By STEVE HERMAN
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Except for one race, the IRL's IndyCar schedule next season will be identical to this year.
The series will not return to Michigan International Speedway because the IRL and track officials could not agree on a new contract. The 2-mile oval track in Brooklyn, Mich., had hosted open-wheel racing since 1968.
The remaining 16-race schedule starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29, the first of five night races slated for prime-time television coverage, the IRL said Tuesday.
The others are at Texas Motor Speedway on June 7, Richmond International Raceway on June 28, Nashville Superspeedway on July 12 and Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 9. All 16 races will be televised nationally by ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
The Indianapolis 500, the IRL's crown jewel, is scheduled for May 25, one of 11 races on oval tracks.
Three races, at Watkins Glen, N.Y., on July 6, Mid-Ohio on July 20 and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Aug. 24, will be on permanent road courses. Two others, at St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 6 and Belle Isle Park in Detroit on Aug. 31, will be on temporary street courses.
"Our schedule demands the ability of both drivers and teams to master a variety of venues and the challenges each one brings, with the end result being a true champion," IRL president Brian Barnhart said in Tuesday's announcement of the 2008 schedule.
This year's Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is expected to leave for NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series next season and former Indy champion Sam Hornish Jr. is considering a similar move.
The opener at Homestead, Fla., will mark the seventh straight year the IRL has begun the season there. The Sept. 7 race at Chicagoland Speedway will be the season finale for the third year in a row.
The schedule also includes races at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 19, Kansas Speedway on April 27, Milwaukee Mile on June 1 and Iowa Speedway on June 22.
Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, said other tracks would be considered "beyond 2008 ... as opportunities permit, and we will keep a healthy balance of oval, road and street circuits as part of our schedule."