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Notes: IndyCar Drops West Coast Races

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 31 2020

The scheduled IndyCar Series event in Portland has been cancelled.

INDYCAR-sanctioned races at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, and a doubleheader weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three NTT IndyCar Series events previously scheduled now will become doubleheaders, including INDYCAR’s upcoming race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Prior to the originally scheduled Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, Aug. 9, series teams will compete in another point-paying event on Saturday, Aug. 8.

In addition, the August race weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., outside St. Louis, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in October will become doubleheaders. WWTR will feature races Saturday, Aug. 29, and Sunday, Aug. 30. IMS will add a road-course race Friday, Oct. 2, before the already scheduled event Saturday, Oct. 3.

With those changes, the IndyCar Series remains on-pace to run 14 races in 2020. 

“Our race fans have loved the exciting doubleheader action of the NTT IndyCar Series this year at Road America and Iowa Speedway,” Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president & CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to giving them even more world-class entertainment this season at three of the most exciting racetracks on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar.”

INDYCAR termed cancellation of the events in Portland on Sept. 13 and Monterey, Calif., on Sept. 19-20 as “mutual decisions” between the series and promoters following consultation and monitoring of each local situation.

Further complicating the Portland race has been two months of protests in the downtown area by the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25. The situation has been exacerbated by the uninvited intervention of unidentified “federal agents” sent by President Trump.

Cancellation of the Portland and Monterey events wiped out the series’ September schedule for 2020. Both venues are expected to return in 2021.

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have released a detailed, 88-page plan to welcome the estimated 25 percent capacity crowd expected to attend the rescheduled 104th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Aug. 23.

Originally scheduled for May 24 and the Memorial Day weekend, this year’s “Month of August” event will air live in Indianapolis on NBC, allowing more Hoosiers to watch in real-time from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything will be different about this year’s race, from the reduced crowd size, to a new distanced seating arrangement, to mandatory masks and a live broadcast throughout Central Indiana,” Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president & CEO, said in a statement. “We will welcome fans to the ‘500’ based on a highly-detailed, careful plan that was developed in collaboration with national, state and local health experts.”

That plan evolved over the last four months by a team of Indy officials and national health experts including Dr. Edward Racht, chief medical officer of Global Medical Response, largest emergency medical services provider in the nation.

“The IMS plan has been developed in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health, and reflects the current best practices and mitigating steps outdoor venues should have in place to host public events,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director, Marion County Public Health Department. “It meets or exceeds all local guidelines and is approved subject to continued review. I appreciate the serious and collaborative approach IMS has displayed throughout this process.”

Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, added the plan “takes all the right steps to ensure the best measures and precautions are in place. Speedway officials have been transparent and communicative throughout this process, and we appreciate the opportunities we’ve had to provide input.”

Highlights of the plan include:

_ Attendance will be limited to approximately 25 percent. As the largest sporting venue in the world, IMS lists a permanent seating capacity for more than 235,000 fans. Infield seating can raise the capacity to an estimated 400,000.

_ Seats will be re-assigned to provide for greater social-distancing.

_ Masks will be mandated throughout the entire venue, both indoors and outdoors.

_ Everyone will be screened with a contactless thermometer, and individuals with a temperature in excess of 100.4 degrees will be prohibited from entering the Speedway.

_ All drinking fountains and misting stations will be removed.

_ Capacity limits on elevators will be enforced.

_ Options from concession stands will be limited to mostly pre-packaged foods.

_To reduce crowding, many activities will be eliminated, including all concerts, the VIP Red Carpet and the Indiana Press Foundation’s Last Row Party.

_To help the venue and community prepare for Indy 500 Race Day, all Saturday activities _ including Legends Day at IMS and the downtown 500 Festival Parade _ have been canceled. Key 500 Festival programming will transition to digital platforms.

_ Signage will be displayed throughout the venue to encourage healthy practices, and staff will move about the facility to monitor conditions and assist customers.

The plan dives deeply into facility sanitation, cleaning and disinfecting practices, and workforce preparation training and deployment.

“We think it’s important to welcome race fans to the ‘500’ and to demonstrate that America, Indiana and Indianapolis do not need to shut down,” Miles said. “We can and will operate with every precaution we can think of as we welcome fans to the race. We will continue to work with our local and state health officials to ensure we’re doing whatever is necessary to protect our fans.”

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NASCAR championship-winning crew chief Cole Pearn has joined the engineering staff of Ed Carpenter Racing for the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23. Pearn will return for the “Month of August” as lead engineer for Conor Daly in ECR’s third entry, the No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet.

Pearn and driver Martin Truex Jr. won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry. Truex and Peran advanced to the series’ title race in four of five years together, with Truex winning a series-high seven races in 2019 in the No. 19 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Pearn stepped away from fulltime NASCAR competition after the 2019 season, returning to his home country of Canada with wife Carrie and their two young children. The couple owns and operates Golden Alpine Holidays, which includes four backcountry lodges in British Columbia. But Pearn has remained involved in the sport by serving as an analyst for NASCAR.com.

“I wasn’t sure when I would want to get back to racing, but this is a great opportunity to do so,” Pearn said in a team release. “To be able to do it at a high level was too hard to pass up. Obviously, it will be a steep learning curve but getting to work with (No. 20 engineer) Pete Craik again and the rest of the ECR team is about the best situation I could hope for.”

Daly will be returning to the 2.5-mile IMS oval after his most successful Month of May to-date. In 2019, he set the fastest lap of all practice sessions, nearly made the Fast Nine Shootout for pole position and earned a career-best finish of 10th in the race. Daly is driving ECR’s No. 20 for all IndyCar Series road and street course events, the No. 47 Chevy in the Indy 500 and competes in the remaining oval events with Carlin.

This year’s Indy 500 will mark the seventh time the Noblesville, Ind.-native has competed in his home race and his third year of representing the U.S. Air Force. 

“I am really excited to get to work with Cole for the first time at the Indy 500,” Daly said. “We’re both going to have to get up to speed with this ECR operation, but I can’t wait. Cole has had an incredible amount of success in the NASCAR world and now we’ll be going for our first Indy 500 win together.”

ECR fields two fulltime series entries and has expanded to three cars for the Indy 500. Daly’s teammates will be team-owner/fellow-Hoosier Ed Carpenter and Dutch rookie Rinus VeeKay. Craik, lead engineer on Carpenter’s No. 20, worked with Pearn at Furniture Row Racing and also was part of the 2017 Cup championship run. ECR’s chief engineer, Matt Barnes, oversees the department and will head up the No. 21 of VeeKay.

An ECR Chevrolet has qualified on the front row of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” six of the past seven years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018).

Indy 500 practice is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 11, through Friday, Aug. 14, and Friday, Aug. 21. Qualifying will be held on Saturday, Aug. 15, and Sunday, Aug. 16 to fill the traditional 33-car field. The 104th Indianapolis 500 will take the green flag at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, Aug. 23.

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UPDATED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Aug. 8 _Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 1, Lexington, Ohio

Sunday, Aug. 9 _Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 2, Lexington, Ohio 

Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 15-16 _ Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Qualifying

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill.

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill.

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 31 2020
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