While Nashville was expected to be absent from next year's IndyCar Series calendar, to be replaced by Toronto, less anticipated was the non-appearance of Surfers Paradise on the 18-round schedule.
The Australian event had been thought a definite addition to the mix of road/street courses and ovals, possibly at the expense of Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the Florida oval is there - and now closes the season - while there will be no trip to the Gold Coast for those that remember the event from their Champ Car days.
Having been largely oval-based for so long, the 2009 IndyCar campaign will open with back-to-back street course events, in St Petersburg and Long Beach in the first three weeks of April, before Kansas kicks off the still pre-dominant oval portion of the schedule the following weekend.
The Indianapolis 500 still gets its month of preparation before running on 24 May, with Milwaukee following, as befits tradition, just one week later.
All those taking part will be glad to know that the season extends a full month beyond recent finales, allowing the schedule to be a little more strung out, without the six-weekend run seen this year. Texas, Iowa and richmond complete a five-oval streak by all running in June, before July takes on a road course flavour with Watkins Glen and Edmonton sandwiching the new addition in Toronto.
The five weekends in August allow the teams one week off between back-to-back events at Kentucky Speedway and Mid-Ohio, and Infineon and Chicagoland, the latter swapping places on the schedule with the Belle Isle street course in Detroit, which completes a three-week run of events, a frequent occurrence on the calendar. Iowa, Richmond, Watkins Glen and Toronto form the longest string of events, at four.
Motegi, which has traditionally run in April, now takes place in September, where it should benefit from better weather and escape the sort of rain delay that blighted 2008 and other seasons, before the campaign ends at Homestead.
Texas, Richmond, Kentucky and Chicagoland are all slated to run under lights on a Saturday night, the latter for the first time. Motegi also retains its traditional Saturday slot.
“We are thrilled with the schedule we have developed for 2009,” said IRL commercial president Terry Angstadt, “When unification was announced earlier this year, we talked about the opportunity of developing future schedules on a blank piece of paper, and with today's announcement we have a solid foundation for developing a consistent, long-term schedule for the IndyCar Series.”
Surfers, which could have formed a 'flyaway' double-header with the Japanese event, is missing, however, suggesting that an accomodation could not be reached regarding the race's slot on the schedule. Already unable to join the 2008 campaign because it falls after the Chicagoland finale, the Australians had been expected to find a new date in order to join the party, but it appears that this has not been possible.
The full provisional IndyCar Series calendar for 2009 is as follows:
April 5 St Petersburg
April 19 Long Beach
April 26 Kansas Speedway
May 24 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 31 Milwaukee Mile
June 6 Texas Motor Speedway
June 21 Iowa Speedway
June 27 Richmond International Raceway
July 5 Watkins Glen International
July 12 Toronto
July 26 Edmonton City Centre Airport
August 1 Kentucky Speedway
August 9 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 23 Infineon Raceway
August 29 Chicagoland Speedway
September 6 Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Septemebr 19 Twin Ring Motegi
October 11 Homestead-Miami Speedway
* denotes night race
Schedule subject to change