Whether it's a good idea or not, it sure looks like the Izod IndyCar Series is playing hardball with NASCAR.
The (still to be finalized) 2011 schedule was released Friday and, as expected, the Series will not be racing at any ISC tracks. That means Kansas, Chicagoland, Watkins Glen and Homestead aren't on the docket for next year.
That, along with a new date at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, aligns the series closely with Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc., the direct track conglomerate competitor to NASCAR's ISC. (Read Jay Hart's recent interview with Smith here)
The reason the schedule is still being finalized is that the Series and SMI are working on a deal to have the season finale at SMI's Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2010 schedule ends at Homestead, and the final race on the just-released 2011 schedule is October 2 at Kentucky Motor Speedway, another SMI track.
Will it pay off for the Series? That remains to be seen. The schedule shuffle means that the first oval race of the season will be the Indianapolis 500, an interesting move given the condensing of the May Indianapolis schedule. Plus, the Series still has a majority of its races on Versus, a channel that is an afterthought to all but hardcore sports fans.
- New Hampshire Motor Speedway