IndyCar hoped to announce its 2024 schedule two weeks ago prior to the season-finale at Laguna Seca. But as evidenced by IndyStar’s story earlier this week detailing the hurdles that Penske Entertainment Corp. and Texas Motor Speedway officials face to return the longest-running annual event (outside the Indy 500) to the 2024 IndyCar calendar, the series’ schedule is still very much in-flux.
The good news?
Series officials say they no longer need to release the schedule the day after NASCAR’s, now that they’re no longer sharing a summer weekend at IMS. As Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass noted on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) Wednesday, NASCAR's 2024 schedule is believed to be “a couple weeks” away.
IndyCar is eyeing sometime before the end of September for its announcement.
The bad news?
There’s no guarantee the 2024 slate will maintain the 17-race balance it had from 2017-19 and the last two seasons – and was planned in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Several team owners have long said that number lands in a sweet spot for teams’ budgets, and series owner Roger Penske and PEC president and CEO Mark Miles have often noted that it’s IndyCar’s target for points-paying races per year for the foreseeable future.
Miles went so far as to tell IndyStar this in July: “I think the (2024 IndyCar) championship will continue to be 17 races.”
At that time, though, the series was still in the thick of conversations with Wisconsin’s State Fair Park on a return to the Milwaukee Mile – which Miles has recently said is “likely” for 2024. Even now, neither NASCAR nor IMS have confirmed that the Cup series will return to the latter’s 2.5-mile oval next year (beyond a cheeky post from IMS on X last month chockful of hints), and at that time of Miles’ comments, this year’s doubleheader weekend (and Goodyear’s tire test) were still six weeks away. And it’s presently unclear how long the series has known that its targeted date for a visit to TMS (April 7) could be incompatible with the track’s hope to slot in its NASCAR weekend for April 14 – while also running the show for Circuit of the Americas with it’s likely NASCAR visit March 24.
PEC brass is assumed to have backup options that allow it to maintain 17 races on next year’s schedule if Texas – despite a multi-year deal that began in 2023 – falls through. Though unconfirmed by the series, running a doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway (which IndyCar did during the pandemic-altered 2020 season) would seem to be the most logical one. As of Monday, though, a track official told IndyStar those discussions had not taken place.
There is a lot we do know about next year’s schedule, whether via previous announcements from IndyCar or series' it shares venues with, city public records and other published reports. And when those aren’t there, we can rely on history – Penske desires ‘date equity’ on his IndyCar schedule – or simply common sense to parse out where the rest of next year’s schedule may fall. Here’s where things stand:
2024 IndyCar dates we already know
>>St. Petersburg: March 10
Not only was this date listed two years ago when Green Savoree Racing Promotions inked a two-year extension to its current deal with the city of St. Pete through 2026, but it was further confirmed when IMSA rolled out its 2024 schedules for its numerous series – including the VP Racing Sportscar Challenge, which will run alongside IndyCar next year.
>>The Thermal Club: March 24
Though not a points-paying race that will factor into the 2024 season-long championship, IndyCar announced this event earlier this month. It will include a 12-driver feature race, following two heat races, where club members will be paired with drivers in the event. The feature race-winner will split $1 million with their respective club member from this made-for-TV exhibition race.
>>Long Beach: April 21
IMSA’s 2024 schedule reveal last month listed this weekend for the southern California street race, where its GTP and GTD classes will join IndyCar for the latter’s second street race of the year.
>>GMR Grand Prix: May 11
As has been the case for years, IMS’s website lists the Saturday before the start of Indy 500 practice as the date for its annual spring IndyCar road course race.
>>Indianapolis 500: May 26
It’s the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Enough said.
>>Detroit Grand Prix: June 2
Like Long Beach, IMSA’s calendar for next year confirmed this race weekend, which race officials have long said performs best by being held the weekend immediately following the 500.
>>Road America: June 9
A few days ago, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports reporter Dave Kallmann reported that Road America officials communicated to season ticketholders that next year’s IndyCar race would fall on June 9, capping five consecutive weekends on-track for IndyCar teams – starting with the GMR Grand Prix.
>>Nashville: Sept. 15
After IndyStar’s initial report two months ago that IndyCar would switch its season-finale to a Nashville street race starting next year, the series announced the new date for the Music City Grand Prix that extends next season one week deeper into September.
New dates to add to the list
>>Barber Motorsports Park: April 28
With the track already advertising that IndyCar’s 2024 return will come in April next year, IndyStar has learned that that date will again be the last weekend of the month, continuing a trend of allowing for one open weekend before IMS’s Month of May on-track action begins.
>>Toronto: July 21
According to public records, last week, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place approved a new one-year contract with Green Savoree Racing Promotions to host IndyCar’s 2024 Toronto street race the third weekend in July – which stands to be the series’ final race before a three-week break due to the 2024 Summer Olympics that will air wall-to-wall on NBC’s various broadcast and streaming platforms.
