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INDYCAR: No Fans at 2020 Indianapolis 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 5 2020

The grandstands at the Indy 500 will be empty this year. (INDYCAR/LAT USA file photo)

The 104th edition of the Indianapolis 500 _ “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” _ will be run later this month without spectators.

Originally scheduled for May 24 and the Memorial Day weekend, this year’s move to the “Month of August” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was prompted by health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And now this. “It is with great regret that we announce the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Aug. 23 without fans,” IMS management said in an unattributed news release. “This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership.”

Speedway officials last month released a detailed, 88-page plan to welcome an estimated 25 percent capacity crowd to a venue that lists permanent seating for more than 235,000 fans. Infield seating can raise the capacity to an estimated 400,000, numbers that stamp the NTT IndyCar Series event at the famed 2.5-mile oval as the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

“Is 2020 over yet?” Larry Foyt, president of A.J. Foyt Racing, said from the team’s headquarters in Waller, Texas. “Seriously though, this is the right thing to do. I can’t imagine the incredible amount of work IMS and INDYCAR have put into making this race safely happen. Even still, the pandemic has created an environment that it’s just not right to have 75,000 people in one venue, even if it is as large as IMS. I’m thankful we are still able to have the race.”

Open-wheel icon A.J. Foyt Jr., the race’s first four-time winner and Larry’s father, was stunned by the decision.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but I never thought I’d see the race run without fans,” said Foyt, 85. “I know it had to be a really tough decision for (IMS owner) Roger Penske to make and it was the right one for this time. I’ll miss seeing the fans because I think I have a lot of fans in Indy and they were the reason I kept coming back when I got hurt. It’s a real shame that they can’t be here this year but I think they will be in spirit. And I look forward to seeing them back next year when things get back to normal.”

The IMS statement continued: “As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25 percent attendance at our large outdoor facility, even with meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened. Since our June 26 announcement, the number of cases in Marion County has tripled while the positivity rate has doubled. We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at a limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June, it is not the right path forward based on the current environment.

“We encourage Hoosiers to continue making smart decisions and following the advice of our public health officials so we can help get Indiana back on track.

“Penske Corporation made a long-term investment to be the steward of this legendary facility. While we were very excited to showcase the investments and enhancements we have made in the guest experience, we know we have reached the right decision. As much as Roger Penske and everyone associated with the 500 wanted to race with fans this year, we ultimately reached this conclusion in partnership with the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis.

“Our commitment to the Speedway is unwavering, and we will continue to invest in the Racing Capital of the World. We encourage everyone to watch this year’s race on NBC, and we look forward to welcoming our loyal fans back to ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on May 30th of 2021.”

IMS added this revised list of protocols:

_ All on-track activity during the Month of August, including practice and qualifications, will be closed to the general public.

_ Individuals who still have tickets to this year’s Indy 500 will be credited for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 and will retain their seniority and their originally assigned seats.

_The first Indy 500 practice will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 12, with a full schedule available on IMS.com.

_ All action from IMS can be viewed via NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports Network or NBC. Race day coverage will begin on NBC at 1 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 23. Visit IMS.com or INDYCAR.com for a comprehensive streaming and broadcast schedule.

_ Local Central Indiana coverage of the race will be available on NBC affiliate WTHR.

_ Broadcast coverage of qualifications on Saturday, Aug. 15, will begin on NBC at 3 p.m. (EDT).

_ Sunday, Aug. 16, broadcast coverage of Pole Day will begin on NBC at 1 p.m.

Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion, expressed emotional mixed feelings about the decision. “I think deep inside we always race the majority of the times because of the fans,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet fielded by Foyt. “They’re the ones _ especially for me at Indy _they’re the most important thing. Obviously, we had to make a decision and I think it’s the safest one but it’s sad, it’s just so sad. The whole world is sad right now. But we’ll get through it.”

Kanaan won the Indy 500 while driving for KV Racing Technology. A 45-year-old native of Brazil, Kanaan is running an oval-only schedule in what has been billed as his farewell #TKLastLap campaign.

“Hopefully everyone will be watching the Indy 500 on TV and cheering as loudly as they would at the racetrack,” said Kanaan, a 17-time winner who is celebrating his 24th season of open-wheel competition. “But…that makes me wonder _ I don’t think this should be my last Indy 500.”

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INDYCAR and Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course have agreed to postpone The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio doubleheader weekend scheduled for Aug. 7-9 in Lexington, Ohio, until a date to be determined in either September or October. The decision was made after consultation with local health officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Separate point-paying races were scheduled for Aug. 8-9 on the 2.258-mile/13-turn natural terrain layout.

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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-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 Wednesday, August 5 2020
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