Analyzing IndyCar’s 2025 Schedule And It’s Dramatic Changes (2024)

When IndyCar announced a new media rights contract that will feature 19 network appearances on FOX, including all 17 races of the season, the racing series also released the 2025 IndyCar Series schedule.

That was on June 13 and the move from long-standing partner NBC to FOX dominated most of the attention that day.

But there are also some dramatic changes to the 2025 IndyCar Series schedule, including an end to the season on Labor Day Weekend. That was a stipulation of the contract that both NBC and FOX wanted during its negotiations for the TV package beginning next season.

By crowning the IndyCar Series champion on Labor Day Weekend, it will not interfere with the opening weekend of the National Football League season seven days later.

The NFL is the crown jewel sports property for FOX with national and regional games every Sunday of the regular season. NBC hosts the most watched television program in America, Sunday Night Football.

This year, the final race of the IndyCar season will be the September 15 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which has been moved from the streets of Nashville, Tennessee to Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee – about 45 minutes from downtown Nashville.

Once the NFL season begins, as well as college football telecasts on all major networks on Saturday afternoon, the attention for any other sport is dramatically diminished.

By ending it on Labor Day Weekend, IndyCar can celebrate its championship in style, in the spotlight as the major FOX Sports telecast of the day before heading into the offseason as the NFL kicks off the following week.

It’s a strategy IndyCar has used in the past, and one that Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles has wanted to bring back.

“It was a priority for me, and I think the series for more than a decade, to try to get our finale that one week earlier,” Miles told me in an exclusive interview last week.

After ending its season on October 19 in 2013 to a low-rated, West Coast night race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, IndyCar ended the 2014 season with a Saturday night race in Fontana on August 30, and the 2015 season with a Sunday afternoon contest on August 30 at Sonoma Raceway.

From 2016 to 2019, the season ended in mid-September.

COVID dramatically impacted IndyCar’s schedule in both 2020 and 2021 with the season ending at St. Petersburg, Florida on October 25, 2020, and Long Beach, California on September 26, 2021.

The past two seasons, the series concluded on the second weekend of September.

Despite building a season to a crescendo with the championship, going head-to-head with the NFL on TV is a mighty task, especially for auto racing.

Another important element to ending the season on Labor Day Weekend is Nashville’s commitment to hosting the championship race.

The footprint of the race course is at Nissan Stadium, and a newer stadium that is being built alongside that facility. Because of the massive construction project and the possibility of the NFL scheduling a Tennessee Titans home game during a race weekend, the IndyCar race was moved to an oval beginning in 2025.

Ultimately, Big Machine Music City Grand Prix promoter Scott Borchetta wants to move the IndyCar race back to the streets of Nashville to showcase the bustling entertainment destination city.

By ending the season on Labor Day Weekend, any such conflict with the Titans opening the NFL season and its impact on an IndyCar race have been alleviated.

“The second point is the one you've made, which is that there wouldn't be a home game, a Tennessee Titan overlap with an IndyCar race there,” Miles said. “And that may enhance the chances of us getting back to a street race there.

“It's not our favorite thing to have an NFL game at home in Nashville, and now we know it won't be after this year.”

There are more significant changes that have been made to the 2025 schedule.

This year, the season started in St. Petersburg, Florida with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. In 2025, that race moves a week earlier to March 2.

In 2024, The Thermal Club hosted a $1 Million Challenge race, which included two full days of testing followed by a non-points race with a dash for cash format on the third day in front of a self-imposed limited crowd at the private community.

In 2025, The Thermal Club will host a full, championship-points race with a larger capacity for spectators.

“I’ll be honest, when I left Thermal last year, we left thinking that it's a fabulous facility, everything is first class, our friends there who own the place love having it, but I wasn't sure what the future might bring for us and Thermal,” Miles admitted. “Then we had a dinner one evening in May and there were probably half a dozen drivers there and we talked about everything.

“Completely unsolicited, some of the drivers start saying, ‘You know, we need to go back there and have a regular race, a normal points race. Let's get rid of the heat racing and some of the things we tried to see just what the effect of racing differently might be.’

“They believe the grip of that track would lead to great racing. They knew that the track could be reconfigured for us. They had a track we didn't even use. They believed that the pits could be expanded and from a racer's point of view, it might be an outstanding race.

“So that got our attention. We started looking more into that and it seemed like a better alternative at least for next year. One of the other alternatives was maybe in February they'd become an open test, which they'd be fabulous. It'd be great for that purpose.

“But no, it's the drivers who thought it would be a great race.”

