Indycar has announced a 17-race 2017 season that, while providing continuity, also adds a new event at Gateway Motorsports Park and confirms a multi-year agreement with Watkins Glen International.
The series calendar features the return of all venues on the 2016 schedule and consists of a total of six events on ovals, six on permanent road courses and five on temporary street circuits.
"The release of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule continues to build upon the success Indycar has experienced the last three years and establishes continuity and consistency in our event calendar," Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of Indycar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said, "As a series we are working diligently to create long-term relationships with our promoters to establish date equity and to provide them with the opportunity to initiate ticket renewals and event promotions earlier, which is pivotal to continuing the increase in attendance at our events."
For the sixth consecutive season, the Indycar schedule will open on the streets of St Petersburg and conclude at Sonoma Raceway, the third straight year the Verizon IndyCar Series championship will be crowned on the scenic 12-turn road course in California.
The addition of Gateway Motorsports Park on the weekend of 26 August marks a return for the Verizon IndyCar Series, which last competed at the venue outside St Louis in 2003. The track has hosted seven Indycar races, in CART from 1997-2000 and the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2001-03.
"Today is a monumental day for the people of the St Louis region," said circuit owner Curtis Francois, "I am proud of the progress we've made at my hometown track. I knew someday we would be making an announcement like this because I have such confidence in the people of this region and their commitment to great sporting events. More than a dozen track operators around the country sought this INDYCAR race for their communities. I firmly believe we came out on top because of the energy, loyalty and commitment to great sports that sports fans of all kinds demonstrate each day in this community."
Current Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves won the last Gateway event in 2003 and Team Penske team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2000. Two other current drivers - Chip Ganassi Racing team-mates Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon - have also competed at the 1.25-mile oval.
"I think it's great that we're going back to Gateway," Castroneves said, "Personally, I like it because I've had success there but also that I used to race for ]the St Louis-based] Hogan [team] in 1999, which makes it a special place to me.
I won there with Team Penske in 2003 and there was an all-Brazilian podium with Tony and Gil [de Ferran]. I remember that we had a really good car. I think we started from the pole and led a lot of laps. I know that the people of St Louis will get a heck of a show. The track isn't a typical oval with the irregular shape, which makes it challenging. It's a track well suited for Indycar. I'm looking forward to it."
Watkins Glen International, a replacement venue for the cancelled Boston race this year, will host the Indycar Grand Prix at the Glen on 4 September this season and the permanent road course, steeped in open-wheel racing history, will return on Labor Day weekend again in 2017 under a new multi-year agreement with Indycar.
"The addition of Gateway Motorsports Park and the return of Watkins Glen International are integral to the continued growth of INDYCAR," Miles said, "Gateway officials have been enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series event for some time and we're excited to bring the series to the St Louis market. Watkins Glen is an iconic American road course that is revered by our fans, drivers and teams. Our goal from the beginning was to establish a long-term agreement and we're thrilled that we've been able to extend this relationship for the future."
Indycar experienced a 38 per cent growth in both television ratings and viewership from 2013 to 2015 and the same numbers are up this season by a total of seven per cent compared to this time last year. Attendance at Indycar events is also on the rise, with six events this season drawing crowds at or near record highs. All events on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will be broadcast by longstanding television partners ABC and NBCSN. In addition to coverage from ABC and NBCSN, all Verizon IndyCar Series races can be heard on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, available through network affiliates, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, the INDYCAR Mobile app and IndyCar.com
. The final TV schedule will be released later this year.
The full 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is as follows:
March 12 St Petersburg
April 9 Long Beach
April 23 Barber Motorsports Park
April 29 Phoenix International Raceway
May 13 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
May 28 Indianapolis 500
June 3 Raceway at Belle Isle Park
June 4 Raceway at Belle Isle Park
June 10 Texas Motor Speedway
June 25 Road America
July 9 Iowa Speedway
July 16 Toronto
July 30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 20 Pocono Raceway
August 26 Gateway Motorsports Park
September 3 Watkins Glen International
September 17 Sonoma Raceway
*Schedule subject to change