As the first Indianapolis 500 to be held without fans draws near, the chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment Corp. says the plan is to still have fans in the stands for the INDYCAR road course race this fall. Mark Miles says “we just ran out of time” when it came to making the decision to remove fans from this year’s Indy 500 due to COVID-19 concerns. The Speedway is continuing plans for the inaugural INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix, which Miles says could turn into a doubleheader during the first weekend in October.
Miles talked about the 500 decision and future plans in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
“We’ve been working for weeks to be in a position to welcome fans back; we spent $15 million to update and improve every part of the facility so fans would see a real difference when they were back at the track,” said Miles. “And we said all along that we’re ready and the question would be, do the public health metrics, does the situation with COVID in central Indiana allow us to do it?”
Miles said the decision was always going to be a consensus among Speedway officials and public health experts.
From a financial perspective, Miles says the decision was never about money, but it still creates a big hit for the Speedway and area businesses.
“Roger Penske was determined to continue to improve the facility to be ready whenever the next opportunity was going to occur and ultimately, to do the right thing. It’s important to us, financially. We’ll get through it. It’s important to, I think, the hospitality industry in Speedway and in the city and around the state and it’ll certainly be missed from an economic perspective. Now, we got to just get on with it and have a great race and look forward to May 30, 2021.”
In April, IMS announced plans for its third INDYCAR race with the Harvest Grand Prix in October. Miles says they’re currently looking at running the race with fans.
“This is a grand prix again and at the moment, we’re thinking a doubleheader so we can get two races in to make up for what we’ve missed on the INDYCAR Series calendar. The crowd is expected to be smaller…so we think it’ll work but again, we’ll be ready. Everything will be in place and then there will be a game day decision about whether there are any adjustments we need to make based on the healthcare situation.”