At that time, IndyCar was still in negotiations with NBC and FOX for the new television package. Miles asked both to find a way to make The Thermal Club a full IndyCar points race on network television.

“We had the opportunity to find a network window to fill in a little bit of that part of the spring calendar, and it just seemed like it made sense,” Miles said. “In terms of the rest of your question (on increased capacity for on-site fans), all the details aren't announceable yet, but for sure there will be greater capacity for fans, and the approach will be a little bit different than it was this year.”

There is just one race in April, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13, as Easter Sunday will be celebrated on April 20.

Because of where that falls on the calendar, the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix is May 4.

The remainder of the month is devoted to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway including the Sonsio Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course on May 10, booth rounds of qualifications on May 17 and 18 televised live by FOX, and the 109th Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

That sets up another major change to the schedule in June as the annual August date at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis has been moved to June 15. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix remains as the first contest after the Indianapolis 500 on June 1 and the popular Road America weekend has been moved to June 22, one week later than 2024.

The past two seasons, World Wide Technology Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series on the first weekend in June. NASCAR has not released its 2025 schedule, so it is unknown if that race moves into the 2025 Playoffs or is held later in the season.

“You've already identified the variables or some of them and that is what else is going on in St. Louis, what's NASCAR's likely calendar going to look like? But the conversations were really cooperative,” Miles explained. “Ultimately again the pieces fell together where we could move them earlier, they were okay with doing it by the way. Curtis Francois (WWTR owner) and Chris Blair (WWTR general manager) and their team are tremendous partners as well and it just worked out.

“It really was a long process and only late in the process with FOX that we could move from the goal of having every race on the FOX network to the reality of it through the cooperation and the flexibility of many of our stakeholders.”

By moving Road America back a week, it will be the same weekend as the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2024, five NTT IndyCar Series drivers competed in the world’s most famous sports car endurance race.

“We obviously were aware of it, meaning the date overlap,” Miles said. “But to us, IndyCar comes first, and that was the window that was available, and it will certainly work out in Wisconsin.”

July looks similar to this year with one major exception. IndyCar returns to its traditional dates at Mid-Ohio on July 6, the Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway on July 12 and July 13, and the annual street race in Toronto on July 20.

For the third year in a row, however, Laguna Seca will have a different date in 2025. It will be July 27th. This year, it was June 23. Last year, it was the final race of the season on September 10.

“They’ve always wanted to be the finale, but that wasn't going to be in the cards for next year,” Miles said. “And finding the date that worked for them was not the hardest thing in the formula.

“Another great example of our promoters being flexible to help get them as well as the series as a whole network windows.”

This year, IndyCar returns to The Milwaukee Mile for a doubleheader on Labor Day Weekend. In 2024, it will be a single race weekend, one week earlier on August 24. Portland precedes it on August 10 and Nashville wraps up the season with its championship weekend on August 31.

“It allowed us to stay with 17 races, and to help fill in that gap in the spring with Thermal,” Miles explained. “And, it works for them, and it works for us, so, we're glad that we could come to that conclusion.”

By moving to FOX, it’s the first time in IndyCar history at all races on the schedule will be televised live by the same major, over the air network. In previous years, going all the way back to CART in the 1980s and 1990s, NBC, ABC and ESPN televised the races, but not all were on the same network.

With NASCAR’s new television contract beginning in 2025, FOX Sports will televise the first 10 races of the NASCAR Cup Series season. After the 10th race concludes, sometime in late-April, IndyCar becomes its signature motorsports property for the remainder of the season, which allowed for all 17 races and both weekends of Indy 500 qualifications to air on the FOX network.

“It was steady progress that got to the result we ended up with Fox that got it done,” Miles said. “As far as we know, this is the first time that all of IndyCar season will be on the same major network.”

To make that a reality, IndyCar had to complete its schedule in June. In past seasons, the schedule for the following season wasn’t announced until after the final race of the season, or after the season had already concluded.

“It was a process, and I want to thank a number of our promoters who also showed flexibility,” Miles concluded. “They understood, it could be the difference between being on network for their race, which is useful to them, and their sponsors, of their cities that end up being seen by lots of viewers, so, they were very helpful.

“We just kept working. It was probably two weeks before we made the announcement, that we had everything in place. All those programming windows couldn't be filled until ultimately a couple of promoters came back and said, ‘Okay, we've worked it out. We can hit that window.”

“So, it was work, and it was cooperation, not just by FOX and with IndyCar, but with our promoters as well.”

Analyzing IndyCar’s 2025 Schedule And It’s Dramatic Changes (2024)
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