IndyCar will have five oval races in 2023, along with five time trial/street races and seven road races with natural terrain. But there are hopes to expand the oval roster in ’24 and beyond, although no firm plans have yet been made.
Penske told Motorsport.com: “We’re looking at Milwaukee – and how we can add ovals to our schedule in the future – but we certainly don’t have a deal to go back there, and anything you’ve heard like that is in a certain degrees of conjecture.
“Obviously we raced well before, as you said, like Rick [Mears] said, and it would definitely add to our streak to get back to Milwaukee, given our history there. But no deal is done, so I wouldn’t want you to think that. I can just say that we are looking at a few different places and this is one of them.
“There’s a lot of work to be done before it’s acceptable to us, so that’s another aspect we have to figure out. It’s like all these things – we have ideas of where we want to go, but there’s a lot of work to be done to make it happen.”
Iowa Speedway disappeared from the IndyCar schedule in 2021, returning last season with a doubleheader heavily promoted by Hy-Vee. A reported 80,000 fans packed into the small oval over the weekend, a figure no doubt bolstered by the fact that superstars Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line were there for concerts. Penske said IndyCar will be looking for a similarly committed promoter to make the new or old venue work.
“We had to spend a lot of time and effort on Iowa to get it to where we had a promoter that could make it a success,” he said, “and we want to make sure that wherever we go, we have the quality of a big event for fans, proper access for them and a safe place for drivers.
“Then from a television perspective, we have to look at what weekends are available, what time of year we want to race there, and so on. So it’s not just “Hey, let’s go here” and it works. It takes a lot of effort, over a long period of time.”
When asked if superspeedways, including Pocono, could be part of IndyCar’s mid- or long-term program, Penske said that striking a new deal with the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway for the race in early April was very important for more than one reason.
“The good news is we’re going back to Texas,” he said. “It was a big event that I really wanted to do because I want to have a high-speed oval for those who are going to run Indianapolis. It’s good for pilots and teams to have the Texas experience.
“If you go back to the old days, to run at Indianapolis, we had to run Mark Donoghue [Penske’s first Indy winner and team talisman] first in Phoenix and Trenton before we even got to go to Indianapolis for the rookie test. I think it was a good system because we need to make sure that we don’t have people just buying 500 trips and trying to run straight away at the speedway unless they are very experienced.
“So we’re going to invest heavily in the Texas race and try to make it a success, not just to prepare for Indy, but because it’s a key market not only for us, but also for NTT.
“We try to put together a solid schedule that has a great variety of tracks and we have to make all the events work and be able to put on a great show at all types of tracks.”