Today the Verizon IndyCar Series released the schedule for the upcoming 2016 season. While there weren’t any surprises, there is plenty to look forward to next year. Both new and old venues are in store for IndyCar in 2016. The highlight of course, is the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
The 2016 season begins a couple weeks earlier this year, with the Grand Prix of St Petersburg kicking things off on March 13. Juan Montoya won the season-opening race last year, which was one of just three wins for Team Penske in 2015. In fact, when race day rolls around on March 13, it will have been 294 days since Penske’s last IndyCar victory.
For the first time since 2010, there will be an oval race before the Indianapolis 500. IndyCar will head back to Phoenix International Raceway for Round 2 of the schedule, holding a Saturday night race in the desert on April 2. Some of the most incredible IndyCar races took place at Phoenix, but the series hasn’t raced there since 2005. Several drivers have already tested at Phoenix, and all four Penske drivers will be there on December 8.
There are five current drivers in the series that competed at PIR in an IndyCar. Tony Kanaan tested at Phoenix earlier this month, and has an outstanding record there. The Brazilian has finished on the podium in all three races, which includes two wins. He also earned a pole and has led 272 laps in those three events.
The Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will once again take place on a Saturday (May 14) with the monumental 500-mile race at IMS on May 29. Renovations for Project 100 continue at IMS, as there will be a lot of improvements on display next Spring. Detroit is the following weekend, which is the only double-header event on the schedule.
For quite some time, drivers and fans alike have been foaming at the mouth to have Road America on the IndyCar schedule. That wish will be granted on June 26, when the series makes the trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Teams and drivers tested on the famous road course in September, and raved about all it has to offer. The last time open wheel cars raced at Road America was in 2007.
There were 25 CART/Champ Car races at Road America, and many of today’s IndyCar drivers participated in them. Sebastien Bourdais finished all four of his races on the podium, and started all four from the front row (one win, two poles). Tony Kanaan has an average finish of 6.8 in five starts, but has never finished on the podium or even led a lap.
Road America marked the return of James Hinchcliffe. It was his first time back in the car after the devastating crash on May 18 at Indianapolis. Below is an on-board camera from his test session, courtesy of IndyCar. Also be sure to check out James’ outstanding article on The Player’s Tribune if you haven’t read it yet.
The series heads to Boston on Labor Day Weekend (September 4) for the inaugural Grand Prix of Boston. This is the only new circuit on the 2016 schedule, and should set the championship stage heading into the season-finale at Sonoma two weeks later. Here is an excellent article on RACER.com on the Boston track layout, with road course designer Tony Cotman.
There are 16 races at 15 venues, which is the same number of races as last year, but the season calendar is actually five weeks longer. There is a nice balance, with five street circuits, five road courses, and five ovals. Three venues (NOLA, Fontana, Milwaukee) from last season will not return in 2016. The official countdown is on – the season begins in 137 days.