After returning from a trip to Europe and numerous meetings with prominent foreign car manufacturers, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard will announce the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule tomorrow at the Milwaukee Mile.
The location of the announcement and the presence of recent Mile winners Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon (not to mention IndyCar legend and four-time Mile winner Johnny Rutherford) seem to indicate that the track will return to the IndyCar schedule after a one-year hiatus necessitated by outstanding fees owed to multiple sanctioning bodies.
Meanwhile, all four tracks owned by the International Speedway Corporation that hosted or will host IndyCar events this year - Kansas, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, and Homestead - look to be off the 2011 schedule. Watkins Glen president Michael Printup confirmed the rumors, although he was optimistic about a return in 2012.
In their place will be the aforementioned Milwaukee event, a return to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a new street race in Baltimore, and - if all goes to Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith's plan - a season finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, though negotiations are still ongoing about that event.
Smith, whose company also owns IndyCar tracks New Hampshire, Kentucky Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Infineon Raceway, has replaced ISC as the series' top promoter. The addition of Las Vegas to the schedule would give SMI five events (six if you count Texas' doubleheader as two races). However, if Bernard and Smith cannot work out a deal, the series has an outside chance of returning to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which would then be the lone ISC track on the schedule.
Like this year's schedule, the probable 2011 event list is almost broken up into "quarters" that will allow teams to focus on a single discipline of racing. This year, the series began with four road course events, switched to four ovals, went back to five road courses, and is finishing up now with four oval events. Once again, IndyCar will start with four and four in 2011, but the road courses will be split into blocks of three and two with the addition of Loudon to the schedule.
SpeedTV.com insider Robin Miller reports that the schedule will be as follows:
March 27: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Streets of St. Petersburg
April 10: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Barber Motorsports Park
April 17: 37th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Streets of Long Beach
May 1: Sao Paulo Indy 300, Streets of Sao Paulo
May 29: 95th Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 11: Firestone Texas Two-Step, Texas Motor Speedway
June 19: TBA 250, Milwaukee Mile
June 25: Iowa Corn Indy 250, Iowa Speedway
July 10: Honda Indy Toronto, Streets of Toronto
July 24: Honda Indy Edmonton, Edmonton City Centre Airport
August 7: Honda 200, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 14: TBA 200, New Hampshire Motor Speedway
August 28: Peak Antifreeze Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County, Infineon Raceway
September 4: Baltimore Grand Prix, Streets of Baltimore
September 18: Indy Japan 300, Twin Ring Motegi
October 2: Kentucky Indy 300, Kentucky Speedway
October 16: TBA 300, Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The new schedule vacates the Independence Day weekend, moving up the Toronto date a week to better spread the series through the month of July. However, date-wise, the schedule remains very similar to this year's, with the only key difference being that the season will start and end two weeks later. Sao Paulo, which opened the season, moves to Kansas' old race date; Las Vegas is tacked on after the Kentucky event, which has been moved back a month.
Bernard has also had talks with Phoenix International Raceway, though a return to the desert probably will not come to fruition for 2011. Meanwhile, a handful of tracks and promoters have set their sights on 2012 race dates, including ex-CART/Champ Car hosts Michigan International Speedway, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and Road America; street race promoters in Calgary, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, and Quebec City; and a possible race at a proposed 400,000-seat oval in China. (It should be noted here that Champ Car attempted to stage a race at the Zhuhai circuit in China, but that event never took place after three years of failed attempts.)