the green flag. This year’s race starts at 5:00 pm local time. It may be dusk when the race is over.

There is never a time when Indy cars look as good as they do under the lights at total darkness, unless of course it is a car with a dreaded matte finish – then the car just kind of sits there. Otherwise, the glossy finishes glisten under the lights. The glowing exhaust flames and sparking skid-plates are an added bonus that we only get at night. This year we won’t get to experience much, if at all. I’m not happy about that.

Here is the full IndyCar schedule, with start times and channels…

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Really, the lack of night racing is my only real complaint about this year’s starting times – but it’s a big one. Night racing is so enjoyable for the fans. Now it will be reduced to drivers battling the setting sun for a greater part of Gateway.

As far as the various NBC channels go, these were all announced in the fall. The good is obviously that fourteen of the seventeen races will be shown on Big NBC. Two more (Belle Isle and Gateway) will be shown on USA Network, after NBCSN was silenced on New Year’s Eve. Some say that going to USA is a negative, but USA is in many more homes than NBCSN was. I just need to find out where the channel is on my cable system.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Toronto will be shown exclusively on Peacock. With the continuing issues with COVID, I think chances are high that Toronto may not run again for the third year in a row. With that much uncertainty around whether or not the event will actually take place, it was probably best to assign it to a platform where the timeslot didn’t matter. If it does run, the starting time is to be 3:00 pm local time. Unfortunately for our Canadian friends, it sounds as if they are not even able to access Peacock. Hopefully, something can be worked out where Canadian fans can access the broadcast locally – if it does indeed run.

What are your thoughts? I’ve told how these starting times selfishly affect me. Does the lack of a night race upset you as much as me, or does that actually work out better for you?

Regardless, these are the kind of announcements I like to see in January. It’s a sign that the racing season is getting closer and closer. That’s always a good thing.

George Phillips.

9 Responses to “The Times They are a-Changin’”

  1. I agree that the lack of night races is the biggest negative in theses broadcast start times. I wish they would have also posted green flag times. From this we don’t know how klong a pre race there is or if NBC comes on as the cars are rolling.

  2. James T Suel Says:

    I must agree with your thoughts on starting times. I have to belive NBC makes those calls. I know the people at Indycar understand the added value of night racing.

  3. I agree that we will miss the night race and am surprised that the “ experts” do not see it value.
    For me though having 14 races on Big NBC is most important.

  4. I could care less.

    For 30 years I spent every second weekend at Mosport and always taped/recorded the races wherever and whenever they were.
    As long as you didn’t listen to the radio on the drive home you had a brand new race waiting for you and your brown pop.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Definitely sad to not have any night races, but such is the price of having so many races on network TV. It is believed that both the ABC and NBC prime time broadcasts of the Texas race (in 2013 and 2020, respectively), the only two recent night races carried on an OTA network, required concessions to the network from Indycar.

  6. I am just begging for IndyCar to adjust the Indy 500 qualifying times for the reason you stated. Having qualifying happy hour be from 5pm-6pm (or 4:45pm-5:45pm) is pointless. Let’s run until 7:00pm or 7:30pm.

  7. The combination of Peacock and the fact Road to Indy isnt’ coming to Toronto is a pretty big hint about what’s going to happen to that race, sadly.

  8. I have to echo the statements of the previous commenters. The lack of night races immediately stuck out to me. I love IndyCars under the lights. That said, I suppose network broadcasts during the day are better for the sport than cable broadcasts at night.

  9. since Quebec just went as-they-say nuclear option on Covid,
    Canada’s racing (or any other event) is likely over and done.
    i only hope this is not a precursor to local restrictions.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59960689

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