The complete schedule for the 2015 season of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been unveiled, with a brand new event in Brazil taking over as the season opener from the traditional curtain-raiser at St. Petersburg.
The inaugural race at the 3.4-mile Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet road course in Brazil's capital city of Brasília will be the first race of the year on March 8, three weeks before the cars roll out on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida on March 29, which will mark the first appearance of the new aerodynamic body kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda to their respective partner teams.
"It's great to see the Verizon IndyCar Series going back to Brazil and expanding internationally," said Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti. "Having a presence outside of the US is important for the health of the series and a necessary part of growing the visibility and awareness opportunities in our industry."
That will be followed by the second race on the 2015 calendar, IndyCar's inaugural visit to the newly upgraded NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana on April 12. The 2.7-mile road course is located about 14 miles southwest of downtown New Orleans.
After that there is a return to the familiar surroundings of Long Beach on April 19 and Barber Motorsports Park on April 26, before the drivers and teams head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the new road course track on May 9.
Qualifying for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 16-17 with the race itself a week later on Sunday, May 24. There will be no rest for the drivers after that, as they will head immediately to Belle Isle Park in Detroit for the sole double-header event of the season on May 30-31.
A week later, Texas Motor Speedway will host the second oval event of the season on June 6, and then it will be time for the second race weekend outside of the US as the teams go to Canada for the road course race on the streets of Toronto on June 14.
After a rare weekend off, it will be time for the drivers to make their second trip of the year to California. Having previously hosted the season finale and title decider, this year the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana has been moved up the schedule and will now take place at night on June 27.
July sees two further oval races, with trips to Milwaukee on July 12 and Iowa the following weekend on July 18. The final three races of the year will then all take place in August, with Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the destination on August 2 and the unique tri-oval of the Pocono Raceway will be the challenge on August 23.
"Returning to Pocono in 2015 is great news," said Tony Kanaan. "The 'Tricky Triangle' is a very challenging racetrack for us and it provides great racing and excitement for the fans. Continuity is the key word to rebuild our fan base for that region and IndyCar and Pocono are working very hard and thankfully making it happen. I'm obviously happy to be able to return in 2015 and finish the strong race we had in 2014."
The season will finally conclude back in California on August 30 at Sonoma Raceway, marking the first time in six years that the championship will end the season on a road course - the last occasion being the 2007 Champ Car finale at Mexico City.
"Sonoma has always been a great circuit for the Verizon IndyCar Series," said Scott Dixon, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. "People always ask what my favourite track is and I often say 'the last one I won at' so it's perfect for me and Team Target. It's a very technical and challenging track and the site of the biggest Target weekend each season from a partnership perspective."
In all, it is a total of 17 races for 2015, with six ovals, six road courses and four different temporary street circuits. That is one race less than 2014, after the additions of Brazil and New Orleans were offset by Houston's doubleheader event being dropped from the schedule because a suitable date couldn't be agreed, and the Toronto weekend also being downsized to just one race rather than two.
"The Verizon IndyCar Series calendar represents another step forward in our strategy to grow the series," said Mark Miles, the CEO of IndyCar's parent company Hulman & Co. which also operates IMS. "There were several factors that led to the positive momentum we experienced in 2014 and we will continue to execute on those initiatives - continuity in our broadcast schedule, strategic growth of our schedule and improvements to how we promote our events."
Television coverage of five of the races will be covered by ABC Television (St Petersburg, Indianapolis, Indy 500, and the Detroit double-header) with the remainder being covered by NBC Sports Network. All races will be broadcast by the IMS Radio Network through its affiliates, including SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Rumours that the series might be adding a race in Dubai proved unfounded, possibly either because of problems reaching financial terms or else the sensitive nature of geopolitics in the region at present.
2015 IndyCar Series Schedule
March 8: Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet, Brasília, Brazil - 3.4-mile road course
March 29: St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Fla. - 1.8-mile street course
April 12: NOLA Motorsports Park, Avondale, La. - 2.7-mile road course
April 19: Long Beach, Long Beach, Calif. - 1.968-mile street course
April 26: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. - 2.38-mile road course
May 9: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis - 2.4346-mile road course
May 16-17: Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Indianapolis - 2.5-mile oval
May 24: Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis - 2.5-mile oval
May 30: Belle Isle Park, Detroit - 2.35-mile street course
May 31: Belle Isle Park, Detroit - 2.35-mile street course
June 6: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas - 1.5-mile oval
June 14: Toronto, Toronto - 1.75-mile street course
June 27: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif. - 2-mile oval
July 12: Milwaukee Mile, Milwaukee - 1-mile oval
July 18: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa - 0.875-mile oval
August 2: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio - 2.258-mile road course
August 23: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa. - 2.5-mile oval
August 30: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. - 2.385-mile road course