INDIANAPOLIS — There hopefully will be three race weekends that will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. While there’s been some shuffling around in terms of scheduling for motorsports lately, that amount of race weekends at IMS is actually down one compared to what was originally scheduled last year for 2020.
See, we always knew that we’d have the GMR Grand Prix, 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and GT World Challenge America race weekends on the hallowed grounds of IMS. But, with the GMR Grand Prix moving to the Brickyard 400 race weekend, we actually lost a weekend of racing here as a result.
Now, a new race has been added though, the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix. But, that race isn’t adding to race weekends — it’s an addition to one.
The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the “Harvest Classic” held in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken. This will join the sports car race weekend in October.
That marks an unprecendented three NTT IndyCar Series race weekends at IMS now, showing us that they’re the main featured racing series for the famed speedway. At one point, it was sacrilegious to run an Indy Car at Indianapolis more than once a year, now we’re doing it three times in a span of four months.
Think about it, from 1917 through 1993, whenever IMS was open, it was for the Indy 500 and the Indy 500 only. Then, in 1994, NASCAR invaded the grounds in August of that year for the NASCAR Cup Series. In 1998, IROC joined the Brickyard weekend for a third different racing series to race on the famed 2.5-mile oval.
In 2000, Formula One came to IMS on a newly constructed road course that was ran through the infield too. By 2004, IROC was gone, so it was just IndyCar, NASCAR Cup Series and F1 racing at IMS. The top three racing series in the world all embarked on the Brickyard each year.
By 2008, F1 too was gone.
MotoGP moved in as F1’s replacement for 2008 while the NASCAR Xfinity Series starting coming in 2012. The Red Bull Air Races also came in 2016 too. Then, came the USAC Midgets during the Brickyard weekend on a new dirt track inside of Turn 3 the last two years.
But, through all of this, IndyCar has been the only constant.
IMS was growing and expanding their reach during the lean “IRL” years and the novelty of all the additions were wearing as time went on. In the last decade, the rise of IndyCar mixed the tire debacles of F1 and NASCAR have led to a comeback of the Indy 500 as the premiere race on those famed grounds again.
IMSA, IROC, F1, MotoGP and the Air Races all stayed for a glass of water and checked out. The NASCAR weekend has remained due to a lucrative TV deal which pays IMS a ton of money, but they’re searching for solid footing again.
Since 2017, the Brickyard 400 has moved three times on the NASCAR schedule in four years. The Xfinity Series race will be run now on the road course. The weekend is on the 4th of July starting in 2020 too.
That was the middle portion of the 2020 IMS schedule. For this year, it was supposed to be the Month of May (IndyCar) the 4th of July weekend (NASCAR) and the first weekend of October (sports cars). Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has forced IndyCar to join all three race weekend’s.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.
The GMR Grand Prix is with the NASCAR weekend and will run on July 4. The new Harvest GP will run on Oct. 3 with the 8-hour sports car race. The Indy 500 moves to Aug. 23.
What’s all of this say?
IndyCar may be the support race for two of the three race weekends, but they’re added as a boost at the gates, making them the featured series to IMS again. When IMS is open in 2020, Indy Car’s will be there. They’re a focal point of what IMS is doing and that’s obvious.
For 82 years (1911-1993) IMS was all about IndyCar and the Indy 500. In 1994, it was all about IndyCar and NASCAR. In the 2000s, it was IndyCar sharing IMS with several other series but in 2020, it was scaled back to two IndyCar weekends, one NASCAR weekend and one sports car. Now, we get IndyCar sprinkled in there every time this place is open.
We get several superweekend’s now, something that could be the new norm in Indianapolis. It went from May only to three race weekend’s with IndyCar in each.