IndyCar shakes up schedule; room for improvement remains

Will Power, Team Penske, Thermal Club, IndyCar (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
Will Power, Team Penske, Thermal Club, IndyCar (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images) /

IndyCar released the much-anticipated 2024 schedule on Monday. Overall, things look very familiar, but there are some key differences to be excited about.

IndyCar will once again have a championship consisting of 17 points races, plus a non-points race at Thermal Club in Palm Springs. The “made-for-TV exhibition” will consist of two heat races, and the top six from each will race for $1 million in the main event.

Along with Thermal Club, fan-favorite Milwaukee Mile will host an IndyCar race for the first time since 2015. The short oval will be run twice over Labor Day weekend. Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Will Power are all active drivers who have tallied wins in Milwaukee.

Unfortunately, IndyCar failed to fill the early-season gap we’ve grown accustomed to. Rather than a month between the races at St. Petersburg and Texas Motor Speedway, we now have four weeks in between the races Thermal and Long Beach — and six weeks between points races in St. Petersburg and Long Beach.

With the removal of Texas Motor Speedway and the second Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race, the gap will continue to raise questions. Such a large gap so early in the season is odd and leaves fans hanging out to dry.

An IndyCar mid-season break similar to Formula 1 would make much more sense.

The removal of Texas also means that the Indy 500, which is now the only oval race at a track longer than 1.25 miles, will be the first oval race of the year. Indy hasn’t been the oval opener since 2019. We’ll have to lean more on the Indy 500 practices and qualifying to know what to expect.

With the Nashville race taking over as the season finale, Laguna Seca has shifted up to the middle of summer. Considering the pomp and circumstance surrounding the streets of Nashville, the race lends itself to being a much better potential championship showdown.

Coming off of a season which saw the best viewership numbers since 2011, NBC has decided to reshuffle some broadcasting as well. Network NBC will broadcast 10 races rather than 13.

The Toronto race and the first Milwaukee Mile race will both stream exclusively on Peacock, rather than just the Toronto race. Six races will be televised on USA Network, which has historically struggled to pull in an audience, to double the network’s 2023 total.

While rumors of expansion into Argentina for a race swirled earlier this year, North America is still the home of IndyCar. There are still a few years to go before any global expansion. A firm and consistent domestic market needs to be established prior to expansion outside of the United States and Canada.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

There is one additional race and more oval racing on the 2024 IndyCar schedule. If the series can continue its strong growth and TV viewership, there is reason to believe that a consistent schedule and expansion outside of North America is a possibility within the next few years.