IndyCar releases 2021 schedule with 17 races, two doubleheaders
The schedule also features a crossover weekend with the NASCAR Cup Series at IMS.
As we near the end of a bizarre 2020 IndyCar campaign, series officials have confirmed the schedule for the 2021 season, which will open just as the 2020 one is to end: with a race on St. Petersburg's famed street circuit. this one on March 7th.
Reminiscent of prior seasons, a race at Barber Motorsports Park will follow on April 11, and after this, there will be - as there long has been - a race on the timeless Long Beach street circuit on April 18. The schedule begins to feel its unfamiliarity at the fourth round, which will be a double-header at the unloved Texas Motor Speedway on May 1-2.
As has been tradition since 2014, there will be a race on the IMS road course (May 15) with the Indy500 to follow, which will be the sixth race of the season on May 30. Like in years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 500 will be followed by a visit to Detroit for two consecutive races at Belle Isle - a modern-day staple of the post-Indy500 IndyCar season.
Road course rounds will follow with races at both Road America (June 20) and Mid-Ohio (July 4) - in that order - before two consecutive street circuits at Toronto in Nashville, the Canadian circuit hosting its round on July 11 - prior to the new-for-2021 race in Nashville on August 8.
Another round at the IMS road course will be run concurrently with one for NASCAR, creating what will henceforth be dubbed the 'Brickyard weekend' on August 14-15. Three more traditional rounds will mark the end of the season, with the final race of the oval season at WWTR (August 21) leading into the season's westernmost races, and the two final rounds in Portland (September 12) and Monterey, the latter being run at Laguna Seca (September 19).
"We’re really pleased that the current plans provide for one additional race on NBC’s network than we had this year," said Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles. "In particular, the season will start with NBC coverage of the St. Petersburg event, a spectacular start for those in attendance and for those watching from home.
"The changes in Texas are important and exciting. To have not just one oval race, but two, before racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May is strategically very important to the growth of the event, as well. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to race on the streets of Nashville, which we think will be a blockbuster event in its first year.
"It’ll help raise the bar – not just for great racing – but for a great festival around INDYCAR. After the proof of concept this year, we look forward to having an INDYCAR Grand Prix during the Brickyard weekend – and inviting fans be a part of it. We know the strong Midwest affinity for INDYCAR racing and the love for INDYCAR drivers will help that weekend reach new levels."
Meanwhile, NBC's Michael Perman added: ""The INDYCAR and NBC Sports partnership continues to be mutually beneficial, growing in viewership and providing adrenaline-packed entertainment to a national sports audience. We’re looking forward to providing increased exposure to the series in 2021, including network coverage of the season opener in St. Pete and the finale in Laguna Seca. Additionally, as a marquee event of our Championship Season, we’ll also provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Indy 500 on NBC, an international sporting spectacle filled with speed and exceptional drama."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]