What Are We Supposed to do Now?

Fans are still buzzing about Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and all of the craziness that ensued. With a lot of chatter on social media, it’s nice to think of all of the momentum that the NTT IndyCar Series will take into its next race. There’s only one problem with that – it’s three and a half weeks away.

Four weeks between races is way too much of a gap, especially following the season-opener. This reminds me of 2013 when we were nearing the end of the season. The race on the streets of Baltimore took place on September 1, then after a five-week gap the series resumed at Houston on October 5 before closing out the season at Fontana on Oct 19. By the time things picked back up in Houston, most fans had forgotten what happened in Baltimore. But many fans were pretty up to speed on the first quarter of the NFL season that clicked on by while die-hard IndyCar fans were waiting for their season to resume.

With all of the talk that the St. Petersburg race is getting – for better or worse – it would really be nice to ride that momentum into another race venue just two weeks after what we just watched. I realize that some compared Sunday’s race to the two races we’ve seen in Nashville and called it a sh**show, a label I thought fans reserved strictly for the Music City Grand Prix.

Personally, I didn’t think St. Petersburg was a sh**show, but I don’t really think the Nashville races are either. I don’t like seeing crashes in races. It tears up good equipment and causes hardships for the crew that has to put these cars back together; not to mention to the potential for injury (or worse) to the driver. Most true race fans don’t care to see crashes, it’s the non-fans who think that’s the only reason we follow this sport.

It’s wasted energy to complain about the schedule. This gap after the season-opener is nothing new. Last year, there was a three-week gap between St. Petersburg and Texas. The 2020-21 season-openers were both affected by COVID, so we won’t count those. The last time there was only two weeks separating the first and second races of the season was 2019, when St. Petersburg was run on March 10 and COTA was run on March 24.

Of course, COTA ended up being a one-time event. It was originally scheduled for 2020, but COVID wiped it out and it has never come back. That’s a shame, but I wish something could be done to add another March race to ride some of that momentum from Sunday’s race. By the time the cars take the track Saturday April 1 at Texas, no one will even remember St. Pete and that’s unfortunate.

We need a March race in a southern climate to fill that gap. This year’s St. Petersburg race was one week later than last year (Feb 27), but Texas is two weeks later. If Texas were to have held on to their same weekend as last year (Mar 20), we’d have the ideal two-week spacing – but then there would be a huge gap between Texas and Long Beach.

I keep hearing that next year’s 2024 schedule will be radically changed from what we’ve seen in the past. I was originally told this by someone in the know at last year’s Nashville race, and have heard this many times since. But I don’t know what that means. Does it mean that we will have the same seventeen races, but they will be moved around to different times of the year? Or does it mean that there will be many more new venues? If so, does that mean many more new races, or will it lead to some familiar races dropping off of the schedule? I have no idea.

I do know that date equity is important and has been achieved in many markets just recently. I can’t say that I’m a fan of Texas in March or early April, but if it fills a gap in the spring – I get it.

I just wish that now that we’ve finally gotten an IndyCar fix, it’s going to be tough to go back into winter hibernation for a month before coming out again a month later. Probably the only person that likes this is Marcus Ericsson, because he gets to bask in the glory of the most recent winner for a month. That’s in contrast to the poor bloke that wins the first race at Iowa – he or she gets to bask in that glory for less than twenty-four hours, before the engines are fired up for the next race.

The big question is – Now what do we do? Formula One races next weekend on Mar 17-19 (when IndyCar should be running). There is March Madness already going on and there’s baseball spring training. If you’re really hard up, the XFL s now in full swing. But if you’re mostly an IndyCar fan and don’t go in for stick & ball sports – you may be out of luck until April 1. That’s the next time IndyCar will be on track, for practice and qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

You can keep up with what’s going on by listening to Trackside each week. You can also subscribe to Trackside Online to be fully up to date on the entire IndyCar season. Otherwise, you’ll have to be content with watching replays of the St. Petersburg race or other archived races archived on Peacock. If you don’t have Peacock, you can find complete versions of many older race son You Tube. Otherwise, you’ll have to sit and wait another twenty-four days.

