OFFICIAL: 2012 IndyCar schedule released

The majority of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule was officially released today, with series CEO Randy Bernard stating that the sanctioning body is working to confirm a 16th event and considering a 17th event as well.

The schedule begins on March 25 at St. Petersburg, Florida, followed by visits to Barber Motorsports Park (April 1), Long Beach (April 15) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (April 29). The Indianapolis 500 will then take center stage for the month of May, with the race going off on May 27.

June will start with a return to Belle Isle Park in Detroit (June 3), then feature two back-to-back ovals at Texas (June 9) and Iowa (June 23). The next speedway won’t be seen until Sept. 15, as a string of six straight road/street races — which includes the series’ first visit to China on August 19 at Qingdao — brings us to the current season finale at Auto Club Speedway in California.

The schedule’s current makeup certainly won’t make oval fans very happy, but considering the attendance woes that we saw at those facilities in 2011, it’s not surprising to see a schedule with a heavy road/street lean. Besides, those that have fretted for years over the oval product had a chance to do their part in sustaining those events by buying tickets. And what happened? The events stiffed at the box office.

Examples: The venerable Milwaukee Mile could only draw an estimated 15,000 for their return to the schedule (so much for tradition). The New Hampshire event only attracted 28,000 when it needed at least 35,000 to remain viable and is now gone after one season. And the Kentucky round was believed to have garnered around 30,000, but that’s still a far cry from the nearly 70,000 people it was pulling in just a few seasons ago.

I like the ovals too, but if INDYCAR wants to keep plugging away in this dreadful economy — which is assuredly having some sort of effect on these oval events — they have to be cold-eyed and watch for the events that can give them better attendance and profits.

Here’s the official docket, 16th race pending:

March 25 Streets of St. Petersburg 1.8-mile street course
April 1 Barber Motorsports Park 2.3-mile road course
April 15 Streets of Long Beach 1.968-mile street course
April 29 Streets of Sao Paulo 2.536-mile street course
May 27 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval
June 3 Raceway at Belle Isle Park 2.1-mile street course
June 9 Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile oval
June 23 Iowa Speedway .875-mile oval
July 8 Streets of Toronto 1.755-mile street course
July 22 Edmonton City Centre Airport 1.973-mile airport course
Aug. 5 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 2.258-mile road course
Aug. 19 Streets of Qingdao, China 3.87-mile street course
Aug. 26 Infineon Raceway 2.303-mile road course
Sept. 2 Streets of Baltimore 2-mile street course
Sept. 15 Auto Club Speedway 2-mile oval