In the end, there were no real surprises when the Indy Racing League finally unveiled the 2010 schedule for its IndyCar Series, with the expected addition of races in Brazil and at Barber Motorsport Park among a 17-date schedule.
In a continuing effort to offer competitors the most diverse and challenging championship in motorsports, the calendar features its usual balance of street/road courses and ovals, with eight left-turn only events countered by four on permanent road courses and five 'taking racing to the people' on temporary circuits.
Highlights of the 2010 schedule include a season-opener - earlier than usual on 14 March - on a series-designed circuit in Brazil, St Petersburg to open the US-based campaign for a second season, the addition of Barber Motorsports Park following a successful pre-season test in 2009 and the continuation of the Canadian double-header debuted this season.
The venue for the Brazilian event has yet to be confirmed as the League continues to evaluate possible circuits in Helio Castroneves' hometown, Ribeirao Preto, Campinas and, as a possible back-up, in Rio de Janeiro. Rumours of a South American double-header, however, appear to be wide of the mark.
St Petersburg will follow two weeks after the Brazilian opener on 28 March, while Barber Motorsports Park will debut, as anticipated on 11 April, most likely in tandem with the Grand-Am Rolex Series. The Indianapolis 500 will again be preceded by three weeks of practice and qualifying, with Pole Day on 15 May and raceday on 30 May, while Texas Motor Speedway moves to become will be the first race following 500, the 'after dark event replacing Milwaukee, which is absent from the schedule pending negotiations over payments and promotion. There are rumours that the historic oval could return, however.
The street circuits in Toronto and Edmonton will move closer together in 2010, running over consecutive weekends on 18 July and 25 July respectively, after being separated by two weeks this season, while Kentucky moves from its early August date to the Labor Day weekend. For the second year in a row, the season finale will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, on 2 October.
"We feel the 2010 schedule strikes a fair balance between our three major disciplines - ovals, road course and temporary circuits - while taking us into key markets in the US as well as abroad for our major partners," said IRL commercial president Terry Angstadt, referring to fuel partner Apex Brasil, "We continue to build on the solid foundation of a schedule we created last year, in the wake of unification, with the goal of maintaining consistent and long-term dates for our track and fans.
"While our primary focus continues to be building the sport of IndyCar Series domestically, the race in Brazil affords us a unique opportunity to visit a country that has a huge passion for open-wheel racing. With strong support from our major partner Apex Brasil, a significant television package from TV Bandeirantes, a large number of drivers from the country and the opportunity for a unique course, it makes sense from both a business and competition standpoint."
The races at Long Beach, Kansas Speedway, Texas, Iowa Speedway, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Infineon Raceway, Chicagoland, Twin Ring Motegi and Homestead all remain at approximately the same time as in 2009, despite more breaks being built into the schedule. Three consecutive weekends of competition is the longest stint planned for 2010.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the diversity of the schedule as it will help us maintain a championship tradition that has been exciting for both competitors and fans," said IRL competitions president Brian Barnhart, "The 2010 schedule keeps in-line with our goal to create a championship that requires drivers and teams to master a variety of tracks over the course of the season, and hopefully once again see our title battle come down to the final race of the year."
The supporting schedule for the Firestone Indy Lights, which is celebrating its 100th race this weekend, should be revealed in the coming weeks.
The full 2010 IndyCar Series schedule is as follows:
Sunday 14 March Brazil
Sunday 28 March St Petersburg*
Sunday 11 April Barber Motorsports Park**
Sunday 18 April Long Beach*
Saturday 1 May Kansas Speedway
Sunday 30 May Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Saturday 12 June Texas Motor Speedway#
Sunday 20 June Iowa Speedway
Sunday 4 July Watkins Glen International**
Sunday 18 July Toronto*
Sunday 25 July Edmonton City Centre Airport*
Sunday 8 August Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course**
Sunday 22 August Infineon Raceway**
Saturday 28 August Chicagoland Speedway#
Labor Day Weekend Kentucky Speedway
Saturday 18 September Twin Ring Motegi
Saturday 2 October Homestead-Miami Speedway
[# denotes night race; * denotes street circuit, ** denotes road course; all other ovals]