by Frank Santoroski @seveng1967
With the season wrapped up, the stars and cars of the Verizon Indycar Series are beginning to make plans for 2016 and beyond.
In anticipation of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, to be held May 29, 2016, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is well into construction and renovations to the hallowed facility known as ‘Project 100’.
The massive undertaking began in 2013 with renovations to the roadcourse, and continued with improvements to the video display systems and the addition of the new digital scoring pylon that was unveiled in 2015.
Improvements to the fan experience are underway with many of the benches and folding chairs being replaced with stadium seating, along with the addition of elevators. Improvements will be made for ADA accessibility, allowing fans with disabilities to enjoy some of the best seats in the house. The catch fencing will also be replaced in such a manner that it will improve both safety and visibility.
The renovations will tally up a bill of about $30 million USD once all is said and done, setting the stage for a fantastic fan experience for years to come.
While we may expect a very different looking IMS in 2016, don’t look for major changes to the DW-12 chassis that has served the IndyCar Series for the past four seasons. In the wake of Justin Wilson’s fatal accident this past summer, IndyCar CEO, Mark Miles, has stated that he doesn’t see the need for any immediate changes to the car, other than tethering some parts, such as the nose piece.
In the days after the tragic accident, reactions ran the gamut to calling for a closed cockpit car to abolishing the series altogether. Seeing the need for research and development before making any knee-jerk reactions, Miles hasn’t ruled anything out for 2017 and beyond.
We may, however, expect to see some changes to the aero-kits from both Honda and Chevrolet. While Honda has not yet officially confirmed their return to the series in 2016, the fact that they have been quite active testing aero components in the early off-season is a very good sign.
While Honda was bested by Chevrolet in the championship, and at many of the tracks, the Japanese manufacturer did manage a respectable 6-win season, with Graham Rahal finding the most success. The 2015 season from Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan racing was a complete turnaround from their 2014 fortunes.
The team is hoping to capitalize on their new status as ‘Championship contender’ by adding a second full-time entry to the team. With sponsor Steak n’ Shake solidly on board for 2016, team principle, Bobby Rahal, is looking to make a decision in the next few weeks. He says that there is a very short list of drivers, but one might imagine that Oriol Servia is on that list. This is a developing story that you will want to keep an eye on.
In schedule news, it appears that the rumored February season-opener in Mexico City will not happen in 2016. At the same time, it was announced that Pocono Raceway will indeed return for another 500-miler sponsored by ABC Supply. This is great news, as Pocono was purpose-built for IndyCars back in 1970, and the tricky nature of the track’s three decidedly different turns always produces a fantastic race.
With Road America solidly confirmed, much to the delight of road racing fans everywhere, the fate of the Milwaukee Mile still hangs in the realm of the unknown. While it would seem criminal to see the oldest continuously operating track in the world be kicked to the curb, the fact remains that the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds have failed to produce a decent-sized crowd in recent years.
Despite some rumblings from the local government, it appears that the Boston Grand Prix, a first-year event slated for Labor Day Weekend is set to take place. Boston-based technology innovation solution company, LogMeIn was recently announced as the title sponsor of the event.
With a few wildcards still out there, like Phoenix and Gateway, the series has stated that there will likely be sixteen races in 2016, equaling the 2015 schedule.