IndyCar announces 15-race schedule, may add 2 more

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The IndyCar schedule will have a different look in 2012.

China will host its first race Aug. 19, series officials have put Detroit and Fontana, Calif., back on the schedule, and only four of 15 races are currently slated for ovals. It could change again, too.

Series CEO Randy Bernard acknowledged he’s still contemplating the addition of two more races.

“We’re in the process of confirming a 16th event, while also considering adding a 17th race to the calendar,” Bernard said in a release Thursday.

It’s not clear when those announcements may be made, though the agreement with title sponsor Izod requires the series to hold at least 16 races each season.

The long-awaited schedule had been delayed as the series conducted an investigation into the October crash that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas. Some critics contended it was too dangerous for the series to race on ovals and only four — Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and Fontana, Calif. — appear on this year’s calendar.

The most distinguishing characteristic is the blend of old and new.

Chevrolet and Lotus have joined Honda as this year’s engine manufacturers, marking the first time since 2006 that the series will not have a sole engine-maker for the series. IndyCar teams will get their most extensive chance to fine-tune the new car packages at an open test at Sebring from March 5-8.

That’s less than three weeks before the traditional season-opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., which will be March 25.

The series also returns to Asia, but not to its usual stop in Japan. Instead, the race will be held in Qingdao, China, on the season’s longest street course, 3.87 miles. The other overseas trip comes April 29 when the teams race at Sao Paulo. It’s the third consecutive trip IndyCar will make to Brazil, serving as the lead-in to the series’ top event, the May 27 Indianapolis 500.

Following the 500, the series returns to the 2.1-mile street course at Belle Isle Park in Michigan for the first time since 2008. IndyCars also will return to the 2-mile oval at Fontana for the first time since 2005. That race will be held Sept. 15.

“The 2012 schedule offers our drivers and teams the test of conquering both ovals and road and street races,” Bernard said. “Adding to the diversity of the season, we’re excited with the launch of three engine manufacturers vying for the Manufacturers Trophy.”

Night races will be held at Texas on June 9, Iowa on June 23 and Fontana, and the series will make back-to-back stops at Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, in July.

Other familiar stops on the schedule include Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Infineon. Baltimore is back on the schedule, too, after hosting its inaugural race last season.

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