The Indianapolis 500 has joined a growing list of major sporting events impacted by the COVID-29 pandemic. Due to the uncertainty of the outbreak, officials from INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have decided to delay the Greatest Spectacle in Racing from its usual Memorial Day weekend slot to August 23.
IMS also announced the GMR Grand Prix will now run on Saturday, July 4. It was originally scheduled for May 9.
“The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite time of year, and like our fans, I am disappointed that we have had to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” said IMS owner and Penske Corp. Chairman Roger Penske. “The health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision with the conditions and restrictions we are facing.”
With the race drawing 250,000-300,000 people, IMS said it had to consider the risk of spreading COVID-19 if the pandemic hasn’t been resolved before the end of May.
“By rescheduling in late August, we fully expect to be outside the window and impacted by the Covid-19 virus. Our fans still have five months to plan for the event. We believe our fans will be ready in August,” said Mark Miles, president and chief executive officer, Penske Entertainment Corp.
The schedule for practice sessions, qualifying rounds and Carb Day have also been adjusted. Qualification rounds will take place on August 15-16, which will be carried by NBC.
IMS officials say this decision was made to provide the flexibility needed to complete the Indianapolis 500 by Sunday, August 23 and provide room for any contingency plans necessary.
With the fear of the pandemic not easing and the real risk of the race being canceled, and not just postponed, IMS President Doug Boles is pleased where things ended up.
“I just want to tell you that I’m relieved along with most of our fans, to know that the Indianapolis 500 is in a spot where it is more sure that it will be run this year,” said Boles. “The 500 itself is an event that people look forward to every year. They plan their lives around every year. And I know that it is an important one.”
Miles said it was challenging to find two open back-to-back weekends that wouldn’t conflict with other major sporting events as many have been rescheduled for the summer and early fall.
They also wanted to get the race in before Labor Day and football season.
“We’re grateful for the patience of our fans as we’ve navigated this situation,” said Mile.
With the postponement of the GMR Grand Prix, IMS will now offer a double-header of racing on July 4 featuring the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR.
Both the Grand Prix and the first-ever NASCAR race will be run on the IMS road course. The speedway says this first-of-its-kind racing event will also be televised by NBC.
Unfortunately, IMS says all concerts scheduled for the original race weekend in May have been canceled. This includes REO Speedwagon and Styx on May 22, Luke Bryan on May 23 and Martin Garrix on May 24.
Fans will be able to get a refund or credit towards another IMS event, including the Indy 500.
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Penske Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Miles it’s been a scheduling challenge to find open dates for the races.
IMS President Doug Boles said it’s important to remember first responders and health care workers…and not just the race.