The times they are a changin’.
Today INDYCAR officials announced a major update to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule which moves the Indianapolis 500 to August 23 and the GMR Grand Prix of Indy to July 4 as part of the NASCAR double-header weekend at the Brickyard, marking the first time that the two sanctioning bodies’ premier series are racing in the same facility on the same weekend. The Indy cars will compete on the road course while NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup race will run the following day on the oval.
The historic change comes in the aftermath of dealing with the Covid-19 virus pandemic as organizers worked to ensure the race events are safe for spectators and participants. To accommodate the switch in dates, three other tracks moved their race dates: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will run its race on Aug. 9, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway will host its race on Aug. 30 and Portland International Raceway will run its race Sept. 13.
The most historic switch of course is the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 from its traditional Memorial Day weekend date of May 24 to three months later in August; it is the first time the Indy 500 will not be run in May since it started in 1911.
“Running the Indianapolis 500 in August is something I never experienced before but all I can say is it will still be the Indy 500,” said A.J. Foyt, the first four-time winner of the event. “I never thought we’d see it like this but all of the sports field has been affected, the Olympics, the Kentucky Derby, Le Mans, so we’re not the only ones affected by this—we’re just one of them. I’m just glad that we will be able to race. INDYCAR is trying to do the best they can for the fans and the competitors so I give them a lot of credit. It’s a shame Roger [Penske] has to go through this in his first year of owning Indianapolis Motor Speedway but you couldn’t have a better man in charge.”
Team President Larry Foyt was enthusiastic about the announcement which came after the team principals were briefed in a conference call.
“Fantastic news that a date has been secured for the Indianapolis 500,” said the youngest son of the motorsports legend. “Postponing the Indy 500 was the right thing to do, and as a team we have to thank Roger, INDYCAR, NBC, and the tracks and promoters for helping to make this happen. With this schedule, it looks hopeful that the fans will get plenty of good INDYCAR racing, and that is a blessing. Our prayers are with the people on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19, and paying them tribute at the greatest race in the world will be a powerful thank you.”
Roger Penske shocked the motorsports world when he announced the purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR from Hulman and Company over the winter, a purchase though shocking was well received. Since then, he and his leadership team have begun implementing many upgrades to the facility which has been operating since 1909. Penske, the 18-time winning team owner of the Indy 500, admits that the Speedway holds a special place in his heart.
“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,” Penske said. “However, 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. We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead, and I’m confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race.”
Expanding on Penske’s statement was Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles who said, “Memorial Day weekend has always provided Indianapolis 500 fans an opportunity to honor the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our nation’s freedom. This August, we’ll also have a unique and powerful opportunity to honor the contributions and heroism of the doctors, nurses, first responders and National Guard members serving on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. We’re grateful for the patience of our fans as we’ve navigated this situation, and we extend our thanks to NBC for its terrific partnership and diligent work to maximize broadcast coverage with this new schedule.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will now begin its season with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, a doubleheader held on Belle Isle on May 30-31.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!