Continuity and opportunity.
Those are the two takeaway messages from the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule released today.
All of us at INDYCAR are proud that we could announce next season’s schedule in August – earlier than in quite some time. We had planted that stake in the ground to put out the schedule this month and were able to attain that goal. That’s thanks to the hard work and tremendous cooperation of all our race promoters and a good number of people at INDYCAR, led by Stephen Starks, our vice president of promoter relations.
We are returning to every racetrack in 2017 that is on this year’s schedule. Again, that hasn’t happened enough recently, but it is attributable to the continuing positive direction which INDYCAR is headed. The people who operate these tracks see the increasing value of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the excitement that our racing generates.
Keeping all of this year’s races in essentially the same dates for next season creates date equity, which is pivotal for promoters to keep growing their events. That continuity allows them to begin ticket renewals and promotions earlier, and allows fans to plan their schedules earlier to attend their favorite races.
In fact, this continuity benefits all of INDYCAR’s stakeholders. In addition to promoters and fans, teams and suppliers can more easily plan and execute preparations for the season ahead. Our great television partners – ABC and NBCSN – can get a jump on laying the groundwork for their coverage plans and we can work with them to continue securing favorable broadcast time slots. Hotels and convention/visitors bureaus in race markets have more time to prepare for and promote their race weekends. The list goes on and on.
Then there is opportunity. In particular, we have a new one in Gateway Motorsports Park and a returning one with more time to develop in Watkins Glen International.
The folks at Gateway have been invested in acquiring a Verizon IndyCar Series race for several years. They believe – and we do, too – that the strong sports market in the St. Louis area will embrace Indy car racing. It was very encouraging to see the turnout at the race announcement that I attended in downtown St. Louis today with drivers Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot (shown above).
A great cross-section of the community was there, including legislative, non-profit, tourism and private sector leaders. All are enthusiastic about the race next August. Curtis Francois, the track owner and a former racer himself, has put together a solid team that will work with each of those sectors to make this event a success.
Watkins Glen track president Michael Printup and his team stepped up in May to take on hosting a race weekend with less than four months to prepare, and have shown their desire in making it a success. We were delighted to have New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (shown at right) join Jay Frye, INDYCAR’s president of competition and operations, and driver Will Power in Syracuse this morning to announce the multi-year extension for Verizon IndyCar Series racing to continue on the iconic Watkins Glen circuit starting in 2017. The opportunity for the Watkins Glen staff to grow this event, again with the continuity in race date, is outstanding.
Opportunity certainly is not limited to those two venues. With continuity and stability in place, every track and promoter possesses that same chance. The same goes for us at INDYCAR. We are not ashamed to say we believe we have the most demanding, versatile and exciting form of motorsports on the planet, and are eager to let the world know.
Interest in INDYCAR racing continues trending in the right direction with fans at the track and watching on television, as well as with sponsors current and prospective. It is our job at INDYCAR to keep driving that trend forward. We have that opportunity in front of us and our team is working long and hard to make it happen.
Looking ahead, we decided not to announce the 2018 schedule at this time because there are some details to be ironed out. All tracks on the 2017 schedule will be back in ’18. We keep striving to add a valuable international event to kick off the season and possibly another domestic race that could fit into the fabric of the current schedule. We are confident we will be able to release the 2018 schedule even earlier than we just did for 2017.
To all of our fans and stakeholders, thank you for your continued interest in INDYCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. We’re looking forward to even bigger and better things in 2017 and beyond.