IndyCar is moving to Fox. And with it, a new race schedule. 5 takeaways on 2025 slate.

INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar's new exclusive, multi-year media rights deal with Fox announced Thursday also comes with the reveal of the full 2025 calendar. Here are five observations from the minor changes made to next year's schedule for America's premier open-wheel racing series.

Thermal Club evolves into points-paying venue

IndyCar will make its third visit to The Thermal Club, the private, gated community 40 minutes outside Palm Springs, Calif., and for the third consecutive year, the series' plans will look a little different. What once served as solely a preseason testing site ahead of the start of the 2023 season will now host a full-fledged points-paying race come 2025 (March 23).

After three years of up-and-down results with Arrow McLaren, Felix Rosenqvist has joined a Meyer Shank Racing IndyCar team in 2024 in need of the same thing he's striving for: consistency.
After three years of up-and-down results with Arrow McLaren, Felix Rosenqvist has joined a Meyer Shank Racing IndyCar team in 2024 in need of the same thing he's striving for: consistency.

The biggest logistical hurdle standing in the way of that this year was The Club's short, tight pitlane (even for IndyCar standards), where series officials had determined 27 cars could not safely run hot pitstops during a race — necessitating the All-Star Race format used in March, which split the field in half for heat races and included a 12-car main event with a halftime break for teams to fuel up and make minor changes outside a pressure-packed window. In the two-plus months, Club owners are understood to have already gone to work on extending the pitlane to at least reach IndyCar's minimum standards of 35-foot boxes for each of the 27 cars seen at venues like Mid-Ohio and Toronto.

The race's length and the track layout for the points-paying race is presently unclear. What's also presently uncertain is how many paying fans will be allowed to attend the race. A year ago, the Club allowed for a few thousand total guests outside its member pool, with full-weekend passes starting at $2,000. Those prices were slashed to $500 two months out from the race and made available to IndyCar's most dedicated fan club members. Still, with just a single relatively small suite/grandstand area setup around the 3.067-mile Twin Palms layout, and with the hundreds of fans on the ground free to roam the garage area and midway (and with some invited up to acquaintances' homes), the event felt every bit of a glorified testing weekend.

It would be a surprise to see IndyCar allowed to host a significant number of paying customers approaching the number of fans it would host at even an average event on the calendar in 2025, as at-track attendance continues to grow year-over-year series-wide. Given the vitriol from a wide array of fans for feeling as if even an IndyCar exhibition wasn't targeted to them, that the event has now evolved to become one of the 17 points-paying races on the calendar may not go over well.

More balanced spring slate

Not long removed from a start to a season that included five weekends without a points-paying race — during which only the $1 Million Challenge (which received mixed reviews) was held — IndyCar and Fox executives have managed to carve out a much more evenly-paced start to the 2025 season. New for next season, the series will have two open weekends between Races No. 1 (St. Pete, March 2) and 2 (Thermal Club, March 23), as well as Races No. 2 and 3 (Long Beach, April 13) and 3 and 4 (Barber, May 4).

Apr 21, 2024; Long Beach, California, USA; Andretti Autosport driver Kyle Kirkwood (27) of United States leads a group during the Long Beach Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2024; Long Beach, California, USA; Andretti Autosport driver Kyle Kirkwood (27) of United States leads a group during the Long Beach Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

By no means are those gaps ideal — and it certainly creates a different pacing compared to the rest of the season (more on that in a minute). Still, it certainly is a far better, more evenly laid out schedule for the first couple months than what we saw earlier in 2024, where there was a single open weekend between St. Pete and Thermal, three of them between Thermal and Long Beach and none between Long Beach and Barber.

IndyCar would still greatly benefit from the revival of its spring Texas Motor Speedway weekend — or a similar spring oval venue like Phoenix or Homestead — to plug even just one more of those open weekends, while also giving teams an oval race to shake the cobwebs off before ramping up for the 500. Without that, though, this still stands to be a step-up.

World Wide Technology Raceway kicks off summer short-oval slate

After 13 years away, World Wide Technology Raceway's return to the annual IndyCar calendar in 2017 came with positioning the short-oval just outside St. Louis as IndyCar's oval finale of the year, and for the track's executive vice president and general manager Chris Blair, that was both an enviable and marketable position WWTR could use to pull-in fans from across the Midwest.

