IndyCar faces the same problem after 2024 season begins

The 2024 IndyCar season got underway on Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg. The next championship race is now six weeks away.

Pato O'Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, IndyCar
Pato O'Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, IndyCar / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

For the 12th time in the last 14 years, an IndyCar season got underway on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday afternoon with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Team Penske's Josef Newgarden won the race for the third time in the last six seasons, dominating the entire race from his first pole position in two years.

And now that the season is underway, the series embarks on another mini offseason, as the second race of the 17-race championship is not scheduled to take place for another six weeks.

Fortunately for the fans, drivers, and teams, there is another race less than two weeks from now, that being the Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club. The race is somewhat of an All-Star Race, and it doesn't count toward the point standings.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is the second official race on the schedule, and it isn't scheduled to take place until Sunday, April 21. Even including the Thermal race, that's another four-week break in between races. It's like a mid-offseason race, except when this "offseason" ends, one race's worth of points have already been handed out from six weeks prior.

Year after year, IndyCar starts a season, and then doesn't continue it for another month or so.

The 2018 season saw a four-week break. The 2020 season, which we'll give the series a pass on because of the pandemic restrictions, saw the same. Then it happened again last year, making it difficult for IndyCar to capitalize on one of the most exciting openers the series had seen in quite some time.

This is a series that, as Michael Andretti describes it, can be a "diamond in the rough" if run and invested in properly. Starting a season and then not continuing it for another six weeks doesn't strike many as the right move following a year which produced the highest viewership since 2011.

And for the record, viewership was down significantly for this year's season opener.

As a new television deal looms, it is one of a number of reasons why the current ownership is facing increased scrutiny following one of the toughest offseasons the series has faced in quite some time.

The loss of Texas Motor Speedway, which had been the longest standing oval on the schedule aside from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, effectively created this gap since it had hosted the second race of the season, and that schedule change itself was a particular point of criticism when the calendar was announced.

IndyCar: Scott Dixon was already a champion when his new teammate was born. IndyCar: Scott Dixon was already a champion when his new teammate was born. dark. Next

All things considered, IndyCar is still the most competitive racing series in the world from top to bottom, even after an opener in which one driver and team were head and shoulders above the rest. But the fact that this early-season gap continues to be an issue is discouraging as the series eyes growth at a time when motorsport is indeed gaining in popularity in the United States.