What we know and what we don't: Mapping out the potential 2023 IndyCar schedule
With NASCAR’s 2023 schedule release – and the Alex Palou-Chip Ganassi Racing saga now settled – the runway’s paved for IndyCar to unveil its 2023 schedule soon.
But with nearly a dozen of the race dates for next season already floating around, either having been formally announced or known by members of the paddock. As team members get a jump on booking hotels and fans try and map out their list of races to attend next season, here’s where the 2023 IndyCar schedule currently sits, in terms of confirmed dates – as well as where we can expect the other six to likely land.
2023 IndyCar dates we know
Here’s a list of what we know about the schedule so far:
March 5, St. Pete: Race promoters announced March 12 as the 2023 date when it was extended through 2026 last year, but that was rolled back to take advantage of an NBC window. March 5 is the current date paddock sources have been told to expect.
April 2, Texas: As new TMS general manager Mark Faber noted in the track’s 2023 schedule releases Wednesday, Texas will reunite the IndyCar and NASCAR Trucks Series that ran together on the same weekend for more than two decades. Trucks will run Saturday, April 1, with IndyCar’s first race of a new multi-year deal taking place Sunday, April 2.
April 16, Long Beach: IMSA’s 2023 schedule release last month revealed this one, with IndyCar running Sunday, April 16.
May 13, GMR Grand Prix: As has been typical of May at IMS for nearly the last decade, racing festivities will kickoff with the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course the Saturday (May 13) before Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend.
May 28, Indianapolis 500: May 28 is the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, so, of course, that’s the date for your 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
June 4, Detroit Grand Prix: With the announcement that the Detroit street race will return to downtown from Belle Isle a year ago, race organizers unveiled the IndyCar race will again directly follow the 500, falling in 2023 on June 4.
July 16, Toronto: According to public records, next year’s race date is slated for July 16 in 2023. Though this summer’s race was believed to be the last of IndyCar’s current deal, there was plenty of talk in July about future plans for the event, including reconfiguring pitlane, so there’s no doubt the event will continue. The document in question listed the 2022 race date accurately, and though things can always switch around, it would stand to reason that, given where races around it are and have been situated in the past, the Honda Indy Toronto should stay put.
Aug.6, Nashville: Trans Am’s 2023 schedule release pins down next year’s Music City Grand Prix again for the first full weekend in August, slotting the IndyCar race for Aug. 6.
Aug. 12, Gallagher Grand Prix: As announced as part of NASCAR’s 2023 schedules, IndyCar will again return as part of a tripleheader weekend at IMS alongside the Cup and Xfinity series. IndyCar will run the Saturday of the race weekend, Aug. 12.
Sept. 3, Portland: IndyCar sources have indicated that series officials plan to keep the season’s penultimate race on Labor Day weekend to keep the back-to-back west coast end of the season intact. In 2023, the Grand Prix of Portland will be held Sept. 3.
Sept. 10, Laguna Seca: As it did this year, Laguna Seca will follow immediately after Portland to continue the fluidity of holding the final two races of the year over back-to-back weekends on the west coast. Running the central-California track in mid-September instead of towards the end also keeps IndyCar overlapping with just one NFL weekend over the course of the late-summer/fall slate, which is ideal for TV ratings.
This leaves some question marks around where Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio, the Iowa doubleheader and the season’s oval finale at WWT Raceway will slot into the 17-race calendar.
2023 IndyCar schedule question marks
Given how much we hear Penske Entertainment Corp. officials talk about date equity, it would stand to reason that solidifying this race weekend’s future would be one of those first projects on the docket. IndyCar has run the first, second, third and even fourth weekend in April at Barber. For good measure, last year it was May 1.
Given the stable spots on the calendar of St. Pete and Long Beach and what now appears like the makings of IndyCar’s plan to run at Texas Motor Speedway in the spring in late-March or early-April, Barber’s been the race that can best fill a gap. Though fans won’t be super thrilled with another four-week gap between St. Pete and the second race of the year, it would seem that’s where things are headed. Slotting in Barber ahead of Texas and preventing that month-long gap to start the year would then create one leading into the Month of May, not ideal in terms of drumming up attention for your biggest race of the year.
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Slotting in between Texas (April 2) and Long Beach (April 16) would make for an unnecessarily busy stretch bookended by lengthy lulls. The week following Long Beach is currently said to include the open test on the IMS oval, which would preclude that following weekend (April 22-23) for a Barber race (that would also overlap with NASCAR at nearby Talladega). Running the weekend after -- April 30 -- would seem to make the most sense.
The placement of this weekend could either open the doors or slam them shut for any active full-time IndyCar drivers interested in running Le Mans in 2023. Already tough to navigate with IndyCar running at Detroit the typical opening weekend of practice for the race set to be held June 10-11, holding the series’ annual trip to Elkhart Lake June 11 would force someone like Jimmie Johnson to choose between NASCAR’s Garage 56 program or another run at a full-time IndyCar schedule.
If IndyCar chooses to steer clear of this conflict, it would stand to reason the following Sunday (June 18) would be a logical slot, though running that weekend would require the natural terrain road course race to be shown on USA Network due to NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open. Looking ahead, the following Sunday might make sense. Looking at Road America’s own public 2023 schedule, it has Trans Am running July 6-9, a series that, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, hasn’t headlined a weekend since 1986. IndyCar joining that weekend would likely create another four-week gap that would stifle much of the momentum gained from May, and it would also likely make for a rabid run through July and August with eight races in as many weekends.
Since the additions of IndyCar’s second IMS road course race in late-summer coupled with the Nashville street race, Mid-Ohio’s position on the July 4 weekend (the Sunday of which in 2023 would be July 2) continues to make sense. Though for whatever reason the race took a significant dip in TV ratings year-over-year this summer, it’s seemed to hit well with fans who enjoy camping for a special occasion over a holiday weekend. I’ve heard no indication this will move for next year.
With how Toronto and the first two August events bookend the end of July, the series' lone doubleheader seemingly has just two Saturday-Sunday combinations that would make sense: immediately following Toronto (July 22-23) that would create a little mini-run in the calendar, followed by a week off and then a busy start to August, or the weekend after (July 29-30), which would then make for quite the busy 3- to 4-week stretch. Because it was clearly important for IndyCar to run both those races on network TV, this decision may just come down to which weekend makes that possible.
Pre-pandemic, this race slotted into the fourth Saturday in August three-straight years. The past two events have run the third Saturday of the month. My last update from series sources indicated either were in play moving forward. It’s aired on cable (NBCSN and then USA Network) since IndyCar’s gained a much larger network presence, so the uncertainty could be around trying to find an evening NBC slot, or even potentially just making it more of a true night race on USA Network.
The earlier option makes for back-to-back-to-back races in the Midwest, followed by an off-weekend for teams to prepare for the closing west coast swing. The later date would provide a little separation for the promoters to distance themselves from the lead-in races on the schedule and perhaps drum up some additional ticket sales, though it would mean some teams would have damaged cars to repair before shipping out to the west coast to cap the season. Neither is perfect, but then again, slotting in a 17-race schedule across just over six months where NBC windows dictate so much of the schedule will never be a perfect science.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: Projecting the 2023 schedule