Photo: Walter G. Arce, Sr./ASP, Inc.

Massive Overhaul to 2020 NTT IndyCar Series Calendar Unveiled

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The latest slew of changes on the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series calendar due to the COVID-19 health crisis unfolded Monday with new doubleheaders, a third stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the cancellation of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix being the headlines.

Starting off with the latter, Belle Isle Park’s doubleheader that was scheduled to take place on May 29-31, 2020. Monday’s announcement meant the 2.35-mile circuit becomes the fourth INDYCAR venue officially cancelled, joining Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach and Circuit of the Americas as victims of the crisis and unable to reschedule.

This not only impacts INDYCAR, but once again the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as the cancellation of Belle Isle now meant the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International is the new opener (June 28) of a now nine-race campaign. IMSA are currently working on their update schedule with details coming out once it becomes available.

Belle Isle will return on June 4-6, 2021, a face the music moment Chairman of the Detroit Grand Prix Bud Denker had to disappointingly accept.

“The Grand Prix is a very important event for Belle Isle Park, the City of Detroit, the City of Windsor and all of southeast Michigan. It is certainly disappointing that it won’t take place this year, but the health and safety of everyone at the Grand Prix is always our top priority,” said Denker. “We looked at every possible scenario to reschedule the race, but all of them would have been too disruptive to the hundreds of fall events that will take place on Belle Isle. Some events, like weddings, family reunions and festivals, have been scheduled a year in advance and it would not be right to alter anyone’s plans.

“We look forward to the Grand Prix returning in 2021 as we continue our mission of revitalizing Belle Isle Park and providing significant support to the Belle Isle Conservancy, while helping to inject millions of dollars in economic benefit to our cities and our region.”

With Detroit out, the new first round of the much anticipated INDYCAR season will now be the Genesys 600 at Texas Motor Speedway which is scheduled to commence June 6, 2020. If the race still stands, it’ll be the first time since 2008 the season starts on an oval.

Rather than just being a 12-round schedule, INDYCAR also announced Monday that it’ll have three more races to make it a 15-round odyssey with Iowa Speedway, WeatherTech Raceway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course adding a second race with the first two venues now being doubleheaders.

Therefore, the tradition of the series having a doubleheader that began in 2013 continues with Iowa being the first oval to have that feature since Texas in 2011. The two races at the 7/8-mile circuit will take place Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18. This change forces the ARCA Menards Series moving its “Sioux Chief Showdown” race from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

“Our commitment to our guests, partners and community will remain strong as we deliver a marquee bucket-list weekend,” said David Hyatt, President of Iowa Speedway. “Our track provides some of the best short track racing in the country, making this a can’t-miss weekend for both open wheel and stock car fans.”

Laguna Seca, the original venue for the championship finale, now becomes the third-to-last race weekend with a third IMS visit and St. Petersburg being the final two venues at this moment in time.

The only visit to California will have two races commencing on both Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20. Therefore, it’s the first year INDYCAR had multiple doubleheader weekends since 2014 when it had three (Belle Isle, Houston and Toronto).

Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said that while he’s disappointed INDYCAR won’t make the trip to Belle Isle, he’s excited to come back in 2021 as well as thanking both Iowa and Laguna Seca for hosting an additional race.

“Like our fans, we’re disappointed we won’t be racing in Detroit this year,” said Miles. “However, we’re excited to return to Belle Isle in 2021 and know we’ll put on a great show for everyone when we do. We also appreciate the flexibility and support of our event promoters at Iowa Speedway and Laguna Seca, who have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to host double-headers.”

Last but certainly not least, the second Indy Road Course, that’ll be known as the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix, will take place on Saturday, October 3, 2020 as part of a pay tribute to the September 1916 “Harvest Classic” where it held three races, all won by Johnny Aitken.

“INDYCAR in October at IMS might bring slightly cooler weather but will definitely be warmly embraced by our fans,” said J. Douglas Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Paired with the Indianapolis 8 Hour, we’re set for a can’t-miss fall weekend of motorsports at The Racing Capital of the World. We appreciate everyone’s support and flexibility as we continue to navigate calendar adjustments caused by the COVID-19 situation and extend our thanks to the GT World Challenge for embracing this new weekend schedule.”

The biggest takeaway for Miles is to assure INDYCAR fans have additional races to look forward to once the crisis mercifully ends, but for now it’s all about health and safety for everyone around the world.

“We’re committed to bringing fans as much on-track action as possible,” said Miles. “Our updated schedule features additional racing at fan-favorite venues and adds to the total number of events on our calendar. The COVID-19 situation continues to be dynamic and challenging for everyone, so we have developed contingency plans which will allow us to respond to changing conditions. Our goal is to preserve as much racing competition as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of our participants and spectators.”

Updated 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule

  • Saturday, June 6 – Texas Motor Speedway
  • Sunday, June 21 – Road America
  • Saturday, June 27 – Richmond Raceway
  • Saturday, July 4 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 1
  • Sunday, July 12 – Streets of Toronto
  • Friday, July 17 – Iowa Speedway Race 1
  • Saturday, July 18 – Iowa Speedway Race 2
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • Sunday, Aug. 23 – Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
  • Sunday, Aug. 30 – World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
  • Sunday, Sept. 13 – Portland International Raceway
  • Saturday, Sept. 19 – Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca Race 1
  • Sunday, Sept. 20 – WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca Race 2
  • Saturday, Oct. 3 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 2
  • TBD Expected Finale – Streets of St. Petersburg

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.