IndyCar plans new event at Illinois track as part of 2017 season

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The IndyCar Series on Thursday announced a largely familiar 17-race schedule for its 2017 season, with an exception being a new event at an old venue—Gateway Motorsports Park.

Gateway is in Madison, Illinois, just east of St. Louis. The IndyCar Series will race on Gateway’s 1.25-mile oval track on Aug. 26, 2017. The series' last race there was in 2003.

As part of the schedule announcement, IndyCar officials also trumpeted a multi-year agreement to run at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 will be held May 28, and the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will kick off with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 13.

For years, the IndyCar Series has been plagued by scheduling problems and has often had difficulty getting its schedule released by the end of the previous year. When Mark Miles was hired as CEO of IndyCar parent Hulman & Co. in late 2012, he promised to complete the schedule earlier.

Teams have long complained that it’s difficult to get sponsorships lined up for the season until the schedule is released, and unveiling the series’ slate of races in December—or later—was detrimental for their sponsorship hunts.

The series also has been plagued by race cancelations, most recently when the Labor Day weekend race in Boston had to be scuttled. Watkins Glen International, a replacement venue for the canceled Boston race, will host the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen on Sept. 4. The permanent road course will return on Labor Day weekend in 2017 under a new multi-year agreement with the series.

In fact, all tracks on which IndyCar is competing this year are on the schedule for 2017. The schedule features six ovals courses, six permanent road courses and five temporary street circuits.

The 2017 returns to Gateway Motorsports Park and Watkins Glen are integral to the continued growth of IndyCar, Miles said.

"Gateway officials have been enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series event for some time and we're excited to bring the series to the St. Louis market," Miles said. "Watkins Glen is an iconic American road course that is revered by our fans, drivers and teams. Our goal from the beginning was to establish a long-term agreement and we're thrilled that we've been able to extend this relationship for the future."

For the sixth straight season, the series will open in St. Petersburg, Florida. There’s almost a month between the first race and the second event, on April 9 in Long Beach, California.

The season will conclude at the Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 17.

Notably there are no races outside of North America and only one—Toronto on July 16—outside the U.S. When he was hired, Miles said he would try to push the series beyond North American borders.

IndyCar Series race ratings on television are up 7 percent this year over last, Miles said Thursday. In 2015, the ratings were up 38 percent on average compared to the previous year, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. Still, few IndyCar races—beside the Indianapolis 500—are viewed by as many as 1 million fans, a threshold companies say is critical in their sponsorship buying decisions.

Here's the full 2017 IndyCar Series schedule:

— March 12: Streets of St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, Florida)

— April 9: Streets of Long Beach (Long Beach, California)

— April 23: Barber Motorsports Park (Leeds, Alabama)

— April 29: Phoenix International Raceway (Avondale, Arizona)

— May 13: Grand Prix of Indianapolis

— May 28: Indianapolis 500

— June 3: Raceway at Belle Isle Park (Detroit)

— June 4: Raceway at Belle Isle Park (Detroit)

— June 10: Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, Texas)

— June 25: Road America (Plymouth, Wisconsin)

— July 9: Iowa Speedway (Newton, Iowa)

— July 16: Streets of Toronto

— July 30: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Lexington, Ohio)

— Aug. 20: Pocono Raceway (Long Pond, Pennsylvania)

— Aug. 26: Gateway Motorsports Park (Madison, Illinois)

— Sept. 3: Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, New York)

— Sept. 17: Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, California)


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