The 2012 IZOD IndyCar schedule is in place. So let the planning and daydreaming about attending every race begin.
It took longer than normal to release the schedule, which came out last week, because of the investigation surrounding the crash in the 2011 series finale in Las Vegas that took the life of Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon. Once those results were released, the series could move forward and look ahead to next year.
We only knew one thing for certain - that the Streets of St. Petersburg would be the first race of the season. It's now less than three months away, on March 25.
I would love to go see this race on the streets of this beautiful city on the gulf side of Florida. I was there a couple of years ago on vacation, the weekend before the race. So I got to see some of the stacks of tires and barriers lining the streets. Plus, who wouldn't want to get out of frozen Minnesota in March in favor of some sunny, warm Florida air?
Some of the usual suspects are on the schedule as well, like Texas, Iowa and Indianapolis. I think Iowa might be one of the tracks my dad and I hit for the first time this year. Now that I've moved to southeastern Minnesota, the drive is doable without even a need for a hotel stay.
Ovals aren't my favorite tracks, but I'm certainly not going to turn down a chance to watch IndyCars in action.
One course that has been absent, although not surprisingly, for this primary open-wheel circuit is Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., a beautiful four-mile road course that's been a favorite of drivers and fans for many years. We made Road America our annual racing trip as a family for many years during the CART and ChampCar eras.
With only 15 races on the schedule so far, I can certainly keep my fingers crossed that Road America will somehow make it on there. I know it's a favorite of Dario Franchitti's, and as one of the more veteran drivers with such winning ways on a primary team, his opinion should matter, right?
I would also love to see the cars running again in Cleveland, on the airport runways off the shore of Lake Erie. But with an airport race in Edmonton, it seems like a good replacement. Selfishly though, Cleveland would be more convenient for me to travel to than Edmonton, in case I wanted to be in the stands like I have in the past.
Returning after a few-year absence is the Streets of Belle Isle in Detroit. I'm having trouble placing this track; I can't seem to remember it. The oval in Fontana, Calif. is also back on the schedule. It's listed right now as the final race of the season, much like it was in the past.
Off the schedule is the race in Japan, but in its place you could say, is a race in Qingdao, China. It's a street race slated for Aug. 19. No Watkins Glen either. It's also no surprise that Las Vegas is absent from the lineup. Even without the tragedy that occurred there, the stands didn't looked packed either - for a race that fans could get a free ticket for.
Overall though, the schedule isn't bad. A lot of nice road and street courses are represented, which is better than having ovals every week like some series. Short ovals can be exciting for passing, but I think my preference will always be with the tracks with a little more variety.