Schedule Set To Change

The 2006 Indy Racing League schedule will be more streamlined than this year's version with the final checkered flag flying in mid-September.

Reports have next year's slate to include only 16 races, down from this year's 17 event schedule. Phoenix International Raceway, for years a mainstay in American open-wheel racing, will be dropped from the 2006 series.

After drawing a dismal crowd some estimated at only about 5,000 this past March, Phoenix's future on the IRL schedule was in jeopardy. There is speculation that a Champ Car World Series race could replace the IRL on PIR's schedule next season.

The IndyCar season will not begin until April of next year, rather than February/Marchg as in the past, and will conclude the second weekend of September at Chicagoland Speedway. Although that date would again collide with opening day in the NFL, league officials are hoping the drama of a possible championship battle will generate attention in the country's number three market.

Three road course/street circuits will be back in 2006 with the season opening through the streets of St. Petersburg. Watkins Glen and Sonoma will also be back on the tour.

The annual post-Indy 500 event will likely move to Kansas Speedway the first weekend of June. The IRL wanted to take advantage of the Indianapolis hype by holding a race on the following weekend and Texas Motor Speedway, which has hosted that event in the past, was not willing to move up a week from its traditional date.

So Kansas will inherit the post 500 slot while Texas will stay in its normal position the following Saturday night.

The anticipated 2006 Indy Racing League schedule:

APRIL
St. Petersburg
Homestead
Motegi

MAY
Indianapolis

JUNE
Kansas
Texas
Richmond
Fontana

JULY
Nashville
Milwaukee
Michigan

AUGUST
Kentucky
Pikes Peak
Sonoma
Watkins Glen

SEPTEMBER
Chicago

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The petty bickering among IRL drivers regarding Danica Patrick's attention reached a new low at Milwaukee when the four Andretti-Green Racing drivers were no shows for a driver autograph session. Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta and Dario Franchitti didn't participate in the track's scheduled session for fans and instead held a separate session at the AGR souvenir trailer. Kanaan and Wheldon, the 2004 champion and this year's Indy 500 winner, have been the most vocal about Patrick receiving more attention than deserved. Once again guys, the average person wouldn't be able to pick either of you out of a police line-up.

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Forget the talk of Panther Racing fielding a Champ Car effort next season either in place of its current IRL operation or in addition to it. Panther Racing's owner John Barnes replied "absoultely not" to reports indicated a Champ Car team was in his future.

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The IRL's partnership with the famed "Knoxville Nationals" is a step in the right direction. The driver earning rookie honors at this year's Knoxville Nationals will get a show at an Infiniti Pro Series ride in 2006.

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