Josef Newgarden driving at World Wide Technology Raceway in August 2023
Josef Newgarden driving at World Wide Technology Raceway in August 2023

But with the revival of the Milwaukee Mile and the hastily-made switch in IndyCar's finale from Nashville's city streets to the Superspeedway 45 minutes outside of downtown, WWTR had just become another oval offering in a summer jam-packed with them. This year, Milwaukee and Iowa boast doubleheaders, and Nashville has the distinction of helping crown a champion. The 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval had lost what made it special. And so quietly over the past couple months, Blair had been politicking with IndyCar officials for a switch.

Though many fans continue to long for an oval race to immediately follow the Indianapolis 500 the next weekend after, like the role Milwaukee held for decades, Detroit Grand Prix officials contend the success and survival of that race hinges on the ability to run the first weekend of June when local schools are still in session, so that its many suite pass holders (most of which come from Penske Corp. business-to-business deals) have not yet migrated to the northern part of the state with their families to enjoy summer break.

Placing WWTR as the race immediately after — while also giving the paddock a weekend off in between to take a collective breath — is the next best thing. For the sport's highly-concentrated, oval-loving fanbase in the Midwest, it all-a-sudden makes the track top-of-mind outside the 500, which in turn should hopefully lead to a boost to its ticket sales.

With NASCAR having run the weekend immediately after the Indy 500 and Cup's Coke 600 the past couple years, the IndyCar race date switch would also seem to forecast a change to the track's stock car weekend, with it extremely unlikely Blair and Co. would want to hold two of its most important weekends of the year within a three-weekend stretch.

Rip-roaring closing four months

Contrasted by the slow ramping-up of the start of the season in the spring, the loss of the nearly month-long break for the Summer Olympics this year and an end of the 2024 season that stretches into mid-September has created a 2025 summer slate that amounts to a three-month-long sprint to the finish.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the starting grid Sunday, May 26, 2024, during the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the starting grid Sunday, May 26, 2024, during the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The move starts with moving the Barber Motorsports Park weekend into May for just the second time in the track's history with IndyCar, landing it right before the IMS road course race to make for five consecutive on-track weekends through the Detroit Grand Prix. The rest of the way — ending with the Aug. 31 finale at Nashville Superspeedway — next year's schedule doesn't have more than one consecutive off weekend from the start of May through the end of August.

In total, the series will be on-track 14 of its final 18 weekends, a stretch that will include 14 races (including the Iowa doubleheader) and 500 qualifying weekend.

With Fox, IndyCar takes bigger stage

With a new deal with Fox that includes the entirety of the race schedule on network TV, IndyCar now becomes a major player on the network throughout the bulk of its season. Not to say IndyCar didn't hold a special place in NBC's slate of sports programming, but during its six years exclusively with the network, it had to contend with a summer full of golf and NASCAR, the French Open, the Olympics, the Premier League and both college and NFL football once early fall came along, among NBC's long list of major sports properties. After all, the network boasts what it calls its 'Championship Season', and of that, IndyCar was a piece.

Now with Fox, IndyCar becomes a headlining programming piece for its new partner once its February-through-mid-May NASCAR slate ends. College basketball and football will be almost non-factors during the time of the year IndyCar's schedule runs. Outside those, MLB and NHRA remain its major properties through late-spring and the summer, but IndyCar now joins them as a sport that will play a 'major' role during the majority of its season, instead of the largely 'competing' one.

Additionally, IndyCar next summer will be nearly the only major racing series American motorsports fans will be able to watch on network TV for well over two months next year. Assuming Formula 1's schedule (and related TV plans) stay similar, the worldwide sport will only feature on ABC for its Monaco and Canadian Grand Prixes. NASCAR, meanwhile, will have 10 consecutive weekends on cable during its five-race packages with Amazon Prime and TNT that run back-to-back from late-May until early-August.

Follow IndyStar motor sports Insider Nathan Brown on X at @By_NathanBrown.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar new TV deal with Fox brings 2025 schedule changes

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