What don't we know about the IndyCar schedule?
That leaves races at Texas, Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, Iowa (doubleheader), Portland, Milwaukee and World Wide Technology Raceway. Below is what I know, what I think I know or, if nothing else, what would make the most sense for next year’s schedule.
Texas Motor Speedway
As I noted above and dove into extensively in a story published on Tuesday, IndyCar wants to continue operating with Texas in its new spring spot on the calendar after well over a decade of running in June after the 500. Running in early-April or late-March not only meant satisfying Penske’s wish of having a high-speed oval for rookies to run before the 500 but offers reasonable temperatures for a midday race.
Those wishes have now been complicated by TMS’ desire to move its now lone NASCAR Cup series visit from the fall (this year’s race comes Sunday) that poses direct conflict with the early weeks of the Dallas Cowboys football season. When TMS hosted two points-paying Cup race weekends, the first would almost always fall in early-April. NASCAR’s open slot for such a switch is believed to be April 14, and no track left with just two high-profile racing weekends would schedule them back-to-back. To make matters worse, TMS employees also run the show for NASCAR’s stop at COTA, which is believed to be slated for March 24 next year.
TMS has countered with a wish to host IndyCar in September – when, yes, you’d have those same football conflicts, but, when you can only manage to grab a few thousand fans on race day in recent years, you have to imagine those are your diehards who will come no matter what. The problem with this is IndyCar likely has fit four races into the five weekends following the end of the Olympics.
Asking teams to run for five-straight weekends is something we never see in IndyCar when not around the 500 – especially when it would include three ovals. And conversely, neither WWTR, Milwaukee or Portland could slot into that early-April hole due to unpredictable weather.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Though no official date has been confirmed, June 23 has been a popular assumption among the IndyCar paddock in recent weeks. Running June 16 – the week after Road America – would mean six consecutive weekends at the track, including three in-a-row after the 500. Teams simply will need a breather.
And from the looks of this year’s event schedule at the track in Salinas, Calif., July and August tend to be busy months with lower-level race, exhibition and community weekends. Making its third of four trips to the west coast following a week off would seem to make a lot of sense.
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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
After more than a decade as a late-July or early-August race, Mid-Ohio has slotted in around the Fourth of July the last three years. With the holiday falling on a Thursday next year, that weekend becomes a little tougher to pin down. Logic might suggest you run June 30, creating a pair of back-to-back’s (along with Iowa and Toronto) separated by a week before the Olympic break.
You could also hold this July 7, though it would seem to mean four races across 15 days – including an international trip – which isn’t ideal. In a more unlikely twist, Mid-Ohio could be held post-Olympics, if needed, but that seems unlikely simply because of when Portland would need to run.
Given the seemingly likely Laguna Seca date and Mid-Ohio’s history of running around the early-July holiday weekend, this doubleheader weekend stands to be held July 13-14, though there’s always a chance that shuffles a little, along with Mid-Ohio, in that three-weekend, late-June and early-July window.
Portland International Raceway
In an ideal world, IndyCar would be visiting PIR the weekend following its trip to Laguna Seca to create a west coast swing like we’ve seen to end the 2019 and 2021-23 seasons. The problem? Formula E has already claimed the June 30 weekend at PIR. So not only can IndyCar not run that weekend, but it wouldn’t make sense for the track to host them June 23 (if IndyCar wanted instead to go there before a trip to Laguna) or any time shortly after.
It leaves the race to be held in the post-Olympics craze, and no option would seem to make more sense than visiting the permanent road course in Oregon immediately after the mid-season break (Aug. 18) to allow for a possible off-week afterwards and then a Midwest-oriented back-to-back-to-back to close out the championship. Certainly the race could be held Aug. 25, Sept. 1 or even Sept. 8, but none of them make as much sense when you consider the other races IndyCar will be holding in that same general timeframe.
With the race still not yet even officially confirmed for next year, this is a rough guess – though it’s known talks have been held to try and land the newest race on the schedule on Labor Day weekend to try and give it as great a chance at Year 1 success as possible. But as I note with Portland and WWTR, where these three races land may depend on what makes the most sense for the individual venues.
World Wide Technology Raceway
Officials at the track believe they’ll remain the final oval race on the calendar, which has been a hallmark of WWTR’s marketing plan in recent years, while recognizing that nothing is certain. But if they do, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the race land the weekend of Sept. 8, sandwiched between Milwaukee and Nashville to close out the season with three consecutive race weekends.
The deciding factor, though, may be which post-Olympic break weekend can offer a Saturday or Sunday night TV slot, with track officials, teams and drivers alike pushing hard for cooler temperatures that would likely provide better conditions for a more action-packed race. With college and NFL football, news programs and the NASCAR TV schedule to contend with, those options may be very limited in this time frame.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: Breaking down where the 2024 schedule stands right now