IRL Shortens Schedule

INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Racing League officials announced a 14-race schedule for the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series season, featuring a more compact and consistent lineup of races.

The compacted schedule allows the series to run 14 events in a period of 25 weeks, eight weeks fewer than the early March to mid-October schedule that has used in recent seasons.

“The primary reasons for the compacted schedule are momentum and consistency,” said Brian Barnhart, the IRL’s president and chief operating officer. “Scheduling our races on a consistent basis in a compacted time frame will give us momentum from the drop of the green flag in Miami into the month of May, right through the heart of our season and into the championship point battle.

“We worked closely with the IndyCar Series teams to evaluate the impact of this type of schedule on the drivers, crews and sponsors and received a great deal of enthusiasm.”

For the fifth consecutive season, Homestead-Miami Speedway will serve as host for the season opener, scheduled for Sunday, March 26.

Chicagoland Speedway will host the season finale, the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 Presented by Mr. Clean, on Sunday, Sept. 10. It will mark the first time the 1.5-mile oval will host the season finale. All events will be televised by ABC Sports, ESPN or ESPN2.

Chicagoland Speedway, which has hosted an IndyCar Series event since 2001, will be the fourth different venue to host the season’s final race.

“We’re really excited about hosting the last race of the season for the IndyCar Series in 2006,” said Matthew Alexander, vice president and general manager of Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway. “Each year, our IndyCar Series races have been really close, including in 2002 when we witnessed the closest finish in IndyCar Series history. And now, with the excitement of the final race of the season – culminating in the crowning of the 2006 champion – our IRL weekend will be an unforgettable, unparalleled experience for our fans.”

The only other significant change to the schedule is shifting of the Watkins Glen International date from September to June, marking the first time since the league’s inception that the series will race on the weekend immediately following the Indianapolis 500.

"Having the Indianapolis 500 and the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix run on consecutive weekends will make for an amazing two weeks of racing,” said Craig Rust, president of Watkins Glen International. "The history and heritage of open-wheel racing at both facilities is well known, and these events running back to back should really help create momentum for the rest of the season."

Overall, the series schedule will include 11 oval events, two permanent road courses and one street-course event.

“Scheduled races on a consistent basis in a compacted time frame will lead to consistent media coverage, easier promotion for all the tracks on our schedule, consistent television promotion and will keep fans and potential fans in-tune with the league and its drivers,” said Ken Ungar, senior vice president of business affairs, IRL. “We look forward to ending our season at Chicagoland Speedway where we have witnessed the high-speed and wheel-to-wheel excitement of the IndyCar Series first hand the past few years.”

The 2006 television schedule will include seven events on ABC Sports, six on ESPN and one on ESPN2. The schedule calls for three prime-time events at Texas, Richmond and Nashville .

"Next year’s compact and more consistent schedule of races will provide appointment viewing and help sustain momentum throughout the season," said David Berson, ESPN senior vice president, programming & promotion. "ESPN and ABC have a long-term commitment to the IndyCar Series, and we are encouraged with the changes geared toward better serving the fans."

The league is open is to a possible future return to the three venues – California Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Pikes Peak International Raceway – that are not returning to the 2006 schedule.

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