INDIANAPOLIS – The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule was unveiled on Thursday and if you look closely at it, you’d notice a major track was left off. The series confirmed today that Watkins Glen International would not be a destination for the series for 2018. But, before you chastise the series for that, there was nothing they can do short of expanding the season into October and moving some races around. Neither of which could happen anyways.
First off, we have seen the last two years, that a Labor Day date for the series and Watkins Glen doesn’t work. 2016 was popular because it was a return to the track after a five year hiatus. Watkins Glen quickly filled the gap left from a failure from Boston. On short notice, the series and track were able to pull of a heck of a feat. The deal was announced in May of that year with the race running just over three months later.
But, the problem lies in barely anyone showed up for the 2017 race. There’s reports that the crowd was well south of 10,000 on race day. So, both the series and track officials were smart to realize that if this relationship is going to work, Labor Day weekend wasn’t it. For all those fans that said they wanted the Glen back, none of you showed up. So, that forced them to make a change.
Which leads to the next problem, where could they move the date to?
It’s not ideal to run a race in upstate New York in March or April. That wouldn’t be smart. Then, the series is at Indy in May. After Indy, is a doubleheader in Detroit then a trip south to Texas. So, find me a date in the first half of the schedule.
Then, the series rightfully deserves a week off between Texas and Road America, as they would have had five straight weeks of action. In those five weeks, is the grueling Month of May preparing cars for two different layouts, a doubleheader weekend, then a trip to a superspeedway in Texas. You can’t ask the teams to then go from Texas to New York for a fourth race in three weeks only to travel back to Wisconsin for another race weekend.
Then, they have Iowa, Toronto and Mid-Ohio in July. The weekend off that’s normally observed for the Brickyard is open, but would racing in Watkins Glen just a few weeks after IMSA is there wise? Plus, racing there with IMSA on the 4th of July weekend isn’t smart either because that didn’t work the last time. No one showed up.
So, we’re into August, where the series has Mexico, Pocono and Gateway. Again, it would be tough to fit Watkins Glen in that time frame. Labor Day weekend doesn’t work, the weekend after Labor Day weekend is the Brickyard, so that can’t work, and the weekend after that is Sonoma. Before you say, just go to Watkins Glen after Sonoma, think of this, it’s likely in the contract that Sonoma is supposed to be the season finale. Contracts with the track and with TV are already in place. You can’t just change that. Plus, you can’t go from far west coast to far east coast in a week. You’d need a week off.
Also, before you say just switch dates with another track, you can’t do that either. Contracts are in place for these race weekends. Plus, the series likes date equity. While it could be possible for that in 2019 or 2020, you can’t do that on this short notice.
While this may not be popular, the real fault for INDYCAR and Watkins Glen not working something out for 2018 isn’t on their shoulders, it’s on the fans for once again not showing up. I don’t know how many warnings you need but they said that ticket sales needed to be much higher in order to keep that race on Labor Day weekend. It’s a holiday weekend where travel could be easy to get to, and no one showed up.
Both sides tried to find something, there’s just not anything realistic open. As contracts are up in the future, some realigning may work. For now, the track is off the schedule.