IndyCar Adds COTA To 2019 Schedule

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 4 2018

Circuit of the Americas will host the second race on the 2019 IndyCar Series schedule.

INDYCAR will operate with a two-stop Texas strategy in 2019, when Circuit of The Americas will play host to its first Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend. COTA’s natural-terrain road-course in Austin will join Texas Motor Speedway’s oval in Fort Worth on the 17-race schedule released Tuesday.

COTA will make its IndyCar Series debut on Sunday, March 24, as the second race of the 2019 season. COTA replaces ISM Raceway’s 1.022-mile oval in Avondale, Ariz., outside Phoenix in the first quarter of the season.

“COTA is one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world and Austin is a happening city. This is a natural fit for the IndyCar Series,” said Mark Miles, president/CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Indy car racing has a large and passionate fan base in Texas with a hunger to attend more races. This added date will allow us to deliver both oval and road course events to the state in a single season.”

Sanctioning body INDYCAR recently announced a four-year contract extension with Texas Motor Speedway, the 1.5-mile oval which has hosted 30 Indy car races since 1997, including the season-finale on six occasions from 1999 to 2004.

The DXC Technology 600 _ “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” _ will be run at TMS on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in the schedule slot two weeks following the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500. The TMS race weekend will mark the 23rd consecutive year the IndyCar Series has competed in Cowtown, dating to the venue’s inaugural season under the Indy Racing League banner in 1997.

The DXC Technology 600 race weekend will include its traditional companion race in the rebranded NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, the Rattlesnake 400, on Friday, June 7.

The extension covering 2019-2022 announced by TMS President Eddie Gossage and Miles featured a compromise in which TMS surrendered its long-standing regional exclusivity rights for what Gossage described as a “much, much, much better” sanctioning fee.

TMS and O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. had operated with geographic regional exclusivity since 1997, although INDYCAR previously conducted a short-lived street race in Houston. Gossage told RacinToday.com the exclusivity deal specifically covered the Austin and San Antonio markets in Texas, Oklahoma City, Okla., and Shreveport, La.

COTA is approximately a 220-mile/three-hour drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Bobby Epstein, COTA’s founder and chairman, said the track’s fan base has wanted to see INDYCAR racing at the facility “from Year One.” COTA opened in 2011 and has featured the U.S. Grand Prix as part of the FIA Formula One World Championship schedule. At 3.427-miles/20-turns, COTA will be the second-longest circuit on the 2019 INDYCAR schedule, trailing only Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., at 4.048-miles/14-turns.

“It’s going to be spectacular,” Epstein said in a statement. “Our entire team at COTA is excited to welcome the teams, drivers and visitors to our great city, and we know Austin will give them a warm welcome.”

Among IndyCar Series team-owners is Houston native A.J. Foyt Jr., first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and still domestic open-wheel racing’s all-time winning driver with 67.

During its brief tenure COTA _ the only purpose-built grand prix facility in the United States _ has played host to Formula 1, the Moto GP Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, Lone Star Le Mans, World Rallycross and the Pirelli World Challenge.

For the ninth consecutive year, the IndyCar Series season will open in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday, March 10. The 1.8-mile/14-turn temporary street circuit in the Gulf Coast city includes a runway of Albert Whitted Airport. St. Pete first hosted Indy cars in 2003 and has continuously since 2005.

INDYCAR’s 2019 season will conclude Sunday, Sept. 22, with the championship race at the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which has hosted 22 previous Indy car events, the most recent in 2004. The 2.238-mile/11-turn permanent road-course near Monterey, Calif., last hosted an Indy car season-finale in 1996.

Centerpiece of the 2019 schedule again includes two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the INDYCAR Grand Prix will be contested for the sixth time on the facility’s 2.439-mile/14-turn road-course on Saturday, May 11.

The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on the historic 2.5-mile oval will take place Sunday, May 26. Curiously, with removal of ISM Raceway from the schedule, there is no oval race among the first five events leading into practice and qualifying for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Miles said a focal point for INDYCAR has been maintaining date-equity with racetracks. The 2019 schedule accomplishes that with a pair of exceptions:

_ Barber Motorsports Park’s event will shift two weeks forward to Sunday, April 7. That early April date was the slot the 2.3-mile/17-turn permanent road-course in Birmingham, Ala., held on the schedule for the first four years of its nine-year run to-date.

_ Iowa Speedway returns to a night race at the overwhelming request of fans on Saturday, July 20. The race moves back on the calendar by two weeks on the 0.894-mile bull ring in Newton, Iowa.

INDYCAR’s track diversity in 2019 will see races on seven permanent road-courses, five temporary street circuits and five ovals. Other schedule highlights include:

_The Grand Prix of Long Beach returning for the 36th consecutive year on Sunday, April 14. Outside of the Indianapolis 500, the event on the iconic 1.968-mile/11-turn Southern California street circuit is the longest-running in the sport dating to its Championship Auto Racing Teams and Champ Car World Series sanctions.

_ Detroit remains site of the season’s only doubleheader race weekend, set for Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, on The Raceway at Belle Isle Park. It will be the seventh time that two Indy car races will be contested on the same weekend on the 2.35-mile/13-turn temporary street course.

_ The Streets of Toronto, another popular staple event, returns to the schedule on Sunday, July 14. The 1.786-mile/11-turn urban street circuit in the cosmopolitan Canadian city has been home to 34 previous Indy car races dating to 1986.

_ Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., returns for another late-summer, under the lights race on Saturday, Aug. 24. Officials at the 1.25-mile oval recently staged a second straight successful event in the St. Louis market.

“INDYCAR has worked to deliver a consistency and cadence to the schedule and that is reflected again in 2019,” Miles said in a statement. “We’ve added races at a pair of tracks that know how to put on fantastic events, while returning to tracks where INDYCAR has longstanding relationships on familiar race dates.

“The diversity of next year’s schedule will continue to make what we believe is the most challenging and competitive championship in motorsports.”

All race action will be showcased during INDYCAR’s first full season with NBC Sports Group, which replaces ABC/ESPN. Nearly half of the 2019 races will air on network television as part of a previously announced multi-year media rights deal with NBC Sports Group that significantly will increase INDYCAR exposure. Broadcast times will be confirmed later, but eight races, including the Indianapolis 500, will air on NBC.

Nine races will be carried on NBC Sports Network, with all track activity and additional exclusive content available on NBC Sports Gold, a direct-to-consumer product available to subscribers.


The 2019 IndyCar Series schedule, listed by date and track, is as follows:

March 10 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
March 24 _ Circuit of The Americas, Austin, Texas
April 7 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.
April 14 _Streets of Long Beach, Calif.
May 11_ INDYCAR Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course
May 26 _ 103rd Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval 
June 1 _Streets of Detroit, Race 1, Detroit, Mich.
June 2 _ Streets of Detroit, Race 2, Detroit, Mich.
June 8 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas*
June 23 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis.
July 14 _ Streets of Toronto, Canada
July 20 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa*
July 28 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio
Aug. 18 _ Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
Aug. 24 _ Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill.*
Sept. 1 _ Portland International Raceway, Portland, Ore.
Sept. 22 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.

Note _ *Denotes night race
(Schedule subject to change)  


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 4 2018
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