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COVID-19 Forces Indy 500 Delay

For the first time in its history, the Indianapolis 500 is being delayed because of the COVID-19 virus. Why the new owner, Roger Penske, is making the decision now.

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For the first time in its history, the Indianapolis 500 race is being moved out of the month of May. The historic race, known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has been rescheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was originally scheduled for Sunday, May 24th, over Memorial Day weekend. This will be the 104th edition of the race which typically draws 300,000 fans to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. New IMS track owner Roger Penske is the person who had to make the difficult decision.

“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,” Roger 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.”

New Date and New Mission

Penske’s management team says that they will use the new date to also pay tribute to the health care workers who are currently working to battle COVID-19.

“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,” Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles said. “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.”

Penske and his team decided to push the race until later in the season so that they shouldn’t be forced to reschedule again. Knowing Roger Penske and having had the privilege of reporting on him for the last 35 years, I can imagine that he will make this event spectacular. Penske loves racing and truly appreciates race fans, so I would expect him to make this unusual date particularly memorable.

According to the Penske team, on-track action in August will begin at IMS with practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 12-13, followed by Fast Friday on Aug. 14 and Indianapolis 500 Qualifications on Saturday and Sunday Aug. 15-16. The following week will see a myriad of events, including autograph sessions, Legends Day and the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race. The INDYCAR races that had been previously scheduled for those weekends have been moved to other dates.

GMR Grand Prix Makes Bold Move

The schedule change is also setting up a 4th of July filled with racing as the GMR Grand Prix will now share the weekend with the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard.

The Grand Prix will be held Saturday, July 4, before the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the IMS road course – the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard. The unique holiday racing lineup will mark the first time that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will compete at the same track on the same weekend as both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“For very good reason, this historic pairing will be circled on the calendar of every motorsports fan,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said. “We appreciate our friends at NASCAR for their flexibility and support in this matter and will work with them on a memorable, exciting weekend of racing action.”

Expanded Health and Safety Measures at IMS

The speedway says that it will continue to work with local, state and federal health experts to ensure a safe and healthy experience at the track. They will hire more cleaning staff at the speedway to clean and disinfect the facility. They plan to educate all employees on CDC prevention guidance, including proper handwashing technique and requesting that all vendors communicate strict hygiene protocol to staff. They will increase the number of hand-sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas, containing sanitizer that meets or exceeds the CDC standard for alcohol content.

IMS President Doug Boles says “The health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe given the current situation, postponing the event is the responsible decision. We’re confident we can deliver a world-class experience in August and are already working to do so. Making this announcement now gives everyone ample time to adjust and prepare for the new date.”

Follow Mary Conway at @maryconwaymedia and send her car news tips for future stories.

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