IndyCar has been to Texas Motor Speedway for 27 straight seasons, but that streak will unfortunately come to an end in 2024.
While we can’t yet say for certain whether or not the statement is true for the Longhorns, Texas was, in fact, “back” in the 2023 IndyCar season, putting on what was arguably the best old-school, pack-style race since 2015 Fontana.
The middle stages of the race might not have been as enthralling as Fontana, with 26 of 28 cars a lap down at one point and an eight-second gap between the two that weren’t, but the race featured an exciting battle to the finish, one which was unfortunately cut short by a caution flag.
For the last several years, there has been speculation that Texas will be left off the IndyCar calendar the following year. Yet every year, the series and the track have been able to overcome the obstacles to get it back onto the schedule, even if only on another one-year deal.
That was not the case for the 2024 IndyCar season.
With NASCAR eyeing a spring date for its Texas race instead of a fall playoff date and NBC taking two weeks off from its motorsports coverage in the summer due to its Paris Summer Olympics commitment, there simply wasn’t a slot for IndyCar, despite the track having been the only non-Indianapolis Motor Speedway venue on the series schedule ever since its first full season in 1997.
Series owner Roger Penske said that IndyCar will “be back in Texas, hopefully in another year”, but there are no guarantees, and “out of sight, out of mind” has been a growing trend regarding IndyCar ovals.
We have seen IndyCar’s willingness to totally move on from oval tracks before. The aforementioned Fontana was gone after 2015 following a race which saw a record 80 lead changes.
Pocono Raceway was removed after the 2019 season and replaced by Richmond Raceway for 2020, but Richmond didn’t get to host a race due to COVID-19-related restrictions. It wasn’t brought back for 2021 and still hasn’t hosted a race since 2009.
In this instance, however, it is definitely a plus to see IndyCar adding a doubleheader at the historic Milwaukee Mile — a track that has ironically also been axed from the calendar (twice) before — and, somewhat unrelatedly, bringing oval night racing back to the series at Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
With two races at Milwaukee, two at Iowa, one at Gateway, and the Indy 500, there are six oval races on the 2024 IndyCar schedule, the most since there were six in 2020.
Excluding 2020, when several oval races were added due to other races being wiped off the calendar, there have not been six oval races in a single season since 2018. There haven’t been more than six since 2011.
We can only hope that any future addition of Texas back to the schedule does not come at the expense of another oval race — and perhaps that a few other former IndyCar ovals also return.