IndyCar officials discuss potential changes to 2015 schedule
As the CEO of Hulman & Company, Mark Miles guides INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; yet most of his attention lately has been on finalizing the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule that often seems as complicated as a "Rubik’s Cube."
“We’ll put it out one way or another by the end of the month,” Miles told FOXSports.com.
The season will begin sooner than in the past, as IndyCar will compete in the Brazilian capital city of Brasilia on March 8. If a proposed race in Dubai can be finalized, the season may begin as early as February – after the NFL’s Super Bowl and before NASCAR’s Daytona 500.
Miles confirmed there will be just one doubleheader race on the schedule because Houston dropped it off and the Honda Indy Toronto will have to be moved to a “less ideal date” because the Pan American Games will be held in Toronto in July. That leaves Detroit’s Belle Isle weekend as the only double-header on the 2015 schedule. The double-header format at Toronto could return in 2016 when that race returns to its traditional date.
“It’s a consideration,” Miles said. “It’s obvious we will have one less doubleheader next year and we’ve added Brazil and New Orleans so there is an offset. It’s widely known we will continue with the doubleheader in Detroit and, to be honest, I don’t know what has been said yet about Toronto.”
The introduction of double-header races was something Miles inherited when he took over the series from former CEO Randy Bernard in 2012. Bernard believed two races in one weekend at three different venues were the best way to increase the schedule to 20 events. It was an artificial way to increase IndyCar’s schedule without increasing the number of venues, but the format was quite popular in Detroit and Toronto.
“It was a cost-efficient way to get more races and the promoters who did it really liked it,” Miles said. “Next year we won’t have a doubleheader in Houston. New Orleans is new to the schedule and is not a doubleheader. People will keep score differently whether they count races or weekends. I think of it mostly from a marketing and fan engagement perspective as weekends or number of events. From racing wise, it’s thinking of the cost of the teams. And it’s somewhere in between when you think of broadcast because it’s each day you broadcast a race as an opportunity.”
Miles believes once the 2015 and 2016 schedules are announced it will be obvious it’s not a “shorter” season, but a chance to move the schedule earlier.
“What we are doing is shifting the season earlier,” he said. “The fans or the teams haven’t experienced it that way yet. When we start the year immediately following the Super Bowl in early February and run through Labor Day that is 30 weeks. When we raced through the middle of October that was 28 weeks. This is not about shortening the season; it’s about moving it forward so we can be at a time when we have a better opportunity to improve our television audiences.
“With Daytona, we aren’t going to schedule around it as much as precede it. As we see it, our first race might be before NASCAR gears up at Daytona. What happens in the weeks at Daytona remains to be seen. If we had only two international races in that time frame one may be just after the Super Bowl and the other one in the first week of March. In that case there wouldn’t be a head-to-head conflict. If we had a third international race then it might be in-between early February and first of March. The one thing we are trying to achieve is to start before Daytona.
“The Super Bowl is something to be avoided entirely.”
Originally, Miles talked of an “International Schedule” during the offseason that would consist of three races outside of the championship, but any such international races such as Brazil and the possibility of Dubai would be part of the championship schedule.
“Then after that it’s all North American races,” Miles said.
During IndyCar’s long offseason, Miles is also considering ideas that have been offered to him from inside the INDYCAR community including the possibility of an “All-Star Race.”
“Steve Lauletta, the president of Chip Ganassi Racing, completely agrees with shifting the season earlier and says now what we want to do is still make some noise after the end of the championship,” Miles said. “The NFL has a season that goes from September to the first of February. They have a seven-month off-season but they found ways to not go away when they are not playing regular season and playoff games. I think that is right. The next thing we should think about as we move down this path is what are the other opportunities to make some noise and not go away entirely after the Labor Day and the championship concludes. There will be a lot of brainstorming to that.
“I don’t think this will be one thing; it will be several things — maybe an All-Star Money Race that could move around. There are a number of things that can happen. I don’t know what approach we will take there. There are a number of ways to keep in front of the public once the championship ends.
“But we are in transition and we will start applying ourselves to the real opportunities after Labor Day.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.