The good news is we are in the midst of the largest gap in the 2023 schedule. While most races will be a week or two apart, there are a couple of three week gaps, but no other four-week gaps. We are getting it out of the way early.

So go do some spring cleaning, get your taxes done early, watch some basketball or go spend a weekend with your significant other. This is the last time you’ll have time to do those things until September 10 is in our mirrors.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “What Are We Supposed to do Now?”

  1. OliverW Says:

    How about a quick trip to both Argentina and Mexico before Texas. Maybe move Texas back one week to accommodate all the logistical issues. Reckon both races would be very well attended and May well get a Brazilian promoter interested.

  2. I just sort of think of St. Pete as a soft opening to the season each year. (I fully grasp the irony of “soft” considering the damage incurred at the race this year!) But yes, if you set your mind to think the season begins in April, then St. Pete will feel like a bonus or teaser for what’s to come. What you said though is true. These long gaps are brutal!

  3. Bruce Waine Says:

    Didn’t seem to mention the availabilty of watching the Dark Side (NASCAR associated) events.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    We’ll do what Indycar fans do best… complain.

    I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I do wish there would be some schedule shake up to space the Texas race out a bit more from other big racing events in the state: NASCAR at COTA, MotoGP at COTA… heck, this year Indycar at Texas the exact same weekend as World of Outlaws sprint cars are across town in Mesquite (which is a heck of an undercard event if you are willing to drive about an hour… you might even run in to Johnny Rutherford).

  5. It’s like you read my mind, George I was thinking about this topic the last three days. This gap is a momentum killer. It’s like letting all the air out of the room. The season has to be rebooted again by the Texas race. I’m curious about the schedule changes for next year. The worst thing about these big gaps is it allows the competition like Formula One, NASCAR, basketball, golf, baseball all those other sports to get a foothold ahead of IndyCar. The tracks I’m thinking of: Fontana, (on the verge of closing. COTA, Sebring (but it’s too bumpy) Homestead? How about some southern NASCAR tracks this time of year? That could fill the oval needs early in the season. I’m going to put my vote in it’s too early in the year for revive Kentucky Speedway since my family and myself are moving just down the road from there in about 2 weeks!

  6. Talon De Brea Says:

    I’m a sports car guy who also follows IndyCar closely … There is currently a lot of crossover between the two disciplines. Don’t forget a mainstay of American racing — I encourage race fans to watch the upcoming 12 Hours of Sebring — many names familiar to IndyCar fans: Penske, Ganassi, RLL, Shank, GM, HPD, Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Vautier, Conway, Montoya …

  7. George,

    Couldn’t agree more! If it was up to me (and it’s not), my ideal season would never have more than a two week gap between races. of course, that would mean a 20+ race season… (such a terrible thought). A Homestead race would be ideal right after St Pete since you’re in the neighborhood. There are plenty of overseas opportunities as well for an extra early season race – Brazil and Mexico come to mind. And Japan and a UK race could be on the schedule later on. And of course here in the US, there are dozens of places we could go throughout the season that are not currently on the schedule. I also think it’s time Indycar started being the leader in scheduling, not worry so much about what everyone else is doing. Let NASCAR and F1 schedule around us for a change!

  8. The southerm destination that you are looking for is Mexico City. Some in IndyCar probably believe it could be the Thermal Club. Date equity is important and it’s great that 2023 has got plenty of it. The previous administration’s mistakes of changing the date of certain tracks tended to signal their last appearance on the schedule (Kentucky, Fontana, etc.)
    When TMS moved to the former date of COTA last year, I was worried it would go down the same route. But it didn’t, which is good for IndyCar.
    So I hope that “radical change” that you hinted at in your post, is not happening.

    I still miss COTA and hope that it can return to the schedule at one point. COTA with no track limits was a blast to watch, even if on screen. But they would have to find a different date for it because NASCAR has taken over IndyCar’s former date there, haven’t they?

  9. thanks for blogging

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