A Plea For Date Equity

There was an announcement on Tuesday that may have been a small victory for fans (mainly, me) of the NTT IndyCar Series, yet no one is really talking about it publicly. NASCAR confirmed rumors yesterday that we had been hearing for some time; that the city of Chicago will be hosting a race on the streets of their downtown, along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Many have said that Chicago and NASCAR have both taken note of the success of the inaugural Music City Grand Prix last year, and both parties want to try and replicate the success that Nashville experienced last year, in downtown Chicago.

Having heard those rumors for a while, I have been hearing other rumors that are connected to this story. If you’ll notice the date of the Chicago race, it is July 1-2, 2023. The rumors I had been hearing was that Chicago wanted NASCAR’s Road America date, which has run over the Fourth of July weekend for the two years that Cup cars have been running at Elkhart Lake.

Now that this piece of the puzzle has also been confirmed, I suspect the last part of the rumor may also be true – that NASCAR will drop Road America altogether from its Cup schedule.

While this is devastating news for Road America and the great racing fans that live in and around Wisconsin; this is actually good news for IndyCar.

There is a long-established pattern of IndyCar entrenching themselves on a track’s schedule, only to be kicked to the curb when NASCAR comes calling. Phoenix, New Hampshire, Gateway, Texas, Homestead, Pocono, Nashville and Kentucky are just some of the tracks that hosted IndyCar races before they hosted a Cup race. Sometimes, it was just a few months before (Pocono); other tracks finally hooked up with NASCAR Cup decades later after hosting their first IndyCar race (Phoenix). In many of these cases, once the track jumped in bed with NASCAR, they severed ties with IndyCar altogether or treated IndyCar like an unwanted stepchild.

Kentucky is the most egregious example. For more that a decade, Kentucky Speedway hosted IndyCar races that featured some of the most exciting racing in that era. When NASCAR came calling, they dropped IndyCar like a hot potato and bent over backwards giving the Cup Series whatever they wanted. For the next decade, Kentucky ran a Cup race at IndyCar’s expense. But after the 2020 race, it was announced that Kentucky would no longer be on the NASCAR Cup schedule. Kentucky Speedway now sits shuttered, serving as a parking lot for more than 60,000 Ford Trucks.

When you do business with the devil, sometimes you get burned.

I don’t claim to be familiar with the books at Road America, but I believe the track is on very solid financial footing. They can take a hit like this and keep going. Kentucky apparently could not.

While I don’t believe for a second that Road America ever considered dropping IndyCar, in favor of NASCAR Cup – I’m pretty certain that Road America asked IndyCar to move their date up the calendar to accommodate the presence of NASCAR Cup over the Fourth of July weekend. Track officials felt that the normal IndyCar weekend was just too close to the Fourth of July when NASCAR would invade the grounds, so they wanted to move the IndyCar date up.

Since IndyCar returned to Elkhart Lake in 2016, the race was always run in the last weekend in June. Selfishly, that always worked out for us because it gave us a nice break from our hectic Month of May travel schedule, giving us old folks a chance to rest up. This year, the race was moved up to June 12 – just two weekends after the Indianapolis 500. We had still not caught our breath from a very exhausting Month of May.

Susan and I were not the only ones affected. We talked to a lot of fans up there, who did not like the date change. Granted these were IndyCar fans, but they resented that the normal Road America date was moved to accommodate NASCAR. I know IndyCar tries to retain date equity, but I’m sure they were trying to be a good partner to Road America, so they relented.

If the rumors turn out to be true that NASCAR will not be returning to Elkhart Lake, my hope is that IndyCar will return to the date they had held onto since 2016 – the last weekend in June. It would certainly suit me better, but from those local fans we talked to up there, it would suit a lot of them better too.

This year, the last weekend in June sat empty on the IndyCar schedule. In fact, it was one of two weekends in a row that had no IndyCar racing. So, while the schedule makers are still hard at work on the 2023 IndyCar schedule – here is one request to restore date equity and move Road America two weeks back, where it belongs.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “A Plea For Date Equity”

  1. “When you do business with the devil, sometimes you get burned.”

  2. James T Suel Says:

    I think you are spot on George!!

  3. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exsist

  4. I think you are going to see an adjustment to Detroit and Road America dates – to allow for LeMans participation – IMSA teams (Detroit) and Penske specifically. Am I excited about Chicago Street race, meh – but will probably attend as it is easy for me.

  5. Please put Mid Ohio back where it belongs too. I really don’t want to go racing over the 4th of July.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I do agree that Indycar should look to move Road America back to its more long-standing date.

    While I agree and understand that sharing tracks with the Cup Series has traditionally not been a positive thing for Indycar, I do not fault tracks for dealing with NASCAR. In most cases, especially with tracks built in the 90s and 00s, the tracks were built for the purpose of attracting NASCAR Cup races even if Indycar raced there first. And in many cases, Indycar wasn’t really there first. The Busch Series raced at New Hampshire, Homestead, Kentucky, and Nashville before Indycar did. Cup raced at Texas before Indycar. Gateway had NASCAR national series races on its schedule the same year Indycar debuted at the track.

    Would Kentucky Speedway still be operating if they had never joined the Cup schedule and kept Indycar as their headlining event? Maybe, but I find that unlikely.

  7. Yannick Says:

    Yes, indeed. Date equity is indeed important when hosting annual events.

    Regarding Kentucky Speedway, I have to say it has provided some great racing during the time after I had returned to following the sport at around the beginning of the previous decade.

    Reportedly, NASCAR also did drown it in PJ1 compound, like it has done with TMS. Who knows if that is now settled after it has been a truck parking lot for some time? This track provided way too good racing to now just be relegated to being a loss leader for its parent company. I can only guess Kentucky Speedway would provide equally good racing again if it returned. I would call it a welcome addition to the schedule if that were to happen.
    But from a new market development perspective, I’d say not having a race in Georgia is the biggest hole in the calendar. But there is just not a suitable racetrack there at this point.
    Returning to Richmond VA looked like a good idea on paper, too, back in the fall of 2019. Looking at it now, Randy Bernard’s choice to move away from ISC tracks has seemingly proven to be a good idea because that track owner simply will not provide the kind of engagement that the series needs because it doesn’t have to for the series of its parent company NASCAR.
    It’s kind of unfortunate from a perspective of branching out into new markets that Charlotte is ruled out completely. It is rather likely that the place has been upgraded a lot since the tragic accident at the end of the last century.

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