Texas Doubleheader Heads Up IndyCar’s 2021 Schedule

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2020

Driver Scott Dixon will have a chance to make two victory lane leaps at Texas Motor Speedway next year. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Sanctioning body INDYCAR has released a 17-race 2021 NTT IndyCar Series schedule showcasing an early May doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway prior to the 105th Indianapolis 500, as well as expended TV coverage on the NBC network.

The 2021 season will begin Sunday, March 7, on the Streets of St. Petersburg, marking the 10th consecutive year the Florida venue will launch a new season. That event will be the first of nine races carried on NBC network television, a viewing list that includes the long-running Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

“We’re really pleased that current plans provide for one additional race on NBC’s network than we had this year,” said Mark Miles, president/CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “In particular, the season will start with NBC coverage of the St. Petersburg event, a spectacular start for those in attendance and for those watching from home.”

Originally listed as the 2020 season-opener in March, the Streets of St. Pete will serve as the final race of a revised 14-event schedule impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, Oct. 25. 

“The INDYCAR and NBC Sports partnership continues to be mutually beneficial, growing in viewership and providing entertainment to a national sports audience,” said Michael Perman, vice president, programming, NBC Sports. “We’re looking forward to providing increased exposure to the series in 2021, including network coverage of the season-opener in St. Pete and the finale in Laguna Seca.

“Additionally, as a marquee event of our Championship Season, we’ll also provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Indy 500 on NBC, an international sporting spectacle filled with speed and exceptional drama.”

The series will race at Texas Motor Speedway for the first time in May during a doubleheader weekend on Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2. The move places TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval in a pivotal spot on the schedule as a prelude to the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 30.

“To be part of the Month of May, that means a lot because the Month of May is special to me,” TMS President/General Manager Eddie Gossage said in announcing the track’s 25th anniversary schedule. The May open-wheel doubleheader _ which also will serve as TMS’ season-opener _ replaces “The Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” traditionally run on a Saturday in Fort Worth dating to the track’s debut season in 1997.

“The changes in Texas are important and exciting,” Miles said. “To have not just one oval race, but two, before racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May is strategically very important to the growth of the event, as well.”

The summer months kick off with the Detroit doubleheader moving to the second weekend in June _ Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. Meanwhile, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, will host INDYCAR during the July 4 holiday weekend.

The series will enter a key championship stretch In August with consecutive races on a street course, road course and an oval highlighting driver skills. That run begins with INDYCAR’s visit to the Streets of Nashville, Tenn., for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 8. The three-day international festival of speed and sound will be staged on a temporary grand prix circuit in downtown Nashville and around the Nissan Stadium campus _ home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Nashville also is home to Josef Newgarden, the two-time/reigning series champion from Team Penske.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to race on the Streets of Nashville, which we think will be a blockbuster event in its first year,” Miles said. “It’ll help raise the bar, not just for great racing, but for a great festival around INDYCAR.”

Six days later, series competitors will join NASCAR’s annual Brickyard weekend, returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course on Saturday, Aug. 14.

“After the proof-of-concept this year,” Miles said, “we look forward to having an INDYCAR Grand Prix during the Brickyard weekend _ and inviting fans be a part of it. We know the strong Midwest affinity for INDYCAR racing and the love for INDYCAR drivers will help that weekend reach new levels.”

The three-weekend stretch culminates with a return to the World Wide Technology Raceway oval in Madison, Ill., on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, several traditional races return in 2021. Over half of the events have been on the calendar for 16 or more years, with Long Beach and Mid-Ohio (36 years) leading legendary visits into Detroit, Road America, Toronto and Portland (Ore.) International Raceway.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season champion will be crowned on Sunday, Sept. 19, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on NBC.


The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, with network partner in parenthesis, and start times to be announced:

March 7 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (NBC)

April 11 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (NBCSN)

April 18 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBC)

May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (NBCSN)

May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (NBCSN)

May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (NBC)

May 30 _ 105th Indianapolis 500 (NBC)

June 12 _ Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (NBC)

June 13 _Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (NBC)

June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (NBCSN)

July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (NBC)

July 11 _Streets of Toronto (NBCSN)

Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (NBCSN)

Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (NBCSN)

Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. (NBCSN)

Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (NBC)

Sept. 19_ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